It’s premature for a pandemic post-mortem, but lessons have undoubtedly been learned through this experience. Chief among them, perhaps, is the indispensable nature of effective business tools that can adapt to new data collection and reporting requirements on the fly. Successful crisis management demands resilience—in an organization, certainly, but also in the tools on which it relies.
Retailers, like all businesses, saw a sudden shift and additions to their standard data collection needs. Many retail locations shut down stores during COVID, making daily reports irrelevant, other reports emerged as essential, such as an immediate and critical need for COVID-infection reports, store cleanliness audits, health screenings, and impact analysis on supply chains. Business platforms that could be rapidly reconfigured to accommodate these needs were critical for adapting to the change in business demands.
ThinkLP is a good case-in-point. Its intelligent software platform is used in retail for incident tracking, audit management, analytics, exception reporting, case management, AI-powered ORC case matching, and much more. During the pandemic, its flexibility made it the hub for managing the crisis by major retailers and loss prevention departments globally. “Our global clients were the first to identify the severity of the pandemic,” said ThinkLP’s Founder and President Doug Treleaven. “A global pandemic was the once-a-century black swan event that demonstrated the power and flexibility of our platform.”
ThinkLP has deployed 18 different pandemic solutions to help its clients solve business problems due to the crisis. With ThinkLP’s flexible platform, retailers configured countless other data collection, analysis, and reporting solutions on their own. During the pandemic, clients reported novel ways of using their platforms to solve new problems they encountered, while others asked ThinkLP to help address additional issues they faced.
Health screening is just one way that ThinkLP software has been utilized. Retailers integrated their corporate security systems with the software’s health screening questionnaire to provide LP teams with a notification when individuals badged into a corporate office or distribution center without completing the required forms. Infection rate tracking has been another popular use of the ThinkLP platform, allowing companies to make more informed decisions about when and where to modify operations. And asset protection pros weren’t the only ones relying on it: HR teams, especially, made greater use of the ThinkLP platform as the crisis unfolded.
Store closure reports were perhaps the most popular item, according to Rhett Asher, Vice President of Strategy at ThinkLP. “Being able to have that overview of store closures and tracking the employee and financial impact of those decisions has been incredibly valuable,” said Asher. “Tracking re-openings, whether a store had normal or reduced hours, and identifying personnel requirements was vital for our customers.”
Stores also implemented new sanitation policies and used ThinkLP software to ensure stores didn’t open their doors until these processes had been completed daily. “The flexibility of the tool allowed them to monitor those procedures and then report it up the chain,” Asher explained.
The stakes of being able to make sense of a retail environment turned upside down and doing it quickly have been high for both retailers and LP executives. “A lot of our users came to us saying they had promised their board they would have something ready to go to help with new issues they faced, and so their reputation was on the line—and so was ours,” said Treleaven. “we’re incredibly humbled by the opportunity to serve our awesome clients, especially during back-to-back-to-back crises.”
ThinkLP moved even deeper into R&D mode, reached out to clients, coalesced ideas, pooled resources—and then pushed out solutions to help the industry. And that paid off—not just for organizations, but for the LP executives who delivered the tools when they were needed most. “We are now seeing that many of our clients have assumed different responsibilities because they were primed and ready to help the organization meet a critical moment.”
Investing in the Future
The pandemic has ushered in several distinct phases for retail, according to Treleaven. An initial stabilization phase, during which retailers had to find their footing amid a once-in-a-century event. Now, a new phase, in which retailers are finding their footing in a new normal. And soon, a “growth phase,” when retailers will be looking to capitalize on opportunity and to position their organizations for growth.
As retailers reset for the future, they must consider where to best invest in their business. The company has delivered multiple AI solutions, even in the middle of the pandemic, including new organized retail crime (ORC) case linking capabilities and automated data discovery tools. “We’ve built intelligence into everything we do, to help our clients be the best at what they do.”
“I think the need for tech-savvy people on LP teams continues to gain importance,” said Asher. “As technology tools keep improving, internal skills must keep pace to ensure you get the most out of them,” he suggested. Asher also underscored the importance of thoroughly vetting solution partners and, when considering a switch to a new system, speaking with others who are using the same system to hear about their experience.
Most importantly, retailers need resilient solutions. Fundamentally, this means shopping for a management platform that can be reconfigured to address a wide range of emerging business problems and opportunities.
“The speed of innovation is critical,” Treleaven said. “How fast can your partners help you when you need to meet a tomorrow deadline? You need to have the confidence that they can help you address not only today’s problem, but any number of unknown future events.”
Finally, the third paradigm of a resilient solution is “innovation matched by affordability,” said Treleaven. Retailers need economical solutions from providers with a proven track record of innovation. “We’re continually delivering valuable new features within existing spend,” he said. “I think it’s all about long-term client-partnerships driving industry-leading innovation.”