In these "unprecedented" times, Covid-19 has transformed our travel, commutes and grocery runs—everything from bar crawls to birthday parties has felt its wake, and maybe none more than our living quarters. Garages have turned into offices, lawn chairs to one-to-one booths, bedrooms to gyms. I, for one, decamped from my East Village closet to Mom's attic in Long Island, wife in tow. While the painful sting of moving back with mom just six months into marriage cuts deep, the drastic changes playing out between customers and companies is just as strange. 

As the economy wakes and people emerge from their shells (for the time being) personalized, one-to-one engagement between customers and companies has surged from a unique feature to a service-oriented must for businesses to operate safely. Notice the rise of curbside retail

Is my grocery store open, at what time, and when are senior hours? Will I be able to get my Drybar blowout before my Zoom birthday, and if so, what PPE do I need before I walk in? Most importantly, how will my burger place know when to start cooking so my usual is hot off the grill when I get there?

cartoonpickup sign

To get to the bottom of these humdingers, I sat down with Coby Berman, co-founder of mobile location leader Radar to understand what to make of it all—how retailers are adapting, getting it right (and wrong), and what the future holds.

Radar works with brands such as Expedia, T-Mobile, and Ibotta. They process over 100 Billion locations worldwide every year, interacting with more than 100 million devices. They help companies create unique mobile experiences. Imagine a world where you're grabbing groceries in Whole Foods, hands full, and right when you reach the register, your Prime code pops up magically to scan. That's what Radar's all about. 



Here are three key takeaways from Coby about mobile location data in the time of Covid-19: 

1) DOR: How has the pandemic forced brick & mortar to adapt? 

CB: Distribution has been flipped upside down. Locations are closed, yet companies still need to move product off the shelves. BOPIS (Buy Online Pick-Up in Store) went from being a cool engagement tactic among early adopters to a must-have in order to conduct business and curbside retail.


It's forced companies to look at customer engagement through a hyper-local lens to provide the right information relevant to someone's location. 

People have no idea what to do. Retailers tell us that up to 60% of people call for specific information about store hours and the capacity in which they are open. 

It's forced companies to become clearer and more personalized. The old, one-to-many-messaging retailers conducted across geographies does not apply anymore.


Click-and-collect sales will leap 60% this year to nearly $60B.

2) DOR: What are companies doing right and wrong when it comes to utilizing mobile location data? Any examples you can share?

CB: Fast food has done a great job and has been laser-focused on communication with the customer throughout the whole trip to pick up their food. Many quick-service restaurants and fast food restaurants have certain service-level agreements on time to get customers their food while it's hot! 

In general, the companies that will win are those that provide customers with the most relevant information in real time, and instill confidence in people that they'll get what they need as smoothly as possible. 


Where companies slip up is when their engagement becomes "Big Brother-like". People are already spooked by retargeted ads that follow them around the internet. When this happens in real life, it creeps people out. 

The value proposition for mobile location data should always be convenience for the end user.

3) DOR: Is every store going to turn into an exclusive one-in-one-out night club? 

CB: We'll probably see store operations transform drastically. The number of people in the store and number of people at the register will all change. We're already seeing this with airlines who are testing removing the middle seat. It's likely that these population density measures will translate to changes in the way we interact with stores for some time to come. 

It may even change the stores we intend to go to. For example, the maximum capacity of a store pre-Covid-19 will probably be different post-Covid-19. Stores may consider diverting traffic to less dense locations where it's safer. 

We're really focused on helping these companies become location-aware so they can solve these problems in the smoothest ways possible. 

For more interviews with the best in mobile, check out our Button Blog.