Personalisation is obviously a hot topic these days, with so many companies claiming that they can ‘tailor make’ a product or service just for you, whether that be a holiday, make up, clothes or a car.
Working with a holiday company recently has made me think: what exactly is personalisation, how is it evolving and is it a good or a bad thing?
First of all what is it?
The dictionary definition is :to design or tailor to an individual’s specifications, needs or purposes
I believe there is a continuum of personalisation whether it the world of fashion, holidays or cars – from completely bespoke, designed uniquely for you down to mass customisation where you can chose all the elements you want to put together from a pretty big selection but at the end of the day you are limited by the permutations available and you are doing the work.
Mass customisation examples
How is it evolving?
Personalisation is not a new thing, it has been around for years but generally only for the more well off, this is because it has always involved one to one service, whether that be a wedding planner, tailor or personal travel adviser.
And companies offering such services are still flourishing.
Handels Banken is a relationship bank that offers a completely personal service. So much so that they don’t even publish any rates or charges. Each banking director is allowed to set these depending on their circumstances and needs of their customer.
Big changes however are being brought about by technology.
Personalisation or at least mass customisation is now available to us all and, indeed if we are prepared to put the work in, may be cheaper than just having what we are given – the holiday market being a prime example. Innovations in technology in the fashion industry mean that we can have clothes tailor made to our bodies at a fraction of the cost of a personal tailor
Although there have been issues with it, leading to its recent withdrawal the Zozo suit is basically a tight fitting suit with sensors all over it which, together with an app on your phone, measures your body shape exactly and then clothes are made to fit you.
Amazon are said to have something similar, which they will probably launch once the technology is perfected.
Increasingly sophisticated websites allow us to tailor everything from our holidays to our wedding day, capturing our information as we go and ensuring what they show us is what they think we want to see. For example if we click on an image of an infinity pool on a travel website the next hotels they show us will all have infinity pools as it has learnt that that important to us.
Personalised medicines are also making a huge change in the way we treat diseases such as cancer. It is now the norm for an oncology patient to have their DNA mapped on diagnosis and a personalised treatment plan developed. The ultimate personalisation is now happening with cell technology allowing scientists to grow your own cells and use them to fight your disease. This is not only literally life changing for patients but could potentially save millions of pounds in drug development costs.
So is it good or bad?
As consumers we are all saying we want personalisation. We want companies to tailor their products and services to our needs. We don’t want that car in black – we want the metallic blue with the cream leather seats, the furry steering wheel and the go faster sport mode!
There is a also a compelling case to be made about the reduction in waste. If a product is made specifically for us then there is much less chance that it will be sent back or discarded – ingredients for meals tailored to our diets and our tastes dropped at our door, clothes we know will fit us properly – no waste.
Where this issue lies is in personal data. For technology to tailor a product or service to our need it must know about us, lots and lots about us. Imparting with all that information is not comfortable for many customers and may even be risky. We hear every day of more and more scams involving our personal information.
Another issue is that too much choice can be paralysing. I remember the first time my father went into a coffee shop in New York, he literally dumbstruck when the server reeled off the decisions he had to make about a simple cup of coffee. Imagine how much quicker it would be to chose between hotel A or B in Majorca rather than sift through the 1000 on offer on hotels.com.
On balance it has to be a good thing in most cases – Personalisation to a greater or lesser extent gives us a better experiences, it saves on waste and, in some areas, will save money.
How much we are prepared to pay for that in terms of our privacy is another question…