The Impact of Social Media on Store Lifecycle Management

Inarguably, social media is now one of the most dominant shapers of public opinion and consumer attitudes worldwide. And as social media’s dominance continues to accelerate so does its value to businesses, like retail and restaurant companies, that now have an opportunity to mine the massive volumes of structured and unstructured data generated by social media to gain unprecedented insights into what their target customers are thinking and how they’re behaving. Important for Real Estate and Facilities Management executives is the influence these insights can have on their decision-making throughout every stage of store lifecycle management (SLM).

Of course, no simple, one-size-fits-all guide to finding the most valuable data exists. Many factors – geography, customer demographics and the long- and short-term goals of the business, among them –determine which social media platforms will provide the most relevant data. Corporate Real Estate (CRE) professionals must also employ methodologies and utilize advanced tools and technologies to mine large amounts of unstructured data and collect that data through customer experience surveys and feedback forms, all with an eye to ensuring the accuracy and security of that data, optimizing the efficiency of those activities and generating the most actionable SLM intelligence possible. Social media can also be used to identify emerging trends. In clothing stores, for instance, customers’ preferences regarding their experience can influence store design, which can then be leveraged as competitive edge.  

It is impossible to adequately discuss the art and science of social media data collection in a single blog; instead, let’s focus on some short examples of how CRE organizations can use that data in four stages of SLM.

1.  Market Planning & Site Selection
By analyzing social media demographics (aligned with geographic information), analyzing store feedback on competitors or analyzing social media data pertaining to anchor stores social media can be very effective in helping to determine optimal store locations. For example, one point of focus could be social media messaging relating to ease-of-access to the location (driving and/or public transport), ease of parking and/or overall sentiment in mall/shopping.

Retail and restaurant companies can also look at social media data through the lens of target personas, the interests they have and other things they like to do on a shopping trip in order to prioritize site options.

2.  Lease Administration
Before renewing leases CRE could examine social sentiment trends to gain insights into the longer-term outlook for the region in which a store and/or mall or retail center is located. In cases where social sentiment is trending down decision-makers can explore options; for instance, negotiating a shorter-term lease or terminating the lease altogether.

3.  Program and Project Management
In the case of program and project management social sentiment analysis could be used in two ways:

3.1. Social sentiment analysis is valuable for learning about existing stores and using that feedback to improve construction of a new store.  For instance, if customers are complaining about the absence of power-plugs in a store location on social media the issue can be rectified in new construction. If the issue comes up frequently organizations can identify and highlight keywords, which would then trigger a notification. Social sentiment analysis can also be augmented with competitive intel, as well, to define unmet needs vs. competitive weaknesses.

3.2. Organizations with a larger portfolio of stores can use social media feedback to collect data             pertaining to a small sample of redesigned stores before applying those same changes to all other stores. Such feedback can also help organizations understand cultural differences and utilize that insight to optimize store design globally.

4.  Facilities Maintenance
Organizations can use social data to change how customers perceive the in-store experience and adjust based on those perceptions. For instance, if there’s a high frequency of social media posts complaining of dirty restrooms or dirty counters, inadequate lighting or poor temperature control a retailer or restaurant company could respond by adjusting their maintenance practices, perhaps even posting photos and/or videos on social media platforms to ‘advertise’ their efforts to optimize the customer experience. Additionally, this could also be a tool for identifying poor performing stores and controlling consistency across all stores.

Social media is becoming ever-more influential; its impact on customer perceptions cannot be minimized.  However, retail and restaurant organizations – while sophisticated in exploiting social media for marketing purposes - are just now coming to grips with its value as an intelligence-gathering/decision-informing tool for CRE. And when it comes to social media’s impact on SLM - The future is now.

Bernard Hoefsmit
Executive Managing Director


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