Industry Voices

Five strategies to profit from personalization

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Bill Bishop is chief architect at Brick Meets Click

Your customers can buy the same products you sell in many places, so how do you make it more attractive for them to buy more from you? The answer is to build strong, personalized relationships that show empowered shoppers you care about them and want to help them get to items that are right for them. But beyond the custom grocery circular, what does this level of personalization look like? And how do you do it?

I see nonfood retailers developing a variety of strategies to personalize more aspects of shopping. Here are five of them located across the path to purchase. Each provides food for thought (and perhaps ideas to draft behind) for food and grocery retailers.

• Use your shopper’s preferred communication method to make your offer. Some shoppers like email, others prefer text or social media. For its loyalty program, IKEA identifies its shoppers’ preferred communication method and then talks to them that way.

• Let customers unbundle shopping tasks at their convenience. Some shoppers go the store to find out what’s there, others want to be sure the product they want is available before they make the trip. The Gap lets customers confirm product availability online and reserve the item in advance even whenever the mood strikes them. When they’re ready to drop by, it’s waiting for them.

• Enable learning in the store for a more dynamic experience. Shopping is more fun when you can learn something new about a product. Kate Spade’s Saturday stores cultivate in-store dwell time by locating tablets near merchandise so customers can learn more about the product. A supermarket might locate one near an olive bar or seafood counter.

• Anticipate the shopping occasion/shopper need. Shopping is more inviting when the retailer shows they know what’s on the customer’s mind. With BullseyeUniversity.com, Target used reality TV-like streaming video to create, share and assist with the back-to-school experience.


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• Facilitate more direct communication between the customer and the store. Neiman Marcus has a mobile app that lets customers telegraph the service they want and expect via text, email, call or FaceTime to a specific sales associate. That way their sales associate is ready to meet their needs when they arrive or can help with any questions post purchase.

For the shopper, each of these practices generates real benefits. For the retailer, personalizing the relationship ingrains the retailer in how the customer lives their life — and that’s a difficult thing for a competitor to disrupt.

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Sean McBride

Sean McBride, founder of DSM Strategic Communications, LLC, is former EVP of communications and member services at the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
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