The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a fundamental shift in how companies do business as social distancing and other safety efforts impact various business practices. Businesses with a brick-and-mortar footprint need to re-examine their customer service strategy and assess how to best utilize digital service delivery channels. This also means that brick-and-mortar locations must consider new operating models in order to adapt to low foot traffic and balance operating expenses. Therefore, geographic footprint rationalization considerations can help in making important decisions regarding the future utilization of physical company locations.
Are stores and offices going away for good?
An initial concern regarding geographic footprint rationalization is whether this includes significant rationalization of real estate, i.e., the brick-and-mortar offices or retail locations of a company. The current answer is that what most refer to as the “store” or the “office” are not vanishing altogether – in the last few years, companies including Mars, Whirlpool, Apple and Samsung have actually invested millions, or billions in some cases, in new facilities or improvements to existing locations1. Companies are not necessarily doing away with physical locations altogether, but rather they have already been shifting the way physical office space is being used.
Such a shift in the use of physical space is not a new concept in 2020; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the urgency and significance of strategic geographic rationalization in an economic environment that has been leaning in that direction for quite some time. Companies can no longer wait to make adjustments to their brick-and-mortar locations with the right tools and technologies to keep up overall productivity while still delivering superior customer service in a way that maintains business continuity.
What adjustments should be made?
Technology improvements and adjustments can enable companies’ physical locations to operate at peak efficiency and provide a superior customer experience. Utilizing a modern information technology (IT) infrastructure will become essential, which may include, but not limited to, wireless connectivity, cloud capability and data solutions. Some companies may consider working with a third-party network services provider to help manage the IT infrastructure while also helping to protect against potential cybersecurity threats.
In addition, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help to improve back-office functionality and agility, automate certain operational functions or tasks, and even provide insight for more personalized and strategic market campaigns. For example, sentiment analysis is a branch of machine learning that studies response data and determine whether such responses are considered positive, negative or neutral. The extracted data can then be used to develop insights into customer experience as well as for developing and enhancing service and product delivery channels.
Companies should also consider the benefits of utilizing a data analytics platform to develop and navigate the best possible strategy for any workplace re-entry. Such a platform can help identify and understand market trends and changes, develop foresight for future opportunities and make qualitative risk assessments at a granular geographic level. DHG’s Workplace Re-Entry Readiness Framework combines a customizable risk analytics tool with an overall, comprehensive re-entry strategy to help with data-driven decision-making regarding emergence strategies.
In addition, DHG has also developed a branch optimization framework that looks at various facets of physical service and product delivery channel vis-à-vis other channels to help the firms optimize their geographical footprint.
What are the benefits?
There are several benefits to applying geographic footprint rationalization through a combination of integrated technologies and data analytics tools, including, but not limited to:
- Improved functionality and streamlining of office operations
- Greater capacity for a more focused customer engagement
- Better flexibility when implementing new technologies
- Reduction of administrative burdens and associated costs
- More proactive strategy development based on data- driven foresights
- Increased innovation in the use of brick-and-mortar company locations
DHG is positioned to help you and your business work toward geographic footprint rationalization as part of your strategy for workplace re-entry and emerging strong. For more information, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Morgan, Jacob. “The Office Space Isn’t Dead, It’s Making a Comeback.” Forbes.com. Nov. 24, 2015.