As social distancing and other safety measures continue to remain standard protocol, the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly contributed to changes regarding how retail companies manage their businesses. This means retail companies with “brick-and-mortar” locations must adjust and innovate their customer service strategy, particularly how to best utilize digital service delivery channels, as well as accommodating low foot traffic within retail stores (due to social distancing and migration to digital channels) and balancing operating expenses. As retail companies work to keep their businesses open and healthy, geographic footprint rationalization considerations can help to make important decisions regarding the future of physical retail store locations.
The Future of Physical Retail Locations
An initial concern regarding geographic footprint rationalization is whether this includes significant rationalization of real estate, i.e., the brick-and-mortar offices or locations of a company. While the shift to more online retail availability has been underway for quite some time, retail stores must now find ways to adapt as customers pull away from nonessential trips to physical store locations. Low foot traffic could push even more retail companies to offer home delivery, curbside pickup and buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) options. For instance, when customers do actually visit a physical location, retail companies should also consider how to offer low-contact or contactless checkout and pickup.
Unfortunately, as many retailers hope to adapt to changes and shifts in the economy and customer behavior, some may be faced with decisions regarding which brick-and-mortar locations to keep open, but also which ones should be closed. As such, the sense of urgency for strategic geographic rationalization has become more elevated in the current economic environment. Now more than ever, retailers should look at their data to gain insight regarding their products, customers and locations in order to adapt and maintain overall productivity. The right data tools and technologies can help retailers gain insights while also helping to make important decisions about the future of their physical store locations.
The Right Tools and Technologies
Technology improvements and adjustments can make retailers’ physical locations operate at peak efficiency while still providing a superior customer experience. Modern information technology (IT) infrastructures will become essential, including optimal wireless connectivity, cloud capability and data solutions. Working with a third-party network services provider can also help certain retailers to manage the IT infrastructure costs.
For retailers, it is crucial to understand and adapt to changing customer needs – paying attention to master data about customers can help with managing operational characteristics, including pickup, delivery or BOPIS preferences. Retailers can also use such data to identify innovative growth opportunities – for example, 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. Sentiment analysis is one such branch of machine learning that studies customer response data to determine whether such responses are considered positive, negative or neutral regarding products purchased or any aspect of the customer experience. The extracted data can then be used for insights into improving or adapting the customer experience and developing other potential solutions.
Retailers can also benefit from the utilization of a customizable data analytics platform to develop and navigate the best possible strategy for any aspect geographic footprint rationalization. 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. For example, DHG has a Workplace Re-Entry Readiness Framework that combines a customizable risk analytics tool with an overall, comprehensive re-entry strategy to help retailers with data-driven decision-making regarding reopening and other emergence strategies.
Benefits to Retailers
Through a combination of integrated technologies and data analytics tools, retailers may benefit from applying geographic footprint rationalization in several ways, including, but not limited to:
- Data-driven decision-making resulting from data-backed foresights
- Improved functionality and streamlining of overall operations
- Improved customer experience
- Better flexibility when implementing new technologies
- Reduction of administrative and operational costs
- Better adaptation for use of existing physical retail locations
DHG is positioned to help retailers with geographic footprint rationalization as part of their strategy for emerging strong. For more information, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.