How retail makes the most of geodata

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Geodata How retail makes the most of geodata

Published on 20.07.2021 by Stephan Lamprecht, journalist

The first thing that springs to mind for most people when they hear the term “geodata” is probably their navigation device or smartphone. And for good reason. After all, when it comes to retail, geodata can be used for navigation as well. We explain what it’s all about.

Not to be confused with location-based services

Until about four to five years ago, “location-based services” (LBS) were the biggest hope for retail companies that focused on omnichannel retail or used a purely high street-based strategy. The idea behind this was to try to appeal to customers with an offer or ad if they were in the immediate vicinity of a particular location. In the meantime, we have been hearing less and less about these services. Initial tests on the different technologies on offer did appear promising, but ultimately LBS did not become mainstream. One of the main reasons for this may well be down to the fact that not all customers downloaded the retailer’s app, or they did not want to share their location. Beacons, WLAN geolocation and other techniques that can locate customers and target ads to these customers have not found widespread use.

But LBS are not the point here. Geodata tells us the geographical location of a device or vehicle. However, the term also covers statistical information on a given location.

Geodata needs to be linked in an intelligent way

In an age where GPS receivers and smartphones are absolutely everywhere, there is no need to pinpoint the exact location of an object, be it a vehicle or a transport box. In other words, obtaining geo-based information is not that hard to do technically speaking. The trick is to link up this information, use it to gain insights and improve processes.

Here is a very simple example of how geo-based data can lead to a better customer experience that no doubt everyone is familiar with. Who doesn’t love to track orders they’ve made online? Accurate supplier information, sometimes right up to the last mile of the delivery process in real time, can help improve the customer experience.

What’s more, in the retailer’s back-end office, this information can be a big help to the support team if customers have any queries on the status of an order.

Location planning, product range planning and staff planning

In this already difficult financial situation we are in due to the consequences of the pandemic, everything has to be right before a company can open up a new location. There need to be enough potential customers in the vicinity, the local transport routes must make speedy deliveries possible and local purchasing power must meet the retailer’s expectations, with people from the surrounding area at least being targeted.

For each of these factors, there is geo-based information and static data. If the data is connected in an intelligent manner, the company will have enough information to decide whether opening up a location in a particular area is a good idea.

Subsidiaries can link up the information from existing locations, and in doing so adapt product ranges to the (likely) preferences of the local clientele.

Geodata can even help with staff planning. Think back to the first crisis period in the pandemic. Different areas were affected by the pandemic in very different ways. Whilst some locations experienced staff shortages due to illness or employees self-isolating, other locations experienced a surplus due to a drop in customer footfall. By having geodata in a clear dashboard, you could keep track of these sorts of trends, which would in turn help you to distribute staff more efficiently.

One Swiss company that works a lot with geodata is Migros. Migros uses geodata for many different purposes. For instance to optimize supply chains (almost in real time), during location development and when it comes to HR planning as well.

But make no mistake: not at all retailers have discovered the treasure trove of data that is geodata yet. Yet geodata offers so much potential to increase efficiency, improve the customer experience and make businesses more cost-effective. And not just in logistics.

Stephan Lamprecht, journalist

Stephan Lamprecht has been following e-commerce developments in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for two decades as a journalist and consultant.

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