Location Data Firm Unacast Generates Hyperlocal Covid Recovery Metrics

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Nobody has all the answers. In this time of uncertainty, business leaders are facing incredible challenges as they look to reopen operations in a way that makes financial sense.

Although governments worldwide have allocated more than $13 trillion to stabilize economies in freefall, businesses in the U.S. still face a great deal of uncertainty. According to a survey by Goldman Sachs, 96% of small business owners say they have been impacted by Covid-19 and 51% say their businesses may only make it three more months before they’re forced to shut down for good.

Location data and analytics firm Unacast is hoping its new recovery analytics tool might guide businesses through this chaotic time. The interactive tool allows retail operations professionals, real estate developers, and property management companies to drill down to the census block level to get visibility into real-world economic recovery scenarios and plan for future investments.

Using data that compares real-time public behavior in the current environment to pre-Covid time periods, businesses can estimate recovery rates and more accurately plan for future reopenings.

The future of retail and restaurants has captured many of the financial news headlines as of late, but the commercial real estate market is taking a beating as well. According to Deloitte, U.S. commercial real estate transaction volume declined 27% year-over-year in March 2020 and early April 2020, with most realtors reporting a decline of over 30% in buyer traffic. Those figures helped guide Unacast’s decision to build a tool that would serve both retail operations and real estate professionals.

By providing data at the neighborhood level, and breaking down foot traffic in a census block by dividing it into workers, residents, locals, and non-locals, Unacast is giving businesses a way to understand the composition of foot traffic. It’s also providing visibility into real-world economic recovery scenarios based on localized, neighborhood mobility data.

Unacast CEO Thomas Walle says retailers and real estate professionals are wondering whether it’s worth reopening their businesses right now, and whether customers will come back once they open up their doors. Foot traffic data shows that public behavior has shifted throughout the country, but complete economic recovery will look drastically different across regions, cities, and even neighborhoods.

Data shows that people in certain regions are already acting differently than in others. Unacast is aiming to arm businesses with actual insights as granular as census blocks, so they can make decisions based on real information rather than hunches or guesses.

“Based on when people are back in public places, users can decide when and how they should reopen stores or offices,” Walle says.

With the right information in hand, larger businesses can redirect supply chains and reroute toward the locations or distribution centers where products are needed. This sort of alignment between demand and fulfillment is something that Walle says separates his company’s tool from others on the market.

Serving the commercial real estate market means arming property management companies with tools for forecasting new rent levels based on changes in foot traffic. Companies can also use foot traffic insights to understand how the market landscape is evolving and which visitor types are returning sooner than others.

Neighborhood Insights is just one of a handful of tools Unacast has developed for its Covid-19 toolkit since this spring. After launching its Social Distancing Scoreboard, which is used to understand how people are adhering to social distancing, the company added the Retail Impact Scoreboard to help retailers understand which categories are most affected. Now, Unacast is digging even deeper to help understand which specific parts of the country are seeing recovery and where recovery may still take some time.

“While the Neighborhood Insights is critical for retailers and real estate developers now and in the months to come, it will remain relevant beyond Covid-19 as it allows retailers to understand how neighborhoods of interest are performing,” Walle says. “When planning to open new stores, retailers will know where to place them and which neighborhoods will offer a competitive advantage and increase sales.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.