The festive season is here. Bring on the bustling of the high street, and the voluminous clicks of online surfing for Christmas gifts – to bring smiles to friends and family. A gift is more than just a possession; it’s a unique way of showing someone that you have thought about what means a lot to them. It is clear from the popularity of the likes of notonthehighstreet.com and Etsy.com that gift personalisation is an increasingly important part of gift giving.

Yet personalisation goes beyond just the gift world; we are seeing it dispersing into all realms of life. Take for example the rise of wearable technology. People are demanding smarter gadgets - bespoke extensions of our bodies that monitor our every movement. We are becoming used to being in control and tracking more and more aspects of our lives with increasing accuracy and detail. The reveal of the new Apple Watch this year helped catapult wearable tech from the fringes of the tech domain into the mainstream vision. Apple have looked to make the watch ‘intimate’ as it feeds into consumer desires to have more personalisation at their fingertips – personal data and health statistics are just the start.

The cultural shifts we are witnessing show a move towards the wholehearted and intense. People want all aspects of their lives to be rich and full. Google are developing the Project Ara smartphone where you can select the aspects of a phone that are most important to you. This could be more battery life or a higher camera spec – either way the phone will meet your personal needs rather than a one size fits all approach. Some brands are even using personalisation of technology to enhance their high-end bespoke customer service. Virgin trialled an introduction of Google Glass for business class air stewards and check-in staff, using facial recognition technology, with the idea that customer’s preferences would be factored into service without the customer having to ask. Technological intuitive personalisation has also crept into the beauty industry with GeneOnyx skin care using advanced DNA technology to determine which products are perfect for specific users on a deep, cellular level.

Meanwhile, Gen Z is driving an increasing demand for a DIY experience – this is as personalised as you can get. Many brands have picked up on this trend and are creating interactive personalised experiences and are allowing people to have creative input into what they consume. NikeID kicked off this development but we have seen a variety of explorations of this idea since. Adidas launched a customisable shoe that allows any Instagram photo to be imprinted on their trainers and even Prada held a one off event where customers could choose different aspects of their shoe. Magnum introduced pop-up stores to design your own ice-cream. The entertainment industry has got involved with the production of interactive TV shows, theatre creations and music videos, including Choose Your Own Documentary – a live show where audiences received remote controls and answered a series of questions throughout the show which allowed them to shape the unfolding story.

Personalisation is an exciting opportunity for brands to connect with consumers and is clearly in demand. But it is important brands don’t forget the core of the concept – understanding what consumers want. Personalisation is about empowerment of self-expression, giving the consumer the tools to enhance their own unique experiences and emotions. If the consumer’s desires are forgotten and assumptions about needs and wants are made then personalisation loses its beauty. Finding the right balance is different for every brand. A good example of this is Converse, personalising through a deep understanding of the lifestyle itself. Converse knows that a large portion of their audience is within the skateboarding culture. And knowing there is a shortage of places to skate they find and fix up dilapidated skate parks in collaboration with local skate communities to make the lifestyle a better experience for their consumers.

With so much accessibility and choice out there, really understanding and taking consumers’ lifestyles and behaviours into consideration is increasingly important. Personalisation will help brands stand out from the crowd, aiding in brand loyalty.

So as 2015 approaches and you begin to think about your next innovation or new product think about how you can heighten consumers’ lives with your brand. Look beyond product and price to embrace consumer individuality through understanding your audience’s needs, desires and the cultures in which they live.

 

By Eleanor Sellar, Cultural Insight Associate Director at Added Value.


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