Many retailers are recognizing the importance of a hyperlocal presence. Whether it’s by adapting the product offering or the layout, retailers of all sizes are taking notice of the benefits of tailoring physical stores, products, and marketing to individual locations and communities.
At INDOCHINO, a growing men’s clothing retailer with 31 showrooms across North America, different stores have unique features. Its Nashville store features guitars to honor and recognize that city’s close connection to music. Motorcycles were prominent in the launch of the company’s Texas presence and the famed major league baseball Yankees are prominent at their New York location.
“It gives it some type of local theme if you will. But in general, what we try to do is have a consistent look and feel across all of our showrooms just with nuances per market,” said Drew Green, CEO of INDOCHINO.
The popular retailer is following the trend across North America. Because markets exist from Miami to Canada, the climate difference is huge and that’s often reflected in the different fabrics introduced into those different showrooms.
“We also take a lot of care to make sure that the talent of people we have in the showroom aren’t just recently moved to that city or State and that they’re part of that community. For us, when we launch a showroom, we plan to be there for generations. I think to do that you can’t just have a cookie-cutter approach to it. You really need a market-based approach,” he said.
A value proposition for each store
Canadian grocery chain giant Sobeys is going much farther in its localization effort, going as far as having a different product offering for each community. To be more flexible, it established last November a field merchandising team with a responsibility to be the conduit between the national merchandising department and the store operations.
Four sections of the country - Atlantic, British Columbia, Ontario and the Western provinces - have a director of field merchandising to spearhead the localization initiative.
“That’s making sure that we have the right offer for the right customers and understanding our market needs and our competition,” said Leonard Lowe, director of field merchandising for Sobeys Atlantic.
That means taking the national scope and making sure it comes to life in individual stores in different parts of the country - drilling down to a more community-oriented view.
For example, Shediac, a community near Moncton in New Brunswick, is a popular vacation spot in the summer with people from Quebec. And Sobeys responds by making sure its presence there is stocked with French products those holiday-goers are accustomed to where they live.
The Sobey’s initiative includes understanding the demographics of people in individual markets and understanding what products they like and buy.
Hyperlocal activity by Sobeys also means driving local business by discovering new suppliers and new products in the areas they operate stores.
David Lui, vice-president of marketing for Mark’s, the clothing and footwear retailer specializing in casual and industrial wear, said the company’s L’Équipeur banner in Quebec is a perfect example of how it responds to hyperlocal retail. Company-wide, there are 385 stores with 45 L’Équipeur stores in Quebec. “In Quebec, the consumers there are very different from the rest of Canada. In a way, they’re very community-centric, loyal within Quebec. We have a different campaign that we speak to them differently and some different brands that we would carry,” said Lui.
The end of standardization
Tom Balkos, Senior Vice President of CBRE’s Retailer Services Group (Canada), said the trend over time in Canada is with retail moving away from large power centers to urbanization.
“Retailers are going to have to shrink footprints and go more and more into neighborhoods, a suburban setting, and be less super regional and be more localized. Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, coffee shops like Second Cup, a lot of brands are reflecting the communities they’re in because they’re dialed in on social media.”
Michael Kehoe, an Alberta-based retail specialist with Fairfield Commercial Real Estate, couldn’t agree more. “Retailing is a Darwinian struggle and market forces such as shifting demographics and regional economic ups and downs make it essential that each store location takes on its own identity and value proposition with the consumers in their own backyard.”
“Alternative format retailers such as Costco and mainstream grocery retailer Loblaw are excellent examples of firms that have empowered their local and regional management to zero in on their customer preferences and tailor their merchandise and service offerings to suit local markets,” he said.
Large retailers are empowering their managers to adapt to make decisions on behalf of the local communities. They’re also using data to understand better local needs and wants. What Sobeys is doing, and the example of Shediac is a perfect example of using demographic and consumer data to meet the needs of the local consumer.
This data-driven approach is enticing retailers to collect as much data as they can from their clients using several strategies. They perform in-store surveys, implement rewards programs and invest in technology to analyze this inflow of data.
“The old chestnut that ‘You are only as good as your data’ is critical for retailers and retail estate practitioners such as developers,” explained Michael Kehoe, of Fairfield Commercial Real Estate. “Retailers depend on demographic data to know the competitive landscape in their trade areas along with the highest concentrations of their target customers, customer behavior and expenditure analytics.”
That thirst for data has also enabled a new breed of companies to transform the way market research is done in the retail industry. POTLOC, a Montreal-based firm that recently closed a $2.5 million round, provides retailers with hyperlocal surveys that leverage social media to target specific areas. As a result, retailers are using its surveys to adapt their product offering for each location and find out how they can improve their service.
Another approach is to bank on generic hyperlocal data. Spatial.ai, for example, provide insights to retailers by monitoring social conversation already happening around them. Environics Analytics, on the other hand, can help retailers identify socio-demographic differences between their different locations.
In today’s world, everything from local household income to local consumer preferences has become important elements for retailers to know and understand. But it does not end there. Now, retailers want to know what clients secretly want in each area they’re operating in and are striving to provide it before they even ask for it.