Location Intelligence Enters a New Phase

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When PlaceIQ was founded over 10 years ago, our initial tagline was “Next Generation Location

As excited as we were about it, that tagline utterly confused 95% of the people who saw it; they were very much unclear about ‘current gen’ location intelligence, let alone what on earth ‘next gen’ could be. Still, we had a passionate vision around the concept that location data, mapping data — and the resulting understanding from analyzing the two together — was at some point going to play a key and critical role in helping organizations make better decisions across a variety of business functions.

It took a long time, longer than I would have hoped to come to fruition, but we do feel this promise is finally starting to be realized and was already accelerating headed into the pandemic. The last year supercharged adoption. Obviously, all the old patterns and behaviors were thrown out of the window and consumer movement and resulting behaviors were changed in a rapid and fundamental way. Using location data and intelligence to understand what was happening, and modify business strategy to adapt, became more critical than ever.

What are some of the more innovative applications we’re seeing in this ‘next generation’ of location intelligence?

Store and Market Trade Area Analysis

Many organizations with physical assets have used legacy techniques for understanding trade areas for many years. The obvious example is big-box stores simply using static concentric circles a few miles outside of a location and feeling confident that if they located close enough to a large population, they would be successful. In fairness, it used to work just fine. But the world had already changed long before COVID-19 hit. Consumers were omnichannel shopping, some commuted more than others, some were fine driving longer distances to stock up, and of course the rise of pickup and delivery changed the game.

Using this new dynamic data that accounts for all of these new movements and behaviors has enabled retailers to understand and serve their customers better than ever before, with a new perspective on their physical assets and the interplay of physical assets with their digital ones. Which leases should be renewed? Which locations are cannibalizing from other stores? Which stores should focus on pickup or delivery, and to which customers? And much more. The world of retail is no longer a simple consumer journey at a large store, it is a myriad of complicated differing interactions across a series of physical and virtual touchpoints — and location intelligence is now playing a more critical role than ever in unlocking this new challenge and opportunity.

Distribution and Supply Chain Optimization

This was one area that was accelerated tremendously by the pandemic. Take the example of most CPG brands, who sell products in a multitude of physical points of sale they do not own: restaurants, bars, gas stations. During the pandemic some of those points of sale shut down, some were open but very quiet, while others were incredibly busy. It was different, however, state by state and even county by county – and it would all change in a week. The huge problem here was that the CPG companies don’t own the point of sale, so they had really limited information on what was actually happening at that point of sale — with sales data often taking quite some time to filter back through. So, product could have been piling up in one area unsold while it was selling out in another area due to the massive fluctuations in foot traffic.

Location intelligence was able to help tremendously here because of its unique ubiquity, offering a view into competitive traffic, traffic to a fast food brand, or to all fast food brands. PlaceIQ worked with a number of very large CPG brands to help them use foot traffic data to better forecast demand, thus constantly adjusting distribution of product to where the demand actually existed. This informs the entire organization, from investment resources to marketing optimization.

Business Transformation

Many of the new uses of location intelligence, including the ones highlighted above, often require clients to have the desire, ability, and resources to work with or interpret data sets as they pertain to their business and strategic objectives. Not every company has the scale, focus, or resources to do so.

That’s often where the big consultancies come in. PlaceIQ has worked extensively with the largest consultancies in the world now for many years, to take our data and applications, and bake them within the array of products and services that these consultancies offer. Many are already engaged across large organizations tasked with business and digital transformation, so integrating location data into their tools and processes to enable their clients to make smarter decisions is already a big opportunity. It will only continue to accelerate.

Where do we go from here?

We have all observed first-hand how much things changed during the past year or so. The reality is things are not going to go back to the way they were before. The huge acceleration and adoption of digital-driven decision-making isn’t stopping. The omnichannel, nonlinear consumer journey isn’t simplifying. Physical store locations need to be deployed intelligently in a way that accommodates and supports this new reality of consumer behavior. And consumers expect communication to be intelligent, personalized, and consensual.

All of these and much more provide great optimism that ‘Next Generation Location Intelligence’ as a capability and an industry has entered into the early stages of a next phase of evolution. These dynamic capabilities will increasingly be integrated at scale across platforms and business functions as a must-have functionality to enable organizational decision-making.

Duncan McCall is the CEO of PlaceIQ.