The pandemic obviously upended almost everything: our daily lives, the way we work, the way we buy goods and so on. As we emerge from the pandemic, we’re working differently, traveling differently and living differently. For businesses, this has required a completely new approach to almost everything they do – the old baselines no longer apply.
Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic pivoted consumers to online shopping, but many industries still rely on foot traffic for a majority of their revenue. The events of the last two years require establishing a new baseline for the much-discussed “new normal” – data prior to 2020 isn’t going to give an accurate picture of the present, nor will it even begin to provide an idea of the future. This is where location insights come in – providing a way for businesses to establish such a baseline and use this for evaluating expansion, analyzing foot traffic and making decisions.
A period of uncertainty
The last two years have been something of an anomaly when it comes to foot traffic. Stay-in-place orders and rising variant cases led more people to shop online, bank online and more. The rise of e-commerce over the last 20 years has complicated the relationship between foot traffic and total revenue, particularly because the pandemic may have irreversibly altered B2C partnerships.
Prior to the pandemic, if you were a hotelier or a restaurateur, you likely felt you had a pretty accurate sense of your business traffic patterns. You knew when people came in, what kind of things they were interested in and so on. But all those old assumptions went out the window in 2020, and now, as we all emerge and start to resume, we can’t rely on what we used to know.
For instance, even as many companies have returned to the office, there are many others that have maintained either a work-from-home or a hybrid approach. If you own a restaurant in an area surrounded by offices and frequented by daily workers, that’s likely changed, and your business model may need to change, too.
Using location data to adjust to these changes
In the previous example of a restaurant located in what was historically a busy commercial district, where much of your business came from workers on their lunch break, you may need to pivot. Maybe it no longer makes sense to be open for lunch every weekday if employees at area businesses are now only coming into the office a few days a week. Maybe it makes more sense to be open Wednesday through Friday or to offer extended breakfast on certain days. But how do you make these decisions with confidence, rather than feeling like you’re just guessing?
Location data can provide ongoing insight into how foot traffic trends are changing. But take care when considering where that data will come from. You need to seek data sources that offer always-on information. Previously, the methods of data collection to understand physical space and human interaction with it tended to be static. Think of the census, for example, which only happens every 10 years. That might as well be a lifetime in terms of how people are migrating across the country. Much of the information previously relied on is static, outdated and insufficient for today’s needs.
Accessibility and viability
In addition to data being static, it hasn’t always been easy for businesses to gain access to the data that does exist. That threshold needs to be lowered. Location intelligence data should be more democratized and accessible to businesses; it doesn’t need to and shouldn’t require you to have your own extensive in-house data science and analyst team. It’s also important to have data that looks at different regions – what’s happening in one part of the country doesn’t necessarily correlate to another region.
Knowledge for insights
The post-COVID world isn’t going to go back to the way things used to be – at least, not in every aspect of life. People are moving differently and working differently, and that’s going to have a profound effect. But it doesn’t have to negatively affect your organization.
From a business standpoint, there is opportunity here to develop a better understanding of this new world and how it should drive your business decisions. We are living in a time where we have the ability to gain unique insight into this rapidly changing world. Businesses can use location data to establish a new baseline in terms of how to evaluate expansion, foot traffic and the decision-making that comes with this information. Just make sure the data is current and region-appropriate and doesn’t require an in-house team of data experts to manage.
About the Author:
Kjartan is the COO and Co-Founder of Unacast. As an experienced team builder, contract negotiator and strategist, Kjartan is used to building high performance teams that can execute and excel in complex industries. Kjartan is motivated by launching global products that fundamentally change industries, like he has previously done in the music industry. Kjartan was part of the founding team in TIDAL, launched globally as the first HiFi lossless global streaming service and acquired by Jay Z and now by Jack Dorsey from Twitter and Square. Kjartan was educated at Copenhagen Business School and recognized as a “Top 100 Young Leader in Norway”.
Author: Kjartan Slette
Co-founder and chief operating officer, Unacast