The Future of Relocation: From One-Stop Shops to Specialist Networks

Growing up in the Netherlands, I remember that my mother spent countless hours going from shop to shop to get the best ingredients for dinner. Even though our little town had a grocery store that offered a one-stop-shop for everything, my mother preferred different products from different shops. Not because she liked to waste her time going from shop to shop, but because she wanted to get the best products available; ground beef at the butcher on main street, sausages at the butcher next to the grocery store, sliced bread at the bakery near our house, and oranges at the vegetable stand near our school, and the list goes on and on. That was more than 30 years ago, though, and times have changed.

Fast forward to today

I now live in the U.S. and we go to one grocery store that has everything we need from general groceries to meats, bakery products, and vegetables. We are too busy to take the time to go from shop to shop. Subsequently, we are not consciously choosing the best products from the best vendors, we are settling with the products from the vendor that can provide a one-stop-shop solution, quality taking a backseat to convenience. Even if the quality is good, convenience was leading.

This seems to be changing yet again, though. I am not a retail expert, but the grocery stores in my neighborhood seem to be changing from a traditional grocery store with different counters for meat, deli, and bakery products, to a store that is a platform for different independently-operating specialty shops (such as a butcher shop, bakery and cheese shop), all conveniently located under one roof and with one cashier system. It is hard to judge how independent these shops really are, but the quality of the products seems to at least be much better compared to the traditional grocery stores.

What does this have to do with Global Mobility?

Nothing, except for the fact that it is a great metaphor for what is happening in different industries around the world, including Global Mobility.

The old mobility model consisted of a conglomerate of different service providers, experts in their respective fields, that supported a relocation. The transferee oftentimes played a very active role in managing and coordinating all of these different vendors (the old grocery buying model from more than 30 years ago in the Netherlands). Recognizing the need for coordination and the opportunity to draw more clients to their core services, many mobility service providers started adding non-core services (the old grocery store model, one store sells everything you need).

Very attractive to companies and transferees alike, the one-stop-shop mobility provider is still very popular today. Like the grocery stores, though, service levels differ. Some services are excellent (typically the legacy core services), and some services are much to be desired. Clients oftentimes take the bad with the good for the sake of the convenience of having all services centralized with the one provider. The notion of a single point of contact is usually also pretty quickly debunked, as the one-stop-shop provider will usually have different people from different lines of service working on the account.

This is where the grocery store analogy continues . . .

We are moving away from the one-stop-shop mobility service providers and moving towards integrated networks of specialty providers. The lack of coordination that created the one-stop-shop concept is now mitigated by technology and, with coordination no longer being a consideration, focus will be on quality more than ever. Specialty providers can now effectively coordinate their services through cloud-based solutions to provide the level of service one would expect from specialists.

Just as you still have mom-and-pop butchers, bakeries, and traditional grocery stores, the specialty providers and one-stop-shop mobility services providers will continue to have their place in the market, and they will continue to work hard on improving their product offering and service levels. There will be a new alternative, though, for companies that want the convenience of one integrated solution, high quality services, and the flexibility to move providers in and out of the network, depending on their needs and preferences.

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