Four months ago, I was in the TV aisle at Target doing my weekly retail price collections when I got a call from the boss: “You need to get out of there right now. And call everyone else back in, too.” The coronavirus that had been dominating news headlines just became very real. The same store that was just fine two minutes earlier now seemed to be pressing in around me. The air turned stale. Other customers started to look suspicious: could they get me sick? I left the store and sat in my car in the parking lot to call in the rest of the team. Then I went home to strategize about this new challenge: How do we provide retail prices to our clients if we can’t go into retail stores?
Part of my responsibilities at gap intelligence include managing our team of retail collectors, which are spread around the country. Over the past several months we have weathered many challenges together from retail closures to safety precautions to new technology. Through it all, I have remained proud of the team and of our ability to deliver GFD (great freakin’ data) to our clients every week.
Stores Are Closed: Now What?
At gap intelligence, we are proud of the detailed retail pricing and promotional data we are able to deliver to our clients every week, without fail. In order to capture this valuable data, we have a fleet of collectors in major cities around the country, including here in San Diego, who visit retailers each week. During these visits, the collectors use a proprietary smartphone app to record the pricing and promotional data we use in our reports to clients.
When people were pulled out of stores mid-March, we didn’t have time to plan ahead for alternatives. It took us a week or two to come up with a strategy and test it before sharing with the team. We noticed that even though brick-and-mortar store locations were closed, many retailers were promoting BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) options to encourage sales to continue. We were able to use location settings and “pick up today” options on the retailers’ websites to approximate in-store selections at major national retailers. In that way, we continued to provide our clients with the valuable retail data they needed during a time when it was not possible to visit stores in person.
A Cautious Re-Entry
Throughout the ensuing months, I kept an eye on the regions around the country where we had collectors stationed, eager to return to stores. I wanted to keep an eye on the atmosphere in each of these cities so we could plan for a smooth return to stores when the time was right. Unlike the swift shutdown in March, the re-entry process has been slower and more uneven. As we are all aware, different regions of the country opened their doors sooner than others. The question became how to balance the data we received from retailer websites with data from regions that were opening up. Above all, we wanted to be sure that sending team members back to stores was as safe as possible.
Through constant communication with our regional collectors, we slowly crept back into stores, a couple regions at a time, over the space of several weeks. I am happy to say that all of our regional collectors are back in stores, practicing safety protocols in order to keep themselves and their communities healthy. The process took the coordination and willingness of many individuals and we are proud of their commitment to bringing GFD to all of our clients.
While We’re at It, Let’s Change Everything!
As luck would have it (or not), we had been in the final stages of developing a brand new app when everything went sideways. A process that took a year and a half was coming to a close and we were finally ready to launch our new app at a time when our team wasn’t visiting stores. In the end, it worked out well because we were able to have our San Diego team test the final version of the app during their ecom site visits, so our developers were not overwhelmed with feedback and fixes. Once we were ready to bring our regional collectors back to stores, we were able to introduce them to the new app with the benefit of weeks of use.
Not Quite the Final Word
Although stores are open, we remain vigilant for any reversals to our current status. We conducted an internal retrospective on how we did with the plans we chose to follow: what worked, what didn’t, and what we can improve going forward. If anything changes with the current retail situation, we have the benefit of hindsight and experience to guide us in our next steps. Regardless, we are committed to finding creative solutions to difficult issues in order to deliver necessary data to our clients.
For more than 17 years, gap intelligence has served manufacturers and sellers by providing world-class services monitoring, reporting, and analyzing the 4Ps: prices, promotions, placements, and products. Email us at email@example.com or call us at 619-574-1100 to learn more.