In 2017, we will have come to accept the idea that an industrially-produced product can be customised or personalised, at least in part. While there is a lot more personalisation of “mass-produced” items, high-end personalisation is also thriving due to demand for “experiential luxury”, the shift from “having to being”. With an almost infinite capacity to gather information on clients and innovation in production technologies such as 3D printing, the masses can now imitate their high-end counterparts. This trend is changing consumer expectations, as customers demand that brands fulfil or even predict their needs. Brands are also looking to strengthen the brand / client relationship through the emotions they can arouse by making things “personal”.
Products that fit you…
The concept of “bespoke” is enjoying a moment. A recent satirical short film about the launch of bespoke water, promising the freedom missing in “soulless” corporate water, generated actual consumer enquiries, surprising director Paul Riccio. The idea that a product features a personalised aspect has become increasingly common branding bait used by surgeons, insurance companies, vloggers, salad bars and tattooists. Examples of the democratisation of personalisation abound around the globe, from travel to media to clothing to toys. “Personalised learning” also sees universities innovate with customised curriculums. The website of global Italian fashion accessories brand, O bag, explains that its accessories are “customisable” with add-on parts. “The brand aim is to give our customers greater freedom to express themselves sartorially”.
…And learn about you
Greater consumer digital engagement has facilitated the easier compilation of a growing body of information on customers, with brands discovering consumer tastes and preferences. In practice, this ability lets brands target communication on an individual basis and offer products tailored to each person, thus upping customer satisfaction levels and perceived product value — at least in theory. This is not just about Amazon, Etsy or online news sites recommending products or stories based on search and purchase algorithms; smart shop windows are being tested that offer diverse promotions based on a “reading” of data, such as the age, clothing or language of passersby.
Subscription services: Curated by you
Subscription services, delivering selections of products directly to consumer homes, capitalise on consumer trends like self-treating and convenience, but their success is also likely due to the personalised nature of their offerings. Consumers around the globe have been captivated by these considered picks of everything from skincare products, pet treats, gaming and razors to meal kits with pre-measured ingredients and recipes.
Many subscription services are positioning themselves as curators, selecting the new-release, “greener” or best value products they feel will best please their clients, with help from bloggers and fashion magazines. New subscribers typically complete a user profile to determine their tastes resulting in the delivery of a product mix “tailor-made” for them.
Subscription services are a rapidly expanding market. An analysis of internet traffic from Hitwise, a division of Connexity, published in spring 2016, found that visits to top subscription box sites grew by nearly 3,000% in the US over the last three years. Over 21.4 million visits were made to these sites in January 2016. Birchbox personalised beauty, grooming and lifestyle samples for men and women topped the list.
HelloFresh develops recipes and delivers boxed ingredients to consumers in Europe and North America, shipping 7.5 million meals monthly in mid-2016 according to co-founder Thomas Griesel. Speaking at Freshfel Europe’s annual event in Brussels in summer 2016, he said that the brand is positioned for personalisation as it creates taste profiles for customers based on cooking preferences or “personal taste clustering”. Customers indicate what they do not like, perhaps seafood or pasta, and are regularly asked for feedback leading to a “hyperpersonalised” service.
Personalised touches that tell a story
Crowdfunding, as a direct route for start-ups to showcase their new wares to consumers on sites like Indiegogo, is helping make early adopters of more of us, with appealing development narratives. Consumers making a greater financial investment can be rewarded for their support of untried products through personalised versions.
While technology has made it simple to record and archive digital memories via posts, photos and videos, it has become more complex to access our past experiences. A solution may be the new mobile app Fabric, promising social networking that unclutters our past. With a tagline of “The story of your life that writes itself”, the app pulls in photos from a range of your social media from Facebook to Instagram, plotting them on a map while logging dates as new way to chart personal history. The aim is to eventually allow users to add songs and letters and access their past, creating a far richer timeline which could answer such questions as “When is the last time I saw Grandpa, and what music was I listening to at the time?”