By: Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh, Food Marketing Institute

Food retailers know the rules are changing. Now, to understand a customer’s purchasing decision it may take several complicated and detailed charts. One thing is certain, consumers want a shopping experience, but not just any experience, a tailored one that matches their exact needs. Today, a kaleidoscope of factors, including technology, is driving the atomization of American lives, how they plan and consume food.

Food retailers find themselves at the center of a consumer buying revolution. Top Trends in Fresh 2016 reports, 76 percent of all shopping trips begin online. This means manufacturers and retailers must consider how to offer personalization inside and outside of the store. This year, digital will influence 77 percent of all retail sales, and as technology continues to improve, creating digital strategies with personalized messages will be key. While technology continues to radicalize the food retail industry, grocers can create in-store experiences with specialty departments, and by expanding ethnic and international food selections.

Not only are shoppers seeking personalized experiences, they’re also seeking connections with what they’re buying. Food has shifted from being viewed as a commodity to a solution for a better life. Local foods are quickly moving from niche to critical mass and changing traditional food retail operations as we know them. Last year, local produce accounted for $20 billion of the U.S.’s $62 billion total produce sales, according to Top Trends in Fresh 2016.

However, FMI’s research shows the growing trend of hyperlocalization isn’t just about products being locally sourced, it digs deeper into how retailers do business. Do you hire hometown employees? Do you source your business needs through local contractors? Hyperlocalization is the ability for retailers to let their consumers know they’re invested and connected to the community they serve. By building your store as a local brand, retailers have an opportunity to position themselves as leaders in the localized consumer movement.

Learn more about personalization and hyperlocalization of fresh foods in FMI and IRI’s Top Trends in Fresh webinar series.