LIVE FROM FMI MIDWINTER: The Power of Personalization

Follow my reports from FMI Midwinter on Twitter @jimdudlicek

Valuable content notwithstanding, the coffee is probably one of the most crucial components to the “Coffee With …” sessions that opened Sunday’s agenda at the FMI Midwinter Conference. After all, they start before the sun is up.

But in all seriousness, the symbolism should not be lost on grocery retailers or CPG companies, at least for the session I attended – if it hasn’t already, it had better dawn on you soon that leveraging Big Data and consumers’ access to digital technology is essential to relevance and growth in the food business.

Tom Corley, SVP and president of U.S. sales for Kraft Foods Group, and Jamie Egasti, president of Catalina, discussed “The Power of Personalization” on Sunday morning at The Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz.

As Joan Driggs, PG’s editorial director, so aptly tweeted, the ubiquity of smartphones means consumers can be rewarded for their loyalty – in many cases, instantly – making it all the more important that retailers connect one-on-one with their shoppers.

Expectations will continue to rise among consumers with smart devices, and those expectations for better choices and service will require retailers to create more relevant experiences for them, Egasti noted.

Maintaining what Corley called “relevant connectivity” with consumers will give retailers a powerful advantage over competitors, if they can listen and learn as much as possible from their consumers on a one-to-one basis.

And smart technology makes that possible – and simple. It’s estimated that 70 percent of consumers consult digital media in some fashion, in connection with their shopping experiences; Corley noted that a third of shoppers use digital devices while shopping.

Embracing Digital

Still, Egasti noted, that despite the compelling case that digital is here to stay, many retailers are finding it difficult to migrate away from traditional promotional tools like weekly circulars toward new digital-based platforms. Even Corley acknowledged that Kraft still spends most on print, coupons and related national ad buys.

But, Corley added, CPG companies are starting to see compelling digital adoption rates by larger retailers (he cited Safeway as a standout in this area) that ought to convince holdouts to shift their focus toward interactive media.

The future is here today – actually, it’s been here for a while now. Retailers need to embrace digital or face irrelevance and extinction.

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