Unique shopping experiences are popping up in a variety of places, whether it’s renting expensive shoes or handbags or men’s ties, or socially responsible organizations like Bob’s Shoes. Men’s tailored-clothing retailer Indichino has developed a unique mix of online and offline with custom tailoring. Often new organizations are finding success by focusing on unique ways to satisfy customer’s specific needs. Contrast this with the mega retailers that have been busily constructing mass merchant capabilities and you have to wonder where the real future is for retail. Retailing is after all about product aggregation and dissemination to the masses right? The problem for the big retailers is that the digital economy has made aggregation of products something that nearly anyone can do.
In the personalization game the winners of me, myself and I must understand the consumer at a very intimate level. This often requires a very specific or narrow focus. So this may be heresy to some, because we should be able to use big data to develop personas that will allow us to understand the consumer in their entirety, allowing us to meet their every need. However it’s possible that the nature of digitalization and personalization will bypass this step. Think I am wrong? Perhaps, but with customized aggregation I have less reason to think about the big box. in 2012 I predicted a social commerce retailer would rise by the end of 2016; this is the future of retailing. Personalization without a particular social or behavioral context may be a fool’s errand. Interests are the key to success.
Think about it this way, when people see my music playlist they assume I must have multiple personalities. Country is my favorite music genre; I love to sing along with Luke Bryant crooning Country Man. Yet I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing overalls, camouflage, a dirty ball cap or jeans with a Skoal can ring. In fact, my favorite way to dress is in a suit and tie. Now this is a simple illustration but it makes the point. When looking for music ITunes can predict with a good deal of accuracy what I will like. When shopping for business clothing it’s a safe bet that I am not looking for Dockers. So in this way perhaps the bigger the box the more difficult a future some retailers will have. Predicting my purchase patterns in a Walmart would be nearly impossible. Thinking about my purchases there in the last month there is little to no correlation (outside of perhaps pharmaceuticals which is a specific area).
Now please don’t get me wrong, I am not predicting doom for big box retailers. I believe in the need to use big data to develop meaningful personas to drive future business. I suspect however that specialty, SMB and other smaller retail organizations will be the ones that are able to grow sales and margins in the near future
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