Innovation Is in the Air
I’ve witnessed a lot of innovation over the past few months!
First was our annual Franchise Innovation Awards competition. The awards recognize brands for their unique uses of technology, strategy, and tactics in four categories: marketing and branding, HR, products and services, and operations and technology. In this fourth year of the contest, more than 100 entries competed. As always, true innovators rose to the top with creative ideas that led to systemwide improvement.
A second innovation was the rebranding of our summer consumer marketing conference. Now called the Franchise Customer Experience Conference, the FCXC expands the long-running event’s traditional marketing focus to recognize the increasing overlap of marketing’s many roles with those of operations and technology. You’ll find full coverage of both the Innovation Awards and FCXC in these pages.
Innovation and change are the overriding themes of this issue. Take the accelerating trend of consolidation for both franchisors and franchisees. On the franchisor side, the pandemic has significantly ramped up acquisitions of franchise brands. The same holds on the franchisee side, where larger franchisees are buying up locations from smaller ones. Driven in part by increased private equity investments, this trend will continue to grow.
For franchisors, this strengthens their competitive position—not only through diversification and cross-concept synergies, but also through offering franchisees and candidates additional options to choose from, often with related concepts. This trend, especially evident in the home services sector, also applies to restaurant brands.
For franchisees, benefits include not only a diversified portfolio to help ride out economic storms, but also economies of scale, cross-brand synergies, and greater employee retention by offering a career path. It’s not only interesting, it’s here to stay, says writer Sara Wykes.
There also seems to be a renewed appreciation for local marketing as a way to enhance the customer journey (into your store, website, or other location). Franchise brands know how important it is to meet customers when, where, and how they prefer. New tools and strategies in local marketing are allowing both franchisees and franchisors to build closer relationships and trust with their consumers and communities. Writer Helen Bond explains more in her feature story in this issue.
You’ll also find highlights from this year’s Annual Franchise Marketing Report (AFMR), packed as ever with key data and insights for franchise consumer marketers across all industries and brands. One of the key findings this year is that franchise brands must do a better job evaluating and measuring the customer experience. (Sound familiar?)
In business, as in life, innovation is essential to survive and prosper in a changing world. The pandemic forced brands to innovate on an accelerated timetable, and forward-thinking franchisors and franchisees adapted—quickly—to survive. Think back to those first months of the pandemic—the fear, the confusion, the uncertainty. We’ve come a long way since then and today see how the brands that embraced innovation and change surged to the front of the pack.
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