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Why grocery retailers should consider personalisation

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According to Bloomreach’s chief strategy officer Brian Walker, grocery needs to be customized to each shopper. Here’s why….

By Emily Crowe

Personalization is the name of the game for Brian Walker, chief strategy officer at Mountain View, Calif.-based commerce experience cloud company Bloomreach. In his GenNext keynote speech, which took place on the first day of Progressive Grocer’s Nov. 2-4 Grocery Industry Week event in Orlando, Fla., Walker noted that while today’s methods of personalization use technology and data to give customers what they want, he believes that retailers also need to get back to basics in an effort to get to know their customers and develop better relationships with them.

“Personalization in the grocery industry, it’s really going back to the first principles, in a sense,” Walker explained of today’s consumers. “Understanding their culture, their customs, their diets, their families … What we’re talking about here in personalization is how to bring that forward.”

Higher Expectations

While grocery moved toward a generic experience that focused on mass marketing and mass distribution for several decades, today’s shoppers expect more, Walker said, especially considering that food is one of the most personal and important human experiences. Among the attributes that are most important to today’s consumers are taste, culture, season, holidays, religion, ethics, fitness and therapy.

“We need to recognize that we can make this a lot better,” Walker said. “Even to make it more acute, we need to recognize that, with the pandemic, customer loyalty, in a sense, is up for grabs.”

Continued Walker, “Customers tried new brands, and they tried new channels in ways that hadn’t been the case before. That physical real estate that your organizations have invested in for years and that control of the mindshare of the customer, that’s not really the paradigm.”

With many consumers unlikely to return to their pre-pandemic shopping patterns, attributes like convenience and delight are even more poised to perpetuate the customer transformation. As such, Walker referenced McKinsey & Co. data showing that 71% of customers expect personalization and that 76% are frustrated when they don’t see it.

Additionally, 78% of consumers are more likely to repurchase or recommend a product when they see personalization attached to it. With that in mind, Walker explained, retailers shouldn’t think about personalization as something cynical or related to spying on shoppers. “Customers want it, and customers expect it,” he said.

In a broader sense, personalization can be thought of as making it easier for a customer to navigate both in-store and online, making relevant product and service recommendations, tailoring messaging to needs, and offering targeted promotions.

“For customers, this is what personalization means to them, and it’s not just a product recommendation,” Walker said. “It’s really the experience that they’re talking about and how you communicate with them.”

A deeper understanding of personalization is necessary to better connect with today’s consumers, especially through advanced product discovery, site navigation and search experience, cross-category selling, seasonal collections, and localized personalization rules, including demographics.

In the end, Walker believes that investing in data is an important piece of the personalization puzzle. “A strong foundation of customer data, a strong foundation of product data, is really critical,” he said. “Invest there. This is what’s required to drive personalization.”

The article appeared in the US edition of Progressive Grocer Magazine.

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