LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.
Three famous words from Conrad Hilton, founder of the eponymous hotel group, about ensuring you’re in the optimal place to attract customers away from other lodgings. For business today, it’s still important to be in the right place for your customers, but there’s much more to it than that.
Location strategists across sectors have traditionally followed much the same path:
- Collect details for as many customers (or patients, or students, etc) as possible
- Find addresses for customers; place customers onto a map
- Map competitor location(s) on the same map
- Look for areas of greatest customer density, least well-served by us or competitors
- Sometimes, use a variation of ‘gravity modelling’ to anticipate the number of customers (& spend) that we expect a new location to capture
- Engage real estate specialists to find a suitable property for us within this geography
- Realise, too late, that customers’ behaviours are complex
- Scratch heads when we don’t get the market impact we’d hoped for, and lament the long-term lease obligation we’ve now incurred for our business.
SO WHERE TO NEXT?
There’s a much better way, making full use of data… and a healthy dose of creativity.
Retail, health, education are now 24/7 activities, and the customer is now in full control. The mobile / internet does a lot of what stores traditionally did, offering customers new experiences and greater levels of convenience from the palm of their hands.
Although the way we shop and interact with technology is different to how we did things 5-10 years ago, the store is making a comeback, evolving from merely a distribution outlet to a seamless and optimized experience and service channel…a place to go to accomplish several potentially different objectives.
Today it’s all about connecting with your customer. This means being in the right ‘place’ where your customers are to fulfil their needs, respecting the occasion your customer is experiencing.
A necessary occasion. A convenience occasion. An experience occasion. An impulse occasion. A panic buying occasion. We’re human…fickle, flexible, impatient…and therein lies the opportunity to get it right (or more right than our competitors).
CONSIDER A DIFFERENT WAY TO ANSWER “WHERE SHOULD I BE?”:
- Gather data for as many of your customers as you can, and for the overall market you serve. Respect privacy laws, guidelines and perceptions in doing this
- Overlay as many data sources as practicable on that market base – gender, age, socio-economic status, place of work, friend network, spend behaviour in other categories, location history, weather history, social ‘likes’, indeed anything that sharpens the picture of the complex technology and product interactions of individuals, and the contexts of their behaviours
- Apply a branch of AI called Self Organizing Maps (SOM) to draw out distinctions in the data, and to allow the data to speak without distortions
- Use geospatial properties of customers over time (& potentially Agent Based Modelling) to define where your best customers live, work & play, where they go, when, for what occasion…with whom…down which side of the street…using which device…in which ‘need state’…to accomplish which goals…
- Use these contextual insights to design granular and more relevant experience journeys for your most valuable audiences, combining physical and digital elements around the occasions that matter to them
- Track and monitor customer interactions and responses across your physical and digital properties to improve the quality, mix and timing of your engagement initiatives
- Design geo-targeting and activity-based prompting into your new ‘omni-channel’ build
- Finally, use emerging property datasets and AI-engines to find ‘soon to be available’ physical properties that best fulfil one or more critical roles in your customers’ priority occasions
- Negotiate from a position of strength…declare victory…then move on to refine and evolve your ‘Geospatial Customer Engine’ at speed.
HOW IS IT ‘BETTER WITH DATA’?
The more you know about your customers before they walk into your store, the more you can do to attract them, do business with them and earn their loyalty.
Successful companies deliver signature experiences across occasions, in physical and digital forms, to the most valuable audiences. Getting to the customer at their moment of need, in the right place, can be more than luck. It can be design.
At Growth Mantra, we believe that many important problems can be better addressed with data, to generate genuinely better insight and action. Our “Better with Data” series provides thought-starters for senior decision makers.
Commercial Creativity…Better with Data