Whole Foods Comes Out a Brand Winner on Super Bowl Sunday

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Eagles fans weren’t the only ones cheering about Super Bowl LII on Sunday. Upscale grocery chains like Whole Foods saw increases in foot traffic in the hours before kickoff, even while multi-purpose stores like Walmart saw fewer shoppers than normal, according to newly released data from Simpli.fi.

Looking at foot traffic patterns at three Walmart, Whole Foods, and regional grocery locations in Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Seattle on Super Bowl Sunday, the advertising technology firm found that traffic peaked across all store locations between three and six hours before the game started at 6:30 pm ET.

“We were curious if shopping behavior changed on Super Bowl Sunday, which grocery store would see the highest increase in foot traffic, and peak times for shopping,” says Ryan Horn, vice president of marketing at Simpli.fi.

With those goals in mind, Simpli.fi chose three major cities across the U.S. that represented different time zones and looked at traffic patterns early in the day (six to nine hours before the game), mid-day (three to six hours before the game) and late-day (zero to three hours before the game).

Foot traffic during the peak mid-day time generated a 12.1% increase, when compared to later in the day, and a 32% increase over morning shopping, according to Simpli.fi’s data. Overall shopper traffic was also greater than it would be on a normal Sunday, but not by as much as some might expect.

Simpli.fi found that shopping patterns shifted to earlier in the day on Super Bowl Sunday, compared to the previous Sunday, January 28th. Although the number of early morning shoppers—shopping between six and nine hours before the game started—remained relatively even compared to the week prior, 15% more shoppers visited stores in the early afternoon compared to the previous Sunday.

In Minneapolis, where the Super Bowl was held, traffic at Whole Foods and a local chain called Cubs increased by 18% and 22%. In Seattle, foot traffic at Whole Foods was up 6%. Meanwhile, traffic at Walmart went down by a few percentage points.

Simpli.fi also pulled data from stores in the Atlanta area, keeping in mind the Atlanta Falcons’ loss in last year’s game. Interesting, fewer people in Atlanta shopped at any of the three grocery stores on Super Bowl Sunday compared to the week prior, indicating that some heartbroken fans may have avoided celebrating during this year’s game.

“Atlanta was a surprising outlier,” Horn says. “Shoppers in Atlanta chose other activities on Sunday, with less people shopping at all three grocery stores than the week prior.”

So what’s the big takeaway? Simpli.fi’s data shows that foot traffic behaviors change based on external factors, along with the time of day and location. All three of these elements—major events, time of day, and location—should be taken into consideration when designing the optimal mobile/local campaign.

As Horn sees it, brick-and-mortar retailers and grocery stores should be relying on foot traffic data to decide how and when to use programmatic geo-fencing. Being able to anticipate when shoppers are most likely to stock up for their Super Bowl parties could help businesses more effectively time their mobile promotions and loyalty offers.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.