Interview with our CEO, Bart Muskala

April 16, 2024
The potential location data holds for companies to unlock offline consumer behavior and understand the consumer journey is huge. Antony had an interview with Bart Muskala, CEO at location intelligence platform Accurat. 


Hi Bart, can you tell us something more about the company and what you do?

Absolutely! Accurat is specialized in helping retailers such as Colruyt, Delhaize, Brico and many others gain insights into their clients behavior. What their customers are doing inside their stores is something they already know. We help them find out what happens outside of their stores and help them see the bigger picture. Accurat provides an answer to questions such as: What is a client's lifestyle? How loyal are your customers? Which competitors do they visit? With these answers retailers can make better decisions.

You have a background as a partner at BBDO after which you founded True North. What was the idea? How did you get from A to B?

Bart Muskala, CEO at Accurat

BBDO is one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. I worked with different types of companies with many retailers among them. One aspect I worked on was communication. I learned that saying and doing are two different things in many companies. The most creative & best made communication can ‘t make up for a mediocre product or a lack of service or any other aspects influencing customer satisfaction. Addressing those challenges with my communication counter part at the customer’s end, made me realize that changing what has to be done is hard to realize. The idea for True North was born.

With True North we offered consulting services to make this change happen. We worked for a multitude of great retail brands providing them with insights on clients and potential clients. Why are you clients happy about your brand? Why are they not? How do they compare your service with that of competitors? We helped our clients with answers to these questions so they could make the change needed and satisfy customers better or tap into their potential with more impact. 

At the time, we made recommendations based on the feedback we got in client surveys. Typical questions like ‘are you satisfied with this product?’ To which they often responded positively despite not buying the product for the longest time. Other questions such as ‘do you like this shop?’ to which the panel responded overwhelmingly positive despite the store having been closed 6 months earlier. On top of that, we were talking low numbers: 1.000, 3.000 respondents tops.

With this type of market research the responses we got were always heavily biased. We looked for a way to get much closer to reality for many more respondents preferably. That’s when ‘Accurat’ was born.

We knew we could do so much better than classic surveys and get much more precise information. That’s how we turned our eyes on location intelligence. ‘Where someone has been’ allows us to provide insights on a visit to a location. Besides footfall we started mapping a lot of other client behavior too with our data: ‘What type of client behavior do shoppers that usually come to your store have in common? Do they work in the city? Do they have kids? How does this compare to your competitors? Are they loyal to your store? 

Now, 3 years after founding Accurat, major retailers rely on our insights to support their decision making way better than with those of market surveys.

Who are typical Accurat clients? How do they use the tools? What is the main advantage for them? 

Typical clients are retailers in a wide sense. Our first client was Mercedes-Benz which is an automotive customer and not a typical retail brand. What all our clients have in common is that they have a physical location where they service their clients, whether that’s cars, DIY-supplies, food, fashion, even petrol or entertainment and the likes. 

<blockquote style="padding-left: 20px;margin-right:-30px;margin-left:20px;min-width:150px;max-width:450px;float:right;background-color:#EFEFEF;font-size:24px;">Every retailer that is looking to be future proof needs to make data-driven decisions. Gut feeling is becoming less and less justifiable. <br/><span style="font-size:14px;color:#333;">Bart Muskala</span></blockquote>

Our clients often already have a lot of information on their customers. They know how much their clients are spending, how often they visit, what they are buying. Most of them have loyalty cards in place as well. Despite all this info they can’t really tell how they are performing because there is no indication how the market in general is performing or how competitors are doing.

That’s where Accurat steps in. We provide them with a wide variety of insights, not on individuals but on aggregated groups of clients. We help them monitor how key metrics are evolving. How well are we performing benchmarked against our (local) competitors?

Clients use the Accurat suite of solutions for answering typical use cases like:

  • There’s a new competitor around the corner. What’s the impact on my customer base? Clients that visit the new competitor. Do they return to my shop? 
  • In case of a shop make-over different questions arise that Accurat provides an answer too. Where did clients go during construction works? Do clients return upon re-opening? Do we attract new customers? Where did these new customers shop before? Do clients visit more frequently?
  • During covid retailers were curious how they were recovering? Are we doing better than competitors or are we lagging behind?
  • Or month by month as a result of campaigning, some brands might win some market share. What brands are you losing to? Where are your churners flocking to?

On a more strategic level Accurat is used for reporting at C-level checking on the status of a brand or market and use it as a base for decision making.

What is your favourite feature? Can you tell us something more?

Visit transfer is a really nice one. Unfortunately for a lot of retailers 100% loyalty doesn’t exist anymore. With visit transfer we check how client flows are moving between you and your competitors. If you’re losing clients to a discounter you might have to change your pricing policy. Are you losing to more up-scale competitors you might have to rethink your approach towards A brands or your brand position.

Visit transfer - What visits did you win from competitors? Who won the visits you lost?

What do you think is still lacking in the Accurat platform?

We had the ambition from the start, next to providing insights, to work on a more prescriptive level. Advise our clients in a smart way which metrics they need to keep an eye on and also advise possible solutions. 

First steps are being taken on this. We now have more than 2 years of data both in the Netherlands and Belgium. This is necessary to identify trends. We now know what can be expected and what could be alarming. 

Further we’re also working on spending insights. If we can add spent, average basket size etc. the circle is closed. Not only will we be able to talk about share of visits but also monetary market share. 

Can you tell us how the technology works?

We collect throughout different publishers location data from smartphones. Users in different applications agree to share their data for a specific benefit such as promotions, local weather information… At the same time, we ask permission to use their data on an aggregated level for market research purposes. All location data is then processed anonymously & on an aggregated level. With this we create insights from the point of view of all stores for a brand or a specific location, never from the point of view of an individual.

The location data is collected continuously at our servers where it is secured, anonymised and aggregated. We analyze this data and match it with visits or understand transport behavior. Our smart algorithms do quite some number crunching with millions of coordinates a day. 

The processed data is then sent to dashboards where all of the different metrics are visualized and made available to our clients. Our algorithms do all the work, for our clients it’s just plug & play. 

What are the biggest challenges you faced building this product?

Different ones: as a start-up we had a lot of great ideas which were technically very challenging. I can proudly say we managed successfully. Touch wood :).

We’ve built something completely new. There was no existing market for our product. Identifying and connecting with the right people that make use of our solutions was difficult at first.

Another challenge is the many possibilities we have with location data. There’s so many use cases that can be addressed. Our clients are thinking along with us and are suggesting new features every day. It’s a challenge to prioritize all this on our development roadmap. 

Tracking location might raise privacy concerns?

Definitely, as a consumer I’m also very focussed when it comes to sharing my data. Today we’re living in a world of big data and artificial intelligence. That’s not going to change anytime soon. The question raised is how we will deal with all this data. Accurat is one of the first, within retail, to provide a reliable and correct answer. 

The fact that major retailers such as Delhaize, the German Lidl or Proximus are working with us is a validation of our approach. If GDPR learnt one thing it is that, more than data owners, data processors and buyers of data insights have a huge responsibility. Compliance and auditing is major before these retailers agree on a partnership.

From the start in 2018 it has always been very important to be 100% compliant. It has to be correct, ethical and sustainable. The rest will follow. GDPR was taking off and we started with a ‘privacy by design’ mindset. 

Do you think the Accurat tools are indispensable for retailers or just ‘nice to have’?

Every retailer that is looking to be future proof needs to make data-driven decisions. The pandemic and lock-down has shown how quickly the retail landscape is changing. Gut feeling is becoming less and less justifiable. More than nice to have we have a solution that needs to be in the stack of every Customer and Market intelligence, Business intelligence department or Expansion team. Also a lot of CFO’s are keeping a watchful eye on our insights.

Finally, why the name ‘Accurat’?

Accurat stands for accuracy. What we do is create models and process as much data as possible to provide Accurat(e) insights. Another twist is the ‘at’ at the end which refers to being ‘at’ a location. The name is definitely less complicated than the algorithms we developed :).

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