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How Technology Can Change the Way Franchises Operate

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In 2015, many Americans were surprised to see Target, the second-largest discount retailer in the United States pull out of Canada. While culture shock, poor timing, and politics might explain Walmart failing to impress the Germans, or Home Depot to win the Chinese Market, explaining the recent Target’s flop is a little more complicated. And this is why people are increasingly relying on big data to decipher the underlying reasons behind failure or simulate the way towards success. Machines are merely proving their ability to void the gap between intuition and analytical thinking. By processing and interpreting huge amounts of data, flowing from various geographic locations and different market segments, automation helps franchises craft smart and targeted marketing decision. And we are about to find out how.

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Your brand, your rules

When asked about his debut as a KFC store manager, the now-King of franchises, Aziz Hashim answer to CNBC was pretty telling:

"I love the pace of the quick-service food business”, he said, “but realized if I opened 'Aziz Fried Chicken' that would have been a very risky proposition. Having the backing of a big-name brand makes a big difference for a start-up."

It goes without saying, after a humble beginning, Hashim went on to build an 80-unit franchise empire composed of 14 brands including KFC, Domino's Pizza and Taco Bell. I know, the kind of meat used in theses three fast-food chains has puzzled most of us, but I wouldn’t go further into details!

So, think of it this way: corporations running on the franchise model constantly strive to boost their brand. It is at the very core of a successful franchise business model, and it encompasses their final product or service as well as their marketing and sales process.

In order to compete effectively, franchises fight against time to direct their marketing effort towards what’s called “individualized creative assets”. And this is where automation lends a helping hand.

For instance, software like Hubspot or Streamsand enable the use of a template based system, to maintain the corporate brand. Such software allow for defined parameters within which store operators can personalize their documents to cater to specific clientele or demographics without damaging the national brand. Better local and personalized marketing drives increased revenues. Sounds like a win-win deal? Well, it really is one.

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Big Data: the bigger, the better

The amount of data available from customer and lead interactions is of great value. And I’m not talking Walmart’s GV. I’m talking about useful information about customer’s interests, behaviors, and buying decisions. And this stream of value is now easily collected from point-of-sales terminals, website visits, social media, email subscriptions, you name it.

The question here is: how to leverage this “big data” into targeted marketing decision?

As a matter of fact, marketing automation software offers a solution that gathers and process data to pinpoint how prospects have interacted at each touch point. This results in “smarter” marketing decision, and effective marketing campaigns.

Most importantly, this data provides insight on how to respond on a very individualized level to customers’ interests. Instead of national or international marketing campaigns based on broad aggregations of data that bypasses regional interests, channel marketing automation software offers new opportunities for the franchise business model. And this reminds me of a funny story that happened to me few years ago, while shopping in Auchan, a groceries retail store in Paris. Obviously, pork meat wasn’t selling high, and the group’s 3000 locations launched a marketing campaign. To make it inclusive, they even added a little “Kosher / Halal” sticker on it. The idea is brilliant: pork chops and croissant for everyone. But it lacks the analytics. Well, the latter make it possible for franchises to develop marketing campaigns based on a very clear understanding of their local market, including specific regional and individual preferences.

Hashtag, Social-media, go

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Furthermore, marketing automation plays an important role in using social media platforms for marketing. Fair enough, owners can be very busy to spend their time on twitter or facebook, and such platforms grow stale without continuous posting. Not to mention an unsatisfied customer tweet or claim that goes unnoticed and grows into a brand backlash. Marketing automation software is a solution here as well. Such software allows franchise owners to plan social media campaigns that execute automatically. It’s also possible to personalize them at the franchise level, and benefit from the targeted marketing input previously prepared.

A final word

In the franchise business, branding is key and holds within the promise of success. And this greatly relies on channeled marketing, and data-driven decision making. It’s not a question of whether machines would do it better, it’s rather a business that can harness the power of automation, and the creativity of the franchise crew to effectively meet the company targets.

Marketing automation software are great tools that supports creativity and may offer a tangible advantage against competitors. Not that machines are taking over, but the future franchise marketing campaigns should rely on automation tools, creative marketers and the involvement of everyone within the franchise’s ecosystem. And that includes customers.

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