The Top 7 Challenges Multi-Location (MULO) Brands Face Today

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Whether a multi-location brand has 10 storefronts or >1,000, the challenges faced today are similar. Over the past five years, cosmic shifts in how people work, live, travel, and shop have surfaced a new range of consumer trends.

“Near me” is a common part of search behavior today. And the distance someone is willing to travel to find that product or brand is highly variable, based on their situation and needs.

For example, if you’re traveling to a new city and suddenly craving a burger at 2 AM, would you choose a local business or a MULO brand? Or, if you’re a new parent who runs out of diapers, how far you’re willing to travel is probably non-negotiable.

But some challenges that transcend the consumer stage and type of business (retail, restaurant, c-store, etc.) are ubiquitous.

  1. Consistency of consumer experience, which can be a function of many factors. If someone has a negative experience with one location, that will probably cast a dark shadow over the rest of your locations. And, if a customer loves a product or menu item in their home state and can’t find it at another location, they may be disappointed.
  2. Amount of autonomy your brand will give to each location or region. Allowing regional and local managers some level of independence can be a key to growth and loyalty, but keeping a consistent brand image is also critical.
  3. Investing in the right technology, including robotics and AI, is a challenge every MULO brand faces. Bombarded by automated solutions, decision-makers must separate the sizzle from the steak. Training employees and convincing high performers that machines won’t replace them are critical areas every MULO brand must tackle.
  4. The right people — hiring, motivating, and retaining them — is nothing new. But labor shortages and lack of loyalty up the game. Finding talent who understand and embraces automation will be critical in the years ahead.
  5. Being found for the right products and services at the right time. In our digital-first economy, brands must engage agencies that understand local search at a deep level and ensure that when consumers are looking for something specific in their area, they see what the brand wants and needs them to see. You can no longer blame it on the elusive “algorithm.” You must take control of your digital destiny. And that responsibility is no longer just the domain of your IT department. Marketing heads and even CEOs need to understand, own and harness the power of local search.
  6. Striking a balance between old and new media. For example, if you bet the ranch on influencer marketing (a great awareness tool), you’ll have fewer dollars to spend on loyalty programs. Despite the influx of new marketing techniques, ROI never goes out of style.
  7. Creating new types of location footprints. AI can help brands decipher how, when, and where consumers move around their spaces and may give rise to new ways to shop and dine.

But no challenge is insurmountable.

Stay in tune with what your own industry and others are doing to ensure every location is profitable and delivers the best possible consumer experience. Revisit the values and culture that define your brand and look to other brands that have survived and thrived over decades. Embrace technology. And, above all, be open to change and disruption!

In the words of Israeli entrepreneur and Waze co-founder Uri Levine:

“Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” 

Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.