The analysis starts from the premise that when company officials are discussing the quarter’s results on a conference call, they’re already well into the next reporting period — and have a much better idea of how the firm’s been faring than the average investor. The researchers then drew upon data from around 350 million electronic consumer devices to track when individuals professed an intent to visit the physical location of a given store. The sample size was significant enough to develop a real-time corporate sales indicator for 50 publicly-traded U.S. retailers. The authors’ indicator serves as a useful proxy for real activity as it correlates well with reported revenue growth. Therefore, the team asserts this indicator is appropriate to use as a barometer for how a company has done since the end of the quarter, and before earnings are released.