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YouBar CEO Anthony Flynn tells a Midwinter audience that quotMillennials love customizing productsquot
<p>YouBar CEO Anthony Flynn tells a Midwinter audience that &quot;Millennials love customizing products.&quot;</p>

Midwinter concludes with spotlight on new consumers

From curation to beacons, retailers need to explore new ways of connecting with radically changing shopper bases, according to speakers during the final sessions at FMI's 2015 Midwinter Executive Conference in Miami Beach.

Anthony Flynn, business author and CEO of YouBar, said customization, curation and personalization need to be on the radar of all food retailers, largely because they help attract younger consumers.

"Millennials love customizing products for themselves," he said.

While much of this plays out online, brick-and-mortar retailers need to embrace customization as well, he said.

One approach is through in-store beacons that use Bluetooth technology to communicate with customers as they shop the store, he said. Shoppers could subscribe to their favorite curators who help guide them on what products to buy.

Panelists Paul Grimwood (left) of Nestle and Bill Nasshan of Bi-Lo Holdings.
Panelists Paul Grimwood (left) of Nestle and Bill Nasshan of Bi-Lo Holdings.

In a related panel at Midwinter that explored this topic, Bill Nasshan, EVP and chief merchandising officer, Bi-Lo Holdings, said curation is a strategy worth pursuing at retail. He said the retailer gains insights from its shopper data and the strategies of other companies. That helps result in the realization that "we need to think in terms of curation rather than just selling more stuff," he said.

"Beacons are a new opportunity," he added. "They could help retailers get back to the days of the general store" that had personal connections with customers.

Tom Furphy, CEO, Consumer Equity Partners, and formerly a top executive with Amazon overseeing consumables and AmazonFresh, said technology can enable closer connections with shoppers.

"Digital enables us to create personalization on a massive scale so each shopper feels they are being catered to individually," he said.


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However, having a wealth of data about shoppers isn't useful unless it's highly relevant, said Paul Grimwood, chairman and CEO, Nestle USA.

"We have a huge amount of data but need to do more with it," he said. "The industry spends a lot on consumer insights and many companies provide those services. But I couldn't do anything with that because it's too general."

Grimwood said a group that represents a global cross-section of his company's employees analyzes trends in many parts of the world on a daily basis to gauge where things are heading.
"It shows opportunity out there if you can be flexible."

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