The rise of the customization nation
One of the more interesting sessions at this year’s Food Marketing Institute Midwinter Conference in Miami this week was "Built for Yesterday, Facing Tomorrow: Food Retail’s Engagement of the New Consumer." Presented by Anthony Flynn, CEO of YouBar and author of Custom Nation, the premise was that grocery retailing is an industry grounded in the delivery of mass produced goods through bricks and mortar locations. It has a very long history of customer service and of striving to provide the best value for shoppers.
The shopping environment has changed dramatically, however. Technology now enables consumers to create their own customized supply chains and requires personalized products designed to meet particular health goals, dietary desires and cultural values. As revealing, Flynn suggested that the things once thought paramount to cultivating customer loyalty, like discounts and promotions, may not be that important after all.
Flynn, whose company sells customized energy, protein and nutrition bars, cited two components critical to this new type of retail:
- Configurator: a website that helps the customization process
- Batching: the grouping of orders by ingredients
He added that success is based on reducing choices and curating the experience, which moves the retailer from the role of simply satisfying a need to a trusted advisor position that enables them to proactively sell.
Supermarket operators are buying into the concept of customization, taking risks and challenging the old ways of doing business. The reward is a distinct uptick in relevance to the shopper.
"As retailers, we have the intimate relation with the shopper," said Bill Nasshan, executive vice president & chief merchandising officer at Bi-Lo Holdings, LLC. "But to become even better, we need to move from just asking the shopper, ‘Did you find everything you needed’ to ‘You should try this product.’"
What impact will the rise of customization have on traditional and ecommerce retailing? Do you see greater opportunities for customization in food or other retail channels?