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Replicating The Consumer-Shopkeeper Relationship of The 1950s

In a recent opinion piece published on Marketing Week, the founder of Air Miles, Sir Keith Mills argues that brands should be using data-driven insights to be more like Amazon, replicating the consumer and shopkeeper relationship of the 1950s at mass scale.

“Retailers need to move towards a more Amazon-like relationship with customers, and to do that they need data,” according to loyalty expert Sir Keith Mills.

Mills says: “Creating customer propositions on a one-to-one basis works very effectively online with companies like Amazon. Offline retailers need to be able to do what Amazon do online with the normal shopping experience.”

Founder of the Air Miles and Nectar loyalty schemes, Sir Keith Mills is long accustomed to using data to get closer to consumers. In an era where personalisation is being pursued by brands across every sector, Mills believes the answer lies in using data-driven insights to replicate the one-to-one experience that shopkeepers offered their customers in the 1950s – except on a mass scale.

“If data and insight can help you tailor your proposition on a one-to-one basis with the consumer then you’ll see your best return. In the future, the one-size-fits-all model won’t provide companies with the same sorts of returns. You might as well do mass marketing,” says Mills.

It is not like retailers need any more people rubbing their faces in how much better Amazon have got it when it comes to a customer proposition. Sir Keith has however hit the nail on the head: as retail has moved from offline to online - retailers have struggled to replicate the one-to-one experience of old, with pure play e-commerce sites seemingly strides ahead.

Sir Keith does however seem to gloss over the difficulties of collecting vast amounts of data and how you would apply this data across the channels marketers currently have available. All too often for those applying this, it means running with the cleverest segments available to them. For those who attempt to personalise further, they’ll often find the amount of customers they target are a little too close to one.

He perhaps also misses out on the most important factor as to how to replicate 1950s shopkeeper experience. Real engagement does not happen on the first encounter, but instead is built over time.