by Tom Murray -- April 24, 2014

The identification of a “Sommelier4Hire” by this wine bar in my hometown caught me by surprise, a reaction which in itself is somewhat surprising. Why don’t more specialty retail and restaurants capitalize on their internal expertise in this way? Of course, upscale clothing retailers have been using the model of the personalized shopper for decades. But beyond that model, very few other organizations seem to effectively capitalize on their internal expertise.   

Admittedly, I am unsure whether on its own the demand for “my own Sommelier” would generate enough revenue to justify the effort. What I do know is that this kind of service can serve as a valuable form of brand reinforcement, presenting an organization so steeped in expertise that the expertise itself is a service that can be showcased, personalized, and presumably valued by a certain category of customer. 

In my days in consumer electronics, we also tested a concept of “My Guy” which developed out of some predictive forecasting done at the time that anticipated both the greater personalization of technology, as well as the growing complexity of personal content management and networking for many upscale consumers. The logic also leveraged the personal observations of company leadership, all of whom had a “guy” (usually one of our poor IT team members) who helped harmonize their technological aspirations with the demands of relatively complex lifestyles. In addition to the tangible benefit of having someone around who could easily bail them out whenever their kid switched the TV remote input switch to another setting, what we heard from these leaders (and what we later validated with real customers) was that having “My Guy” also offered some interesting social benefits (“someone with whom I can comfortably share my technology interests/passions and, moreover, who can help me realize them”) and some bragging rights around the golf course (“Whaaat?? You don’t have your own guy???”). 

My Guy concepts won’t work for all retailers, because for many customers, the need for personalized shopping simply doesn't exist. But for those retailers, grocery stores, and restaurants catering to a consumer where time is short, income plentiful, and bragging rights meaningful, having a “My Guy” offering might be one way to leverage existing talents while enhancing the brand.