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BPM can enable more strategic retail planning

Ben Farrell
August 30, 2012

Retailers face an intriguing dichotomy when it comes to planning how they will develop their stores and their lease, real estate and growth-related strategies. On one hand, the process is much easier than it would have been in the past because retailers have access to more and better data about potential projects. On the other, it is much more challenging to deal with any strategic planning because the amount of data processed can be overwhelming.

Business process management software can help companies resolve this paradox in which retail planning seems simultaneously easier and more difficult than it has to be. To understand the full implications of the technology, consider just one of the types of data that retailers can now access.

With so many consumers using smartphones and tablets, retailers can actually track not only how many individuals are in the vicinity of their store, but when they tend to arrive, how long they stay, when peak operational periods occur and, to some extent, what they do while they are there.

For example, a coffee shop with two locations can know that both need to be expanded to support growing customer bases. But geolocation information may show that one really needs a drive-through window because much of its business stems from either commuters or people who stop in for a quick cup of coffee, while the other needs a larger lounge because it attracts lots of people who like to hang out in the store.

This basic layer of data can be discovered fairly easily through observation, but the rise of mobile devices and social media among consumers means that the cafe chain can also track how different consumers discuss its different locations, identifying more details about the demographic and finding ways to adjust the aesthetic design of the shop, develop space for promotional events and inform the overall design of the facility.

This information can also be aligned with details about the local community, economy, future expectations in these areas and real estate values. This allows retailers to make strategic investments in a second location in an area if that makes more sense than a single-site expansion or similar strategy.

However, tapping into all of this data from so many sources can be overwhelming and bog down strategic planning. BPM solutions automate many of the tasks that take place between data mining and analysis, informing the broad retail strategies and enabling more effective growth.