Why Are QSRs Ignoring Paid Search?

Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) rely heavily on traditional media channels to drive consumers into retail stores by running ads across billboards, TV, and other mass media channels. Even with big shifts from these brands moving investments to digital, it’s a challenge to quantify a true ROI for these traditional marketing practices because there is no action to be measured after a consumer sees the ad.  Despite being able to measure just how effective these top-of-funnel tactics are, QSRs continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on traditional media without knowing their impact on sales.

The question has been burning inside me, why are brands, such as McDonalds, Burger King, etc., not using Paid Search as a channel to drive business to their stores? The most common objection I hear is that the cost-per-click is much greater than the cost per order. And that reasoning makes sense, but these brands are forgetting that consumers are now using mobile devices to make quick purchasing decisions. Google has referred to it as “Zero Moment of Truth”, where a consumer researches a product or service prior to purchase.

The growth of “near-me” searches is an opportunity for QSR brands to reach the modern-day consumer  who is actively searching with the intent of becoming a customer. With Google Maps introducing paid ads within their local listings, it gives the brand an ability to appear as the first result for nearby locations. You can’t go much further down the funnel than a consumer using their mobile device while on the go to find a place to eat.

Conversion Insights

A paid search campaign comes with the insights of conversions, a distinct advantage over traditional ads where converting actions are never measured. These conversions include coupon redemption, driving directions, and other actions that indicate a sale. Conversions not only measure, they also inform.

From competing for non-branded search phrases, we are able to decipher what consumers are interested in and what messaging they respond to. QSRs would then be able to use that messaging in all forms of ads and product lines. Back in 2014, Google helped QSRs quantify ROI with store visit metrics, allowing brands to get more insights on paid search campaigns that drive sales to in-store visits.

Paid Search Strategies

Here are a few specific Paid Search strategies a brand can utilize for in-store sales growth:

Bid Modifiers on Mobile, Mobile Specific Campaign Segments: Brands can focus bids on “near me” or high-impact generic terms for mobile queries only. Knowing consumers are on the go and looking for a specific food item, brands can serve targeted ads to the consumer by device and location at the moment the consumer performs the search.

Local Listing Ads: Ads can be served in Maps listings, and have potential to show in the first position within results above organic listings. The user can then ask for directions and navigate to the store location.

Modify bids by proximity: Geo-location targets offer marketers the ability to bid up or down by percentage on their base keyword maximum cost-per-clicks. The closer a user is to a location, bids can be increased to ensure ads show in top positions.

Day parting ads for Breakfast, lunch and dinner times: Delivering ads based on time of day allows a QSR brand to serve a customized ad by the intent a user might have around offered meal and menu items.

The Modern Customer Journey

The customer journey is no longer guided solely by traditional plays for brand awareness like billboards and television ads. With the rapid growth of mobile devices and social media, the modern customer journey includes several touch points, and many of those touch points are coming at the bottom of the funnel, where consumers are making final decisions on a purchase.

This presents a huge opportunity for QSRs that have previously rejected Paid Search strategies as inefficient. Through highly targeted and customized ads, QSRs are now capable of driving customers to their restaurants without the high CPCs that previously made the strategy a non-starter. Not only can Paid Search drive in-store revenue, it also provides valuable insights into QSR audiences as well as a way to measure the true efficacy of your marketing dollars.

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