Not long ago, marketing was largely built around a bandwagon approach: Wear this, drink this, eat this, do this because you know everyone else will, and you don’t want to be left behind, do you? Years later, the message sent by retailers could not be more different. Billions of dollars every year are now spent personalizing brand messaging to make every customer feel as though the advertisements and experiences they receive from their favorite brands are targeted directly to them.
 
At this week’s National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York, top executives from INDOCHINO, MasterCard, and Shoes of Prey took the stage in a session titled, “Tailoring the 21 Century Customer Experience,” aimed at enlightening audiences about how exactly to create these unique experiences in a way that engages, retains, and makes an impact in an increasingly crowded retail space.
 
Jodie Fox is co-founder and chief creative officer of Shoes of Prey, a retailer that allows customers to design and purchase their own unique pair of shoes. She notes that mass customization is more than a trend.
 
“How many times in the past month have you said to yourself ‘They didn’t have my size!’ or ‘They didn’t have the style I wanted!’” asked Fox. “There’s an inherent tension in this customization, however, because there needs to be a level of curation for it to be successful.”
 
This curation comes in the form of real-time renderings of the shoes the customer is designing online. This allows for a near-infinite number of options while avoiding the inventory space needed for a traditional department store to do the same. This kind of on-demand manufacturing creates not only a unique experience for every customer but an almost guaranteed unique product, as well.
 
INDOCHINO, much like Shoes of Prey, began exclusively as an online store. The company offers completely customizable suits, which lends itself perfectly to the e-tailer model. In making the leap to in-person retail, the brand faced an entirely new world of challenges and opportunities.
 
“We saw retail as an efficient way to provide a really unique experience for our customers,” said CEO Drew Green. “We wanted to emulate everything we did from an online perspective, but offer it as a full-service store.”
 
The answer that INDOCHINO came to was a Style Guide: A personal assistant that works with each individual shopper to ensure a style, material, and fit customized to their specific preferences.
 
This merging of in-store experience with online customization may just be the future of retail. Customers have been demanding unique experiences, but brands are now at a point where they have the unique products to match.

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