Photo: Achim Hepp, Flickr
That handy GPS system in your car or phone is full of golden information -- and not just for you. Turns out it has some valuable market research data, too -- for big businesses.
Most of us use our GPS for more than directions to our ultimate destinations. We also use it to scout out our pit-stops along the way -- you know, coffee breaks and drive-thrus. That means the company that records all that data can provide exact figures on where people are going, what time of day, and along which routes. Now one GPS service provider, TeleNav, is sharing some of the information that impacts businesses, especially chain restaurants and hotels.
So where are people pulling over for their fast-food fixes? Looks like it's the usual suspects. McDonald's is by far the most-searched fast-food joint, beating out runner-up Subway by more than two to one. Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Burger King are up there, too. As for the coffee wars, Starbucks is solidly trouncing its nearest competition, Dunkin Donuts, with a five-to-one lead in TeleNav searches. It would seem people really, really want their pumpkin spice lattes: Starbucks is the number-two search in all categories. (Walmart is number one.)
It's hard to overstate what a rich mine this sort of feedback is to corporations. Ky Tang, director of marketing for TeleNav, points out, "Our analysis of the businesses our users are actively searching for helps brands understand the behavior and preferences of on-the-go consumers." Rich Owings, a blogger at GPS Tracklog, makes the case more strongly. "[It] speaks to a revolution in market share analysis," he says. "Companies like Nielsen and Arbitron estimate media market share, but GPS-enabled phones can do them two better, delivering location market share data, and not just estimates either."
But the release of this kind of information is hardly an altruistic act on TeleNav's part. Who stands to gain the most? GPS ad sales. As Tang helpfully reminds us, "If a brand is not a top searched destination, they can use our ad platform to place their listing at the top of the search results list."