by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times has a story about how retailers - both offline and online - are looking to create more personalized and customized shopping experiences, using a combination of data and actual human beings to create stronger and enduring connections to shoppers.

One example: " Stitch Fix, a women’s clothing retailer that sends its customers boxes of clothes that are picked by a combination of personal stylists and big data. It is one of a handful of start-ups making aggressive bets that highly personalized online shopping, in which sites choose items for you based on your preferences and their algorithms, can deliver a better e-commerce experience.

"Trunk Club, for example, is similar to Stitch Fix, but it is for men and is more expensive. Club W tailors wine to its monthly subscribers, who fill out a 'palate profile' when they sign up. And Birchbox, a beauty store, delivers monthly installments of sample-size goods tailored to your needs for $10 for women or $20 for men."

The same goes for some bricks-and-mortar retailers, the Times writes: "Retailers big and small are trying to personalize shopping in physical stores, too, say retail analytics companies like CQuotient. These efforts include loyalty programs that let sales employees easily pull up account histories of their customers’ purchases, and even in-store beacons that communicate with a shopper’s cellphone and can send relevant offers and coupons if the shopper uses the store’s app … Retailers like Urban Outfitters, Mango and Zara appeal to their mobile-friendly young shoppers with apps that offer benefits like exclusive access, rewards and even, in the case of Urban Outfitters, a streaming radio station that evokes its hip shopping experience."

You can read the entire story here.

Now, this is something about which I feel very strongly … that retailers looking to create for themselves a differential advantage need to start mining data - sometimes by computer and sometimes just by paying attention to the people who shop their stores, depending on your technological capacities - to start making recommendations, creating subscription programs, and connecting in meaningful, relevant ways to their shopper.

I liken this to having a great bartender … like Morgan at Etta's, in Seattle, who I've often written about. When I walk in Etta's (and I don't go in that often, since my primary residence is about 2,800 miles away), Morgan knows who I am, knows what I like, and usually chooses a wine for me to try even before I sit down at the bar. It usually is something I've never tasted before, but that he thinks I'll enjoy … and he's right about 99 percent of the time.

Imagine if more retailers showed that kind of interest and prescience about their shoppers. It'd be an Eye-Opener.