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In mid-October 2022, North American grocery giants Kroger and Albertsons announced their intent to merge. If successful, the move will mark one of the largest grocery deals in history, creating an opportunity for the combined brand to compete with Walmart—a grocery retailer that has a physical presence within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population—Amazon’s at-home delivery, and Costco.

For Kroger and Albertsons, the benefits of this consolidation are clear. Across industries, consumers are seeking out a personalized shopping experience, even at the grocery store. In an already low-margin industry, it has been difficult for the second and fourth largest grocers by market share (Kroger and Albertsons, respectively) to build sustainable and competitive grocery delivery programs.

As the grocery industry continues to become increasingly fulfillment oriented, the consolidation of Kroger and Albertsons’ business teams will be primed to accommodate this shift in consumer behavior. Furthermore, the crossover in geographies created if this merger comes to fruition will help both players iron out the logistics and bring down the overhead of orchestrating direct-to-consumer delivery.

Morphing these two brands into one grocery goliath will put pressure on Walmart to advance its current offerings, likely to benefit consumers in the end.

Off to a bumpy start

The Kroger-Albertsons merger plan has seen a few hiccups. Both entities have storefronts scattered across the country, but political leaders in some localities have voiced their concerns about potential price gouging in places where those storefronts overlap. For example, Albertsons and Ralphs (a Kroger subsidiary) compete for customers in California, and Carrs (Albertsons) and Fred Meyer (Kroger) are the two dominant grocery chains in Alaska. To mitigate drastic competition reduction, Kroger has proposed spinning off up to 375 stores under a separate brand.

On the other hand, scale, buying, and assortment of inventory are all augmented in a merger like this one where two prevalent industry players come together. A merger of this magnitude will leave a lasting impression on the industry and change the way consumers interact with their hometown grocers. In recent history, only one brand move has created similar waves in the space—Amazon’s 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods. Done right, the Kroger and Albertsons partnership could mean similar and significant improvements in consumer experience.

As the new entity gets its ducks in a row, there is a unique opportunity for Kroger and Albertsons’ leaders to capitalize on the learnings of previous mergers and acquisitions and position themselves as a customer ally amid criticism. The key to success for Kroger and Albertsons now is how they communicate their intent to their customers and employees and lean into the benefits this coalition brings.

Potential opportunities to drive better CX

There are two customer-centric opportunities created as a result of this merger that Kroger and Albertsons should take advantage of to build out a competitive customer-first, fulfillment-oriented business model: smart personalization, and intelligent fulfillment.

Smart personalization

For decades, grocery brands focused on scaled reach and mass marketing to engage and retain customers. They relied heavily on “milk, bread, and eggs” loyalty. However, increasingly discerning consumer choices—including emerging preferences for sustainability, transparency, organics, and value savings—along with ubiquitous, omnichannel competition, have heralded a new era where former loyalties can no longer be taken for granted.

A strong recommendation engine can renew foregone brand loyalty. Grocery chains can help to drive future purchases by prompting the purchase of frequently recurring or last purchase items—through push notifications or custom email campaigns. Furthermore, assorted recommendations can introduce customers to local favorites, samplers for the experimental shopper, “complete the recipe” suggestions for DIY cooks, and more.

To take this to the next level, data should be used to simulate a value-based pricing experience by crafting smart promotions and loyalty options to drive retention and maximize customer lifetime value.

Key levers to drive smart personalization and build customer loyalty include:

  • Rewards—Both Kroger and Albertsons have been praised for their stand-out loyalty programs, which according to 2020 data from Kroger allows the brand to capture 96% of purchasing decisions. Combined with new data from Albertson’s top-ranking loyalty program, the joint brand has the resources necessary to create the leading personalized shopping experience—should they use the data to their advantage.
  • Subscription economy—It is critical for the joint brand to identify the core reason that current customers are subscribed to Kroger and Albertsons individually, and what value the merged entity can offer to consumers as an incentive to stay subscribed. Is it savings on essential purchases like fuel or subscriber-only discounts on regularly purchased items?
  • Digital marketing—On the retail media business side, the combination of already-established Kroger Precision Marketing and the Albertsons Media Collective would serve over 85 million households, providing cross-country reach, an extensive store of transactional data, and an impactful advertising opportunity for other CPG brands through the sale of online banner ads.

Intelligent fulfillment

Intelligent fulfillment is the other half of the successful merger puzzle. In our modern, connected world, demand forecasting, warehousing, and the physical network need to be reimagined to meet new customer promises.

The grocery network of the future will have a rationalized store fleet in which select storefronts are converted to “dark stores,” or fulfillment hubs created based upon factors like demand, proximity, route optimization, storage space, and zonal regulations.

Reach is everything in the turf war for retail supremacy. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods gave Amazon access to Whole Foods’ network of suppliers and distributors—driving down prices and putting pressure on competitors. With 4,996 stores, 66 distribution centers, 52 manufacturing plants, 2,015 fuel centers and more than 710,000 associates across 48 states and the District of Columbia, two out of every three households in the US could be serviced by the merged Kroger-Albertsons entity.

To achieve an evolved intelligent fulfillment future through this merger, the following should be considered:

  • Changing consumer demand—Evolving buying journeys and situational changes that impact purchasing decisions, like job loss and rising inflation rates, married with the diverse range of products grocery distributors provide in a post-COVID world, have presented a challenge for grocers. To effectively operate in the changing economy, they look to answer “What products and how much of each are consumers likely to buy?” At the same time, previously dependable methods of forecasting consumer demand—purely predicated on past behavior—have come up severely short with variance levels reaching more than 40%. There is an immediate need to predict drivers of demand by sub-category and bring it into the forecasting equation so that inventory can be stocked appropriately.
  • Supplier intelligence & efficiency—Kroger, with 1600 suppliers, and Albertsons, with nearly 1000 suppliers, have a strong infrastructure to meet the various needs of several consumer segments. But with more than 80% overlap in product categories based on an assessment of their websites, there is a significant opportunity for the combined entity to rationalize product breadth and depth, consolidate merchandising and buying, drive greater economies of scale in purchasing, and cross-leverage data to improve supply availability, on-time performance, and product quality.
  • Supply chain network—Instead of shuttering stores in congested areas, the pair should make use of existing storefronts by converting them to micro-fulfillment centers or “dark stores.” Made popular by the convenience delivery brand GoPuff, dark stores increase the bandwidth for timely direct-to-consumer delivery. The move would position Kroger to compete against Amazon, which offers Prime members a 2-hour guaranteed delivery for $9.99.
  • Supply chain visibility—Augmented inventory and an expanded regional presence, among other things, require a more thoughtful supply chain strategy. Kroger and Albertsons should be considering how they use the data at hand to bring total visibility to the supply chain. As inflation worsens, what products will be “need to have” and “nice to have” in 2023 and beyond? Where should they be stocked? Managing inventory to proactively meet customer needs could be a key differentiating factor in the Kroger-Albertsons partnership.

Should this merger successfully endure FTC scrutiny, the combined brand will be well-positioned to strengthen its initiatives across the value chain. Ultimately, the new data available is of no use to either brand without a concrete plan for its utilization. Kroger and Albertsons should take this time to think through how they will use their newfound data to bring total visibility to their operations in order to create a customer-centric, grocery shopping experience.


The COVID pandemic pushed most businesses towards a technological overhaul. It heightened the perceived volatility in the market and became the first major test for the global financial system. In many ways, it became a catalyst in moving banking systems towards a more tech- and data-based era.

Amidst the challenges that have emerged such as supply chain disruption and a global economic slowdown, it fell on the financial ecosystem to ensure uninterrupted business. The singular positive feature in transforming the financial services industry has been the accelerated use of technology, as well as innovation across the entire spectrum of banking services.

Neobanks and fintechs driving innovation across financial services

A new ecosystem of customers, traditional banks, fintech, regulators, and developers is taking shape. By leveraging next-gen tech capabilities of AI, ML, big data, mobile technology, blockchain, and cloud-based SaaS applications to deliver innovative products and services, the focus is on simplified banking processes, enhanced customer engagement, and enabling ‘anywhere-banking.’

From facilitating account opening to selling credit cards, fintech companies have begun transforming into full-fledged banking institutions by offering the entire spectrum of banking services – digital identity, credit ratings, stock trading, loans, and payments – all at the click of a button.

But a major challenge to fintech is in the form of market volatility. With the fintech investment market witnessing cyclical ups and downs, early-stage startups find it difficult to find capital to fund their operational costs. For large incumbents, any crisis scenario highlights the importance of effective operational risk management arrangements.

An important outcome of the pandemic has been the rise in neobanks (digital banks functioning online and without physical branches), which focus on product innovation. Fintech firm Razorpay is a standout example; it launched a neo-banking platform called RazorpayX that enables several transactions like commercial payroll, expense management, and other commercial credit products. RazorpayX projects the financial capability of SMEs – deposits, cash flow management, transaction reconciliation, and flexible payouts – which is of great help to business owners.

A major concern is that regulation seems to be hampering growth. While the consensus is that a well-done ‘regulation framework’ will bump up innovation, it isn’t possible to fit ‘new tech’ within ‘old rules.’ Therefore, the huge task ahead is to build a framework that has ‘protection meeting overarching objectives,’ but provides enough latitude for innovation – driving growth across the risk and regulatory space.

While neobanks’ focus is on product innovation, the issue of profitability has been a recurring theme – less than 5 per cent are currently profitable. This is of concern, especially for some of the older neobanks (those in existence for more than five years) as the high growth that they witnessed in their initial years was supposed to be a precursor to profitability in the future. That is not in sight!

Banking in – and on – the age of the Metaverse

We are witnessing the rise of Metaverse as a new business paradigm, built on new-age tech. This is true for financial services as well, with large banks like HSBC and JP Morgan announcing their entry into the Metaverse – to be nearly a $3 trillion economy in a decade. And this has been achieved due to the progress within the industry in moving from traditional to digital banking and beyond – where DeFi (decentralised finance) brings value to metaverse finance (MetaFi).

While the immediate goal can be on customer connect in the current open metaverses of Sandbox and Decentraland, in the short term banks can look to engage with prospective customers and onboard them via crypto wallets, as well as by enabling payments, loan disbursal, and custody services.

With blockchain facilitating the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies, what metaverse offers is a wider canvas for banks to tap into. As this evolution demonstrates, MetaFi is not an overnight transformation for banks. MetaFi will need a crypto-native, decentralised infrastructure powered by Web 3.0 technologies to provide seamless, transparent, and permission-less value transfer.

A strong foundational DeFi strategy encompassing digital assets and currencies, combined with open banking approaches to connecting to third-party services in a seamless and secure manner, will be pivotal for banks to explore the full potential of the metaverse.

In the end, it’s all about the customer experience

While the prerequisite across banking will be the use of technology, the quality and ingenuity of technology should match our aspirations of acquiring scale and diversion of business. The focus of use of technology should shift from ‘transactions-based to business-oriented’ and to shift from product-based banking to customer-first banking to cater more effectively to consumers.

As the battle for the supposed super-app dominance continues, fintech companies must build long-term road maps that include a vision for each of these components, allowing them to expand their service offering to become ‘the go-to destination’ for the future of ‘consumers of finance’ and enhance the customer experience. Across this rapidly expanding connected ecosystem, conviction and convenience never share the same zip code!




In short, challenge the status quo!

But this doesn’t come easily to many. Harvard Business Review says 72% of leaders “never or rarely challenge” the status quo. Today, an equitable work culture is a baseline expectation. Employees, especially millennials and Gen-Z with their newfound values of work and workplace culture, continue to raise the bar in terms of what they expect from their leaders.

How top-performing companies, and their leaders, differentiate themselves lies in the higher value they layer over such baseline expectations – and introduce real change in people engagement. Clearly, one of the best ways to achieve this is winning over your workforce through meaningful employee engagement.

Change the workplace through Value Partnerships

The best transition from the status quo is to “stop thinking business and start thinking people.” A good start would be to develop the concept of value partnership in the workplace. As the popular belief goes: Treat an employee like a commodity, they will become one; treat them like an owner with a stake in the business, they become value partners.

Media company VaynerMedia may be small, but its employee connect is truly novel. At VaynerMedia, the HR team is called “People and Experience Team,” and the company has a Chief Heart Officer instead of an HR head. The role entails being “in touch with the heartbeat of every single person in the company” – meaning, developing a close bond with all employees whether professional and personal.

Financial services provider United Services Automobile Association (USAA) campus is dotted with coffee shops, cafes, relaxation lounges, and fitness centers. Of course, the health clinics and childcare facilities are considered par for the course. Interestingly, most employee-centric ideas at USAA come from the employees; no wonder then that it regularly features in the Fortune 100’s list of Best Places to Work.

A concept that has caught on greatly is to make your employees a key peg in the company’s performance. The impact of value partnership at the workplace will show our ability – using business parlance – to deliver a superior “end product.” For instance, employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) may be one way of promoting value partnership. Though the concept took off in the 1920s, it today covers about 10% of the private sector workforce.

Drive organizations with leadership, not business

Author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t claims that the best workplaces are the ones that are fixated on building trust. That’s because the leaders in such organizations form, as Sinek calls it, a “Circle of Safety,” which separates the safety mechanism within the team from the challenges outside. The logic is simple – disruptive leaders develop innovative and disruptive ideas. But importantly, the solution lies in following the simplest steps.

Steve Jobs got it right by asking his people to challenge themselves and bring new ideas to the table. The result? A host of devices that turned Apple around – and made it a closely-bonded organization. When Bruce Henderson of Boston Consulting Group instituted compulsory training for newcomers in leadership and management, the initial skepticism soon paved way for creative freedom and confidence through the rise of young leaders. Today, BCG is among few companies that boast the fastest movement of employees to leadership positions.

Simple actions go a long way in breaking the workplace status quo. Having a continuous line of communication, making employees stakeholders in your journey, or charting an elaborate leadership roadmap for the younger generation of workers scores high on employee engagement. It builds your image as someone who relates to the employees and is highly engaged.

Past results are passé; keep setting the bar higher!

Many good companies have fallen by the wayside because their leaders did not go beyond the conventional style of running a business. While companies invest billions to boost employee engagement each year, Gallup’s 2022 State Of The Global Workplace report states that 60% of people are emotionally detached at work and 19% actively disengaged – an euphemism for “miserable.” And the economic consequences in lost productivity? A whopping $7 billion!

No leader can afford to sit back believing they’ve cracked the code to building a workplace of top performers, best-in-class practices, and enhanced processes. True, it’s safe to continue the established principles and methods that are working well, but we still need to keep challenging the status quo. The leaders at Google and Apple will attest to that.

Real change starts with leaders who introduce a new style of thinking and enable a culture of innovation. This is the kind of culture we need in the workplace of today. From my experience, I learned one of my most valuable lessons: challenging the status quo isn’t easy, but not challenging it can be fatal. The erstwhile leaders of Yahoo! and Nokia may well attest to that.


An organization is only as good as the people that embody its mission. LatentView Analytics’ certification as one of India’s Best Workplaces in IT & IT-BPM 2022 reinforces us as a “Great Place to Work” for the next generation of professionals.

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Business leaders don’t need to collect more data—they just need to analyze what they have, both internal and external, and put those insights into action

Business leaders don’t need to collect more data—they just need to analyze what they have, both internal and external, and put those insights into action
In 2008, during the last major recession, many of today’s rising business leaders were graduating college and starting their careers. Digital was in its earliest beginnings and MySpace was the third most visited social media site. The world looked different indeed!

Fast forward more than a decade, and those emerging leaders are now tasked with navigating a new reality fraught with geopolitical and economic challenges. But something else has changed too: Access to data.

To lead through an economic downturn, CEOs must tap the power of data. Nearly every business is operating in somewhat of a budget-constrained environment, so how can they ensure they’re prioritizing the most important initiatives? How can they champion projects that contribute to revenue growth?

Instead of guessing or wasting time on trial and error, data and analytics can help chart the path forward. Not only will leaders reduce strain on their resource-constricted teams, but they will also more accurately chart the course for present and future business goals than any historical models alone could predict.

For example, big-box retailers plagued by supply chain slowdowns during Covid-19 were not able to accurately predict 2022 demand because they relied on historical data alone. Because their modeling failed to account for changing customer behavior, retailers like Target struggled to move excess inventory causing them to rely on premature holiday sales to clear shelves ahead of the 2022 gifting season.

Business leaders don’t need to collect more data to bring insights into these and similar problems, they just need to analyze what they have, both internal and external data, and put those insights into action. Predictive insights can also give your business a competitive advantage. Take TikTok for example, whose stellar AI-based algorithm keeps users in the app for hours on end, or Netflix, whose recommendations have created a unique sense of virality for most-streamed shows. Strong insights about your customers make your product or service stickier.

Tap Into Data to Prioritize Capital Expenditures Effectively

When everything seems to be a top priority, choosing which initiatives to double down on can be as time consuming as actually executing them. To expedite the process, use insights from data to determine which initiatives are driving—and will continue to drive—revenue growth. Focus on expenditures that improve time to market, build partnerships, and enhance CX. The data will tell you what to put on the back burner.

Data is everywhere; however, a wealth of data generated daily often goes unnoticed, unanalyzed, and unused. Untapped data assets, particularly first-party data from customers, can be used immediately to make some of these mission-critical decisions. Additionally, the data will allow teams to uncover one single truth, without debate: Projects and expenditures with less revenue impact can be postponed. Every leader in the c-suite has a role to play in deploying capital efficiently. Here are a few specific areas of the business where the CEO can align with other leaders on ways to use the data to make decision making seamless:

• Procurement and Inventory Management: The biggest roadblock to streamlined procurement is the regularity at which disparate channels are used to record data and manage processes. CPOs need to move beyond Excel spreadsheets and invest in tools that add a layer of connectedness to the workflow. Such tools, like procurement software Focal Point, use your data to unearth the opportunities for seven-figure savings that are far more difficult to pinpoint without procurement unification.

• Marketing and Advertising: Historically, marketing and advertising spend has been allocated based on past-campaign performance alone. But as customer behavior changes, data that analyzes the entire customer journey becomes critical to predict product demand and anticipate changing preferences. Predictive models created with data from several marketing channels and sources (social, SEO, promotions, shipping, etc.) provide more accurate insights to create effective MMM (media mix modelling) and customer acquisition strategies.

• Technology Investments: Reining in shadow IT is becoming a high priority for CTOs and their teams. To reduce unnecessary spending, they should be judicious about what’s in their tech stack because SaaS tools are often underutilized. As leaders prepare for 2023, they should limit SaaS renewals to only those that don’t overlap with existing tools and are critical to advancing business goals. Pay close attention to the SaaS dashboards to glean all of the data possible and move marginal operational improvements to times when cash flow isn’t as much of a concern.

Democratize Data to Solve Problems

An exercise to help leaders use data effectively is to first identify and define a core problem. Once a problem is highlighted, teams can brainstorm possible solutions given the resources available. They should be encouraged to ask open-ended questions and think unconventionally. This will likely lead them to a data set not previously considered valuable, providing a clear advantage. How will that data prevent future missteps?

As the push for greater data democratization is in our near future, all levels should be trained and encouraged to use data regularly. Organizations that can train their employees to maximize the value of first-party data now will be well positioned to come out ahead as regulation and governance around data privacy tightens. As these measures take shape, teams should be considering other ways to gather essential data–whether from surveys, focus groups or through other methods.

The Future Is Digital and Data Will Continue to Be Key

Though businesses of all sizes are looking critically at their spend and having to make tough decisions about which initiatives to push forward, there are two important factors that leaders should not neglect as they continue to course correct.

First, even when budgets need to be carefully allocated, leaders should not abandon forward-thinking technology. Decentralization, crypto, Web3, and the metaverse will eventually be integrated into corporate culture—granted, maybe not in the way it looks today, but certainly the foundational technologies will come into play sooner rather than later.

In the metaverse, more and more one-on-one interactions will shift online—between humans (as consumers, employees, patients, citizens, service providers, governance agencies, and intermediaries) and machines or processes. These digital interactions generate a vast amount of granular, nuanced data that will enrich decision-making from IT to marketing teams.

Second, leaders should continue to keep a close eye on customer sentiment—letting it, above all, drive project prioritization. If you’re listening, your customers and clients will clue you in when it’s the right time to make a change. Furthermore, your customers (especially in highly impacted recession industries like BFSI) will look to you to lead them through with strong messaging and steady communication. Lean into the data to meet your customer’s unique needs and be open to responding as those needs evolve.

New leaders’ approaches to navigating through an economic downturn will vary, but it will be made easier when they rely on all the data available to understand what to prioritize. Today, guessing what the right decision should be is plain frivolous. The priority should be learning how to utilize the data available to know with relative certainty which initiatives will help weather the recessionary storm.


The consumer-packaged goods and retail (CPGR) sector has changed drastically, especially in the post-COVID period. Consumer preferences are changing, direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands are rising, and online shopping has increased exponentially. Given the highly competitive nature of the market today, brands have to overhaul existing business models in tune with the changing market.

This is clearly the era of personalized customer experiences. Personalization in CPGR is the process of creating individualized and unique interactions for consumers by steering their experience through pertinent consumer journeys. Product recommendations, marketing efforts, or products themselves are key to driving strong consumer brand loyalty and paving the way for business growth.

And at the heart of all this is the art of leveraging customer data.

Personalization Enabling the Data Journey

As in every organization, data is a major enterprise asset for CPGR organizations too. In CPGR, there are two forms of data: Consumer data – which includes transactions, demographics, consumer connectivity, and localization; and product data – comprising stock identification, localization, real-time control, and greater granularity.

For leading enterprises in this space, data not only serves as a foundational element for business but is incorporated across all business processes such as strategy, operations, marketing, and customer support. In the wake of new business challenges, there is a clear transition in the way data is being revisited to leverage a wider analysis of the customer journey.

Three factors have been critical in accelerating the data-driven consumer journey. First, access to vast pools of consumer data has enabled D2C firms to glean faster, better insights into consumer preferences and consumption patterns. Complemented by process agility and leveraging of technology, it has given D2C brands headway in charting customized messaging and personalization. In India, D2C brands are coming up fast and are estimated to grow to a $100 billion market by 2025.

Second, e-commerce platforms – backed by deep consumer insights and data – are hugely influencing purchase decisions. In 2021, a Statista survey revealed that 38 percent of product searches start via Amazon. Good or bad, these tech behemoths have redefined consumer shopping. As the first touchpoint in the value chain, they are clearly driving consumer choices.

Finally, contrary to popular belief, the percentage of consumers willing to share personal data for better experiences ranks very high across most consumer surveys. Globally, 30,000 new products are launched annually on average, per a Nielsen study. Therefore, the key differentiators to win customers are no longer traditional marketing tactics like strategic pricing, promotion, or product range but unique tailored customer experiences.

Addressing Challenges of Data Collection and Usage

Personalization is here to stay, and most brands are acutely aware of it. In a survey conducted by McKinsey, 95 percent of Retail CEOs said personalizing the consumer experience is a strategic priority. But the same survey said only 23 percent of consumers believe CPGR firms are doing a good job of it.

Though there is no single winning formula, CGPR brands should take some precise steps to build on their personalization agenda:

  • Assemble Centralized Data Platforms: CPGR brands can capture and analyze data from multiple channels by collaborating with retail partners, via social listening, and by use of internal and even paid data. Several firms are moving to establish a centralized Customer Data Platform (CDP) with built-in ML automation, to build better insights from data faster and to combine assorted data to create a coherent and unified customer profile.
  • Drive an Intersectional Approach across Teams: Customer personalization cannot be executed in silos. It requires cross-functionality across analytics, IT, marketing, and product development teams and is an iterative effort. For example, IT and marketing need to work together to rehaul a brand’s Martech roadmap for creating meaningful solutions, tracking performance, and creating a repository of every workable action.
  • Overhaul the Process of Data Usage: To create trust among IT and business executives on data models and algorithms, the process of developing, processing and deriving value from data firms should be firmly established. This includes eliminating data silos by enabling the migration of data to the cloud and setting up governance systems to implement appropriate data-sharing protocols.

A Win-Win for Consumer Businesses of the Future

CPGR brands that use advanced personalization strategies see an ROI of $20 on each dollar spent. As the business environment evolves, CPGR firms will have to respond to changes by rapidly adjusting their business models. Personalization is key to enhancing the customer experience in CPGR and increasing revenue opportunities. And data analytics will be critical in enabling this.

The future of CPGR will be led by the use of data by businesses to advance customer personalization capabilities. It won’t just be a way for brands to win consumers; it will be essential for them to stay relevant. And while they do so, data analytics will be at the heart of these decisions.