As COVID-19 continues its steady spread, brick-and-mortar retail has ground to a halt.
The vast majority of stores selling non-essentias have shuttered their doors in an effort to protect shoppers and store associates from contracting the coronavirus.
In the wake of this new reality, Placer.ai, an advanced foot traffic analytics firm, has released a tool that allows users to analyze the performance of the 70 top retail brands in the U.S. The platform compares their performance this spring with the same period last year, long before the coronavirus quelled consumer appetites.
The program provides insights into the current status of the retail landscape, tracking companies like Walmart, Costco, Target, Dillard’s, Burlington, Marshalls, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s and more. Anyone can tap into this data to help understand the current pulse of the market, the company said.
“This is a unique moment in time where brands and retailers have a small window to prepare for the eventual return to normalcy that could include a vastly different economic climate,” Placer.ai CEO and co-founder Noam Ben-Zvi told Sourcing Journal.
Ben-Zvi said he hopes the platform can provide insight into how areas hit by crises can rebound in their wake. There are steps that retailers can take now to help optimize their merchandise for the future, while gaining a better understanding of their core audiences and their needs.
“Even now, there are daily changes in location analytics that hold critical insights into how these brands can respond in order to maximize their eventual return,” he said. “Placer.ai helps uncover the true story of any location, and unpacking these narratives can reveal strategies that will guide success in the post-coronavirus months.”
Ben-Zvi acknowledged that every sector is being impacted differently. Some stores, like grocers and pharmacies, are still seeing regular and even booming activity. Southeastern U.S. grocery store chain Ingles saw a 23 percent increase in foot traffic year over year, according to data from March 21, while Smart & Final saw a 21 percent increase during the same period.
For many retailers selling non-essentials, results are grim. Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s are down 98 and 99 percent in foot traffic from last year, respectively.
Even big-box stores selling groceries, gadgets, clothing and other goods have brought in vastly fewer shoppers this spring. Walmart saw a 28 percent reduction in traffic year over year, while Target’s visitors decreased by nearly half (49 percent). Despite these findings, both are investing in their front-line staff by offering bonuses and Walmart, for one, intends to bolster its workforce by hiring for 150,000 positions.
Those who are struggling should be taking advantage of the lull in business to get a handle on what they can be doing to drive more traffic to their stores.
“From optimizing delivery strategies to better planning their marketing efforts, there are a myriad of use cases that could drive immediate value for these companies,” he said.
Many retailers are bolstering their e-commerce capabilities while their brick-and-mortar operations are closed, and further exploring popular buy now, pick up in store (BOPIS) options that limit the amount of time that consumers have to spend in stores.
Using data, retailers can make more informed decisions that allow them to take advantage of growth-driving opportunities, Ben-Zvi said. This time for reflection could help them avoid mistakes that might prolong the negative impact that the pandemic has had on retail.