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A convenient truth

A convenient truth about personalisationIntroduction

How is the High Street changing,? How will supermarkets adjust? With shoppers demanding personalisation how will brands respond?.

If you have ever worked in the hospitality industry you will know that personalisation is at the heart of everything you do. Personalisation is, therefore, the ability to make the shopper or consumer feel engaged with your brand when in a comfortable environment.

It was often said that Bill Clinton could be talking to you in a very crowded room and he would leave you thinking that you were the only person in that room. That is personalisation.

Personalisation vs Sustainability

Where does personalisation meet sustainability? Sustainability is not only about single-use plastics or the adoption of paper bags to carry your shopping home in.  It’s about taking care of the environment in which we live, it’s about reusable energy, recycling, carbon footprint, and carbon offset.

All these principles in isolation fall into the too difficult to do bucket for the average shopper. There is an expectation that brands retailers and manufacturers should all play their part in saving the planet.

Food quality

Provenance is all about the quality and heritage of the food that we consume. There is a growing belief that cheap is bad for the environment,  bad for your personal health and bad for the economy.

But don’t conflate the perception above with the economic reality of Tesco’s announcement earlier this week. The announcement by Tesco’s of their intention to close the meat counter, the fishmonger and the bread counter is a testament to the fact that the British consumer is not buying these products in those stores. The day of the artisan has arrived.

And that brings us to the opening statement of this article. What is happening on the High Street that’s demanding the supermarkets change the way they operate?  This behaviour change is stimulating the shopper to look for more innovative brands that fulfil their desire to purchase more intelligently.

So what’s happened?

Shoppers have changed. That’s not a surprise. Yes, that change has been driven by the arrival of the discounters 10 years ago. Yes, it is to do with the decline in the High Street. More importantly, it is to do with an increase in healthy eating, healthy living and healthy lifestyle. In the food to go sector,  the fastest growing category is vegan products. That’s not a coincidence.

In the last 5 years, the growth in the vegan food sector has accelerated beyond all recognition. This has lead to a wider choice,  broader distribution and a reduction in the overall price of products and an increase in availability.

5 years ago a friend and I went shopping in Waitrose for vegan products.  The person concerned had a health scare and was looking for a vegan solution.  Needless to say, the choice was extremely limited. As an Australian, my friend was very used to having a wide selection of vegan foods in the Australian supermarkets. The irony was not lost. Coles and Woolworths were outperforming Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Morrisons, Lidl and Aldi when it came to healthier living, 5 years ago.

The High Street has been in terminal decline for a number of years as we choose to shop online or out of town. The independent shopkeepers who were so prevalent on our High Streets in 30 to 40 years ago, have disappeared which is now having a detrimental effect on the High Street today.


The growing demand for shopping in small stores has thankfully had a positive effect on the future of the High Street. We are now starting to buy goods today at the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker more than we do in the big branded supermarket stores. The artisan baker and the personalised cheese maker combined with the specialist vintner is finally returning to a High Street near you.

How can big brands adapt?

If you’re a big brand in a saturated market with limited opportunity for growth and a high factor of competitive products, how are you going to survive? In truth, some brands will disappear but that’s always been the case since the dawn of time. Why has Gillette spent a fortune on expanding the male grooming category along with Edgewell?  The answer is simple – personalisation.

If you can’t make your product relevant and personal to the consumer then you have to go online. The problem with online is that it’s a disorganised morass of price, plastic, colour and own label. The result is the brands we love are lost to the noise of ‘me too’ propositions.

The next stage in online retail is for the category strategists to come in and reorganized that entire online shopping experience. If it were not for free delivery we would still be shopping in the store. In the same way, we in the UK fell out of love with Woolies in the 1990s because it looked like a penny bazaar, so mega online platforms really do need to upgrade the shopper experience.

So what of the future of big brands, small brands and brands we like?

If we accept that penetration drives growth, how can brands leverage their portfolio to meet the needs states of the shopper? How can brands be relevant to the consumer and drive share of choice?

How can data centric categories drive personalisation?

Personalisation begins with defining a shopper-driven consumption model whilst developing an omni-channel proposition. Consumption is accelerated by developing personalised occasions for the brands that are outwardly focussed to deliver customer choice.

Planning for profitable penetration requires a cross-functional plan allowing the process to become an enabler, providing rigour and focus. What underpins this approach is the development of a data-driven category for strategic impact and leaner decision making.

This data-centric approach centres on continuous learning empowered decision making when combined with a set of robust KPI’s.

Developing a penetration strategy

A glossary of terms provides a common language across all workstreams allowing teams to align to common goals and objectives. Once the team is embedded in developing a penetration brand channel, the strategy is simplified. The end result identifies how and where to fish by occasion and mission.The key benefit in this collaborative approach is the alignment of the supply chain to key strategic priorities from commercial operations to marketing disciplines. 

In bringing every stakeholder together around a clear vision and destination defines a single route. On taking a longer-term view, the level of operational deviation is reduced. In rationalising company-wide objectives to a handful of objectives and linking them to PBP,’s a focussed penetration strategy can be rolled out.

Managing the customer set and being held responsible for the revenue and profit via a full P&L visibility. By managing customer business P&L, quick decisions can be made, responsibly.

In closing…

Overall the rebirth of the High Street populated with artisan shops serving a vegan diet is a long way off, but a High Street with independent stores offering a personalised brand experience is where the future lies.