In August, we wrote a blog about how market research has changed over time—and there’s no question that it’s quite a lot. But as the saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Technology and the evolution of the digital era have definitely made their mark on the retail industry—and retail research. But there are many things about retail research that were true 25+ years ago and remain true today. Here are a few of the most notable:
Quality data is important.
There is a vast amount of data available to retailers today—customer data, cell phone data, online browsing data, and social media behavioral data—but not all data is good data. It’s important to use the best data available to you: current, relevant and regularly updated. If you don’t, your analysis will be skewed and not very useful to you.
It’s essential to augment your “desktop analysis” with on-the-ground judgment.
Yes, technology has automated so much of what we do in retail research and site selection, but there is no replacement for assessing a market in person. You can make assumptions based on data, but visiting sites and spending time in a place is important. Without doing so, you simply cannot get a real feel for traits like ingress/egress, visibility, parking, and a neighborhood’s “vibe” in a market (and near a site). This also helps you understand competitive strengths and weaknesses.
Brokers are still an invaluable resource.
As it did 10 and 20 years ago, it pays to have a good broker network when doing market research. This is especially true when you’re considering expanding to a new market with which you’re not familiar. Brokers know a market like nobody else, but a word of caution: make sure you’re working with a broker that uses a data-driven toolset to augment their experience.
Results are subject to factors out of your control.
Although there is such a thing as quality data (and you do generally get what you pay for when it comes to data), no market research methodology is foolproof—and no matter how great your data, you simply cannot get 100% accuracy. Shifts in a marketplace and how a competitor might react to you opening a location in the market are unpredictable. You might forecast sales for a location and make a poor hiring choice that impacts your operations negatively. Or you might make assumptions about a competitor that are just plain wrong. All of this is no different today than it was decades ago.
Change is inevitable.
New businesses and new concepts are coming into the market all the time. Retail has been rocked by many different changes—from the introduction of catalog shopping to the founding of the world wide web. If nothing else, know this: your competition today, 10 years ago, and 10 years from now will be quite different.
As we have said before, retailers and the businesses that support them (like SiteSeer) are constantly evolving—because they have to. But we continue to believe and preach that while technology offers many advantages for our industry, “new” is not always better than proven, tried-and-true methods.
With retail research, your goal is to minimize your risk as much as possible. No matter how great you are at research, there will always be unknowns that can change things and there’s no replacement for one’s own common sense and judgement. Remember these truths and, most importantly, remain adaptable as advancements in technology emerge and impact your business. Because if history has taught us anything, it is that change is inevitable.