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From Bricks to Clicks: How Location Intelligence is Changing Retail

Location analytics helps retailers breathe new life into old strategies. 
Online shopping is well understood. We don’t only know how many people visit an online retail site. We also know that changing the size of a picture by a few pixels will generate more sales. We can even see if online shopping carts have been abandoned, what items people have viewed, and how long visitors have stayed on a page to calculate their interest in buying a product.
But when it comes to knowing how many people shop at a physical store, traditionally we scratch our heads. We’ve been trying to figure out those details for more than a hundred years. And don’t get me started on “dark shoppers”—customers that visit a store but don’t purchase. Unlike online shoppers, “dark shoppers” don’t leave an activity trail. There’s been a lot of talk about how in-store beacons will change this, but the jury’s out on how shoppers will respond.
As smartphones and tablets become a more integral part of the shopping experience, the boundary between online and offline shopping is becoming increasingly blurred. This is where geography and location analytics can help. Geography brings together and allows us to analyze different data using location indicators, from the ping of an iBeacon, to a barcode scan, to where a coupon is used, to tracking anonymous shoppers in stores and malls.

Do Stores Still Matter?

We are far removed from the traditional shopping world of taking purchases home from the store. But stores still matter. While many people start their shopping experience on their mobile device, according to a recent study, more that 85% of all customers still visit stores. Many times, the deal is sealed by a customer picking up and trying a product at a physical store.
But consumers want the flexibility to get products anywhere, at any place and any time. Customers now have products shipped to their offices. They shop on the Internet and then collect their merchandise in-store.  They don’t think twice about using pop-ups and kiosks.
Time frames for pickup and delivery are changing, too.  Shopping windows are extended outside of traditional store hours. In our modern, always on, mobile-first, digitally connected world, being successful at retail is hard. Very hard.

Optimizing store networks and synthesizing data can help store owners concentrate on changing formats.
This blurring line between bricks and clicks means that store formats are changing. Larger stores are becoming hubs to smaller stores. They are repositories for online purchase returns, virtual warehouses, places to consult an associate for expert advice, and a venue for customers to spend time looking for one-of-a-kind items (because they have their regular, routine purchases delivered).
But just as fast as today’s store format and technology are changing, so is our ability to connect across business units and functions. By using location analytics we can make decisions based on insight and consensus by using geography.

Honing in on 21st Century Data

Today, every 21st century data set contains location information.  And with location analytics, we are empowered with tools and techniques to exploit it. What does this mean?  Locating stores near a particular demographic is no longer the most important rule of site location. It’s no longer a negative for 95% of your customers to live more than ten miles away from your stores. If you can connect with them, they will buy.
Shoppers are changing the way they think of physical and digital and stores are responding with innovative solutions.
With Location Analytics, you can create a unified concept that includes store layouts, demographics, planograms and 3D visualizations within your BI and CRM platforms. Don’t use fiction and anecdotes. Base your decisions on facts and validated insights—customer profiles based on behaviors, true travel zones and real spheres of influence, all the way down to understanding who passes in front of your door, when, and how many. You can even analyze which direction customers go when they enter a store, including their dwell times in front of product displays and end-caps.
As the multi-channel becomes more important, data complexity and size is only going to increase.  It is paramount that successful retailers get on board.

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Use location to create a “digital sandwich” of layers containing insight, patterns of behavior and key facts. Discover new strategies. Breathe new life into old ones.  Try Esri location analytics on for size.

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