Data Disruption: The Superpower That Can Revive Retail
CREW Network members from across the U.S. virtually gathered on March 31 seeking the answer to one of the most common questions in commercial real estate today: How can retail survive? Even before the pandemic, the “retail apocalypse” was in full swing. Many brands closed their brick-and-mortar stores as post-recession consumer spending declined and online deliveries grew. COVID-19 accelerated these trends as consumers shifted from purchasing “wants” to “needs.”
Maria Sicola and Charles Warren, co-founders of CityStream Solutions, believe that “data is the superpower that can revive the retail industry.” Retailers must utilize their own data sources, including website traffic, advertising, social interactions, mobile application, in-store and online transactions, and more, as well as third-party data to adapt to their customers and track habits. According to Charles and Maria, online and in-store are no longer separate channels. For example, consumers may see an online advertisement and choose to go to the store to complete their purchase. On the other hand, some apparel consumers may go in-store to determine sizing and ultimately make their purchases online. City Stream’s data has found that we can no longer determine profitability by store sales alone, as this metric fails to capture the store’s impact on advertising, branding and marketing.
Looking forward, retailers who analyze their customer data and adapt their customer shopping experience will likely prevail. Maria and Charles envision a “hybrid”, all-in-one retail store that may include a front showroom, warehouse, shipping and receiving in the rear, and designated areas for Buy Online, Pickup Inside Store (BOPIS) and Buy Online, Pickup Outside Store (BOPOS) shoppers. These stores may even include street space for sidewalk cafes and outdoor shopping. Retailers will also need to utilize customer data to appropriately manage inventory levels for “last-mile delivery” to compete with Amazon.
CityStream Solutions undoubtedly maintains that retail has a bright future and that data will take retailers FAR – Flexible, Agile, Resilient. CREW-St. Louis looks forward to how local and national retailers adapt their business for the future.