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How to Win in the Metail Economy: Week Ahead

Retailers have some soul-searching to do if they want to succeed with today’s customer.

“Would we be doing what we’re doing the way we’re doing it? And the answer might be yes to some stuff, but the answer is going to be no to a lot more things,” said Joel Bines, a managing director at global consulting firm AlixPartners and author of the recently published book “The Metail Economy” examining the democratization of consumerism and suggesting how companies can nurture customer relationships.

“If you can’t articulate who your customer is, what your customer values and why, then you don’t have any hope in a ‘Metail’ economy. Companies have to accept the incredible power shift that has moved to the customer,” Bines said.

Companies must first understand who their core customers are, and then prioritize and deliver on their wants.

For retailers and brands that understand that consumers are the center of the “Metail” universe, Bines has six ideas or “ingredients” that retailers should use to forge closer ties with consumers.

The ingredients are: cost (give me a steal), convenience (make it easy for me), category expert (show me what you know), customization (that made-for-me feeling), curation (that chosen-for-me feeling) and community (make me feel welcome).

For example, the customization model doesn’t necessarily mean producing one thing at at time. In fact, mass customization based on technology can resonate with millennials and Gen Z consumers in a Metail economy, particularly when speed of service and fulfillment meet their need for instant satisfaction. Moreover, leveraging technology and details can add the impression that a product or service is tailor-made.

The ingredients “are not prescriptions. And every company will use a little bit more or less, and some might not even use one ingredient at all. Some might use all six,” Bines said. “It’s different for every single company. These are ingredients that you’ll use to cook a recipe your customers want to eat, even to companies in the same space to dollar store chains or to department stores or to specialty footwear retailers.”

Bines compares the recipe for fashion and retail firms to cooking shows where competitors use the same ingredients to cook a meal, and each one whips up something different—sometimes great, other times, not so good.

“The whole point of the book is that I’m trying to give people tools,” Bines said, adding that it’s up to the companies to figure out for themselves which components to use and in what proportion.