Prior to the Industrial Revolution, items were produced in a customized manner by craftsmen. Then, as companies were driven by efficiency and scale, brands became removed from customers through multiple layers in the value chain. Now consumers want the personal connection, reliability, and uniqueness that local stores and brands offer. Consumers have shifted their interests from wanting cookie-cutter products to searching for personal and local experiences. With the internet, it is now possible to bridge the gap between efficiency and personalization. Due to this shift, brands need to feel small once again.
In recent years, brands have begun a dialogue with their customers and have brought that into the customer’s context, merging the offline and online conversation, and have the mediums to humanize themselves through this dialogue. With relatively newer forms of communication such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, companies can now engage with their customers in a highly personalized manner making up for the lack of physicality with a personal touch of the shop clerk. Employees are not standing behind generic personas and overly professional tones but adding colloquialisms and personality through social media channels. Brands not only can achieve this with positive economics, but they gain new information around their customer by listening, engaging, and even collaborating. The data and conversations from brand to retailer to consumer is being unlocked and translated into value for everyone in the chain, and new collaborative, localized relationships are forming.
To bridge the gap between its national brand and its local stores, Chipotle partners with small, local suppliers to support the community and promoting these relationships. The reach and resources of Chipotle combined with the friendly face of the local supplier creates a powerful combination that creates a tangible connection with the community. Chipotle promoted this shift and evolution through a video that went viral and have continued the conversation on their site and through Twitter and Facebook campaigns.
Retailers are collaborating with brands to localize products through real customer feedback and data. To give customers a true local experience, Macy’s customizes its products at the local level, with 15% of its products chosen by customers who shop at that store. It collaborates with brands to identify relevant merchandise for each location. It utilizes online channels to understand customers’ reviews, comments, and feedback about brands to tailor the customer experience.
Between online campaigns that create personalization through crowd-sourcing such as Vitamin Water’s campaign for a new flavor and Ben and Jerry’s geography-specific Facebook Pages, brands can localize their online presence. In fact, digital campaigns increase offline sales by 21% according to ComScore.
Other companies are also taking advantage of local opportunities in a physical sense by combining it with the mobile world. Last year, Dos Equis employed the “Brave Taco Truck” to give out tacos and beer. It promoted the campaign on Facebook and Twitter and getting customers to check-in on Foursquare. It’s no longer about virtual vs. physical but omnipresence and omni-access.
While these are just a few examples of ways brands are becoming small and local, brands are reconnecting to the community across new channels. Consumers want to connect and create a dialogue and not just consume. So, now that new technology is creating avenues to efficiently personalize and engage, brands can create experiences that are reflective of its constituents in order to once create an intimate, local relationship.