The Possibilities of Personalization

The Possibilities of Personalization
Ways to offer superior customer experience through seamless technology integration, presented by David Steck, of Schnucks

"The consumer is at the heart of everything." This sentiment has been heard over and over at the 2019 Groceryshop conference, Sept. 15-18, at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas.

So far, during the first day and a half of the conference, many speakers and presenters have homed in on the importance of data and personalization in giving consumers an experience that really goes above and beyond what's been possible in the past. 

Consumers' demands have grown, and retailers and brands must answer. 

"Customers are no longer anonymous," said David Steck, VP of IT infrastructure and application development at St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets. Steck noted that data and analytics ⁠— knowing your customers ⁠— is one of the three innovations retailers should invest in today. The other two are robotics and automated fulfillment. 

Loyalty programs are one of the easiest and most expected ways to gather data on individual customers, but even these programs are evolving. 

The Possibilities of Personalization
Matt Simon, of Giant Food Stores, on new technologies to improve the shopper experience

Giant's new loyalty Giant Choice Rewards program is currently in the testing stages, according to Matt Simon, chief marketing officer at Carlisle, Pa.-based Giant Food Stores, and personalization is at the initiative's core.

Customers can choose how they redeem their rewards, with gas points no longer the sole option. They can choose gas, groceries, giving back to charities, and more. For reward members, it's all about what they want to do. 

There's no denying the massive amount of data that retailers and brands possess today. 

"Data is the new sexy," said Brendan Witcher, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Information that used to take months or years to garner about your customers can now be done in simply days, minutes or seconds. 

"The amazing computational power we have today is fascinating," says Rucha Nanavati, GVP of information technologies at Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons. "You can get personalized so fast." 

Data also allows brands to discover where to find new, young recruits. For example, younger people aren't driving as much, so the convenience store may no longer be the best way to target them. April Carlisle, VP of shopper marketing for national retail sales at Atlanta-based Coca-Cola North America, said the company has instead found that young consumers are gaming more and using ride-sharing apps, so it can tailor the message to these platforms.

The customer experience 

Data is only as good as how retailers and brands use it. This is where in-store experience, driven by personalization, can soar above the competition when done right. 

Carolyn Tastad, group president at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, weighed in on consumers' new, higher expectations. "Technology enables us to serve customers better," she said. "It reduces a learning cycle from months to days. High tech isn't enough; we need to become high touch."

Glamsquad, a New York-based on-demand beauty service company, has ultimate personalization and customization at its core, according to CEO Amy Shecter. Customers can receive their services wherever and whenever they want them ⁠— in the home; at a CVS, with which the company has partnered; at the office ⁠— but the experience is always highly curated, appropriate and educational. 

The "creep factor" of personalization is greatly diminishing and this is a downward trend we can expect will continue. Customers are increasingly more excited about the personalized offerings than they are about asking, "How did they get that information?" 
The Possibilities of Personalization
Jamie Iannone, of Sam's Club, talks about personalized member experiences within its clubs

Bentonville, Ark.-based Sam's Club has a huge advantage with data and personalization, according to Jamie Iannone, CEO, and EVP, membership and technology.

The creep factor for personalization simply doesn't exist for the company, because members know that through their cards, the retailer has data about them and knows everything they've ever bought.

"We can use your membership to create a magical experience," he said.  

These magical experiences are at the core of data and personalization, a topic we'll certainly hear more about during the remainder of the Groceryshop conference, and for years to come. 

Follow our live event coverage on Twitter at @pgrocer.

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