Local Businesses’ Newest Competitive Edge: Distribution and Delivery Data

As different pockets of the U.S. grapple with varying levels of Covid-19 – including some areas experiencing a resurgence of the virus – small and local businesses are now faced with ever-changing operating restrictions. For example, some areas that that began allowing restaurants to fill up to 50% capacity must now revert to pick-up or delivery only for the foreseeable future. Many areas are also experiencing reduced demand, making the competition for local wallet share even fiercer.

To continue delivering products and services to their local communities safely — no matter the fluctuating restrictions — businesses are offering order-ahead, curbside pickup, touchless payments, and sophisticated delivery options, whether through their own operations or through third-party providers such as GrubHub and DoorDash. These flexible distribution options not only help drive continued momentum, they also create a myriad of new valuable customer data points that must be captured and incorporated into rapidly evolving customer engagement strategies.

By using technology to strengthen alternate distribution channels, building partnerships to ensure robust business operations, and tapping into new types of customer data, SMBs and local business will be well positioned to meet ever-changing customer needs and remain competitive. 

Differentiation Through Distribution

Pre-Covid-19, local businesses largely distinguished themselves through the value of their products and services. They may have offered delivery as an add-on service, but traditional, in-person service was likely a core tenet driving their operations.

Since the pandemic, however, many of these businesses have either developed a competitive edge or fallen by the wayside based on the sophistication of their updated distribution strategies. This means either building or using another company’s technology platform for placing orders online at scale and integrating it with in-person service (depending on geographic restrictions).

From the customer’s perspective, they can enjoy the real-time transparency of knowing whether their order is being processed, being prepared or out for delivery.  

Building Partnerships for Innovation

As many local and small businesses are adapting to more flexible ways of operating and delivering their products and services, they are also realizing the need for collaboration in order to rebuild and thrive moving forward. They are already operating with slim margins, so thinking creatively about partnerships that yield intended results without high capital expenditures is vital.

As an example, local businesses that are now performing a significantly higher amount of delivery or curbside service are likely experiencing higher packaging costs and could benefit from working with a partner to meet new expectations while keeping costs reasonable. Establishing partnerships with multiple delivery service providers could mean the difference between a business that reaches consumers and one that remains off their radar entirely.

Data Access Key: Customer Preferences and Patterns 

The newly gathered data and analytics generated from these online channels is invaluable to small and local businesses. Whether tracking daily or weekly peak times for orders, trending products or services, or customer delivery preferences regarding touchless payments and recurring orders, SMBs and local businesses can capitalize on these insights to build and reinforce customer loyalty. They can also improve product and service availability during popular times and proactively meeting customer preferences.

Businesses should work closely with their delivery and distribution partners to ensure access to this critical data and then combine it with their own insights for a clear picture of real-time business operations. As an example, some seniors may prefer shopping during the designated “senior shopping” hours while others prefer delivery. 

As SMBs and local businesses across the country continue to expand and contract their operations to meet health and safety needs, their increased reliance on flexible delivery and distribution channels opens up new opportunities for SaaS partners to help drive business efficiencies and customer engagement. With the right partnerships and technology in place, businesses can leverage this valuable data to continue to transform, stay relevant, and thrive amid an ever-changing environment.

Bill Dinan is president of Localogy.

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