Has personalisation gone far enough?

* 5 min read
In recent years, brands have fuelled a growing trend for personalisation, with marketing campaigns that appeal to the shopper’s ego, while creating PR buzz. Coke, Marmite and Kit Kat have all famously jumped on the personalisation bandwagon in terms of product, and the majority of savvy online retailers already recommend and personalise their offer based on your past shopping behaviour.

But clever tech is driving even more opportunities for brand engagement. Take Uniqlo Australia’s in-store headphones that measure your brain activity to pick from one of 600 T-shirt designs to suit your mood in that moment. Shoppers are shown a series of clips which stimulate a reaction, pointing them towards a fashion statement that’s driven by their unconscious thoughts.

Or, on a more conscious theme, the Barneys New York app which receives push notifications when shoppers are near items that are on their online wishlist on their mobile when they’re browsing in store, to guide them to the items they’ve already selected, and hopefully, give them a final push towards purchase.

They’re clever tools to drive footfall and brand engagement, and great for PR. But they’re also driving consumers to covet products specifically and individually selected and designed just for them.

But how much does our desire to be seen as individuals need to drive the ecommerce agenda?

Well, it seems to depend on where you live. A study by Geert Hofstede revealed that different countries have a different perspective on the value of being seen as an individual versus the benefits of collectivism and it really is split between the developed world and emerging countries.

The US tops the poll of people who want to be seen as an individual, not part of a group (91 out of 100), followed by Australia (90 out of 100) and the UK (89 out of 100). But in Central and South America, figures hover around 10 out of every 100 people wanted to be categorised as individuals, with the other 90 per cent happy to be viewed as a collective.

Of course, this may change as the emerging market’s access to technology grows, and as their spending becomes less functional and more aspirational driven by the growth in middle classes, but it’s certainly something to consider when planning brand and e-commerce strategies across multiple markets.

According to Retail Week Connect, only eight per cent of consumers say a personalised experience either in store or online fosters loyalty, so while personalisation when it comes to gifting and higher value items is valuable, it doesn’t have to apply everywhere. And if your customers do want personalisation, it doesn’t have to be complex.

Only 8% of consumers say a personalised experience either in store or online fosters loyalty, so while personalisation when it comes to gifting and higher value items is valuable, it doesn’t have to apply everywhere.

In fact, when it comes to online shopping, personalisation doesn’t have to be unique to one consumer. Many e-tailers are building their brands on personalisation, using a model that’s both efficient and engaging.

Pet food brand Tails.com is a great example of personalisation built on a controlled number of choices. The site’s user interface asks for your dog’s age, breed, weight, exercise levels and likes and dislikes, to build a bespoke diet just for your pet. Their food then arrives at your door with your dog’s name printed on the packaging. It ticks the brand engagement box, but works logistically and commercially to keep the supplier’s cost and effort to a minimum.

Pet food brand Tails.com is a great example of personalisation built on a controlled number of choices. The site’s user interface asks for your dog’s age, breed, weight, exercise levels and likes and dislikes, to build a bespoke diet just for your pet. Their food then arrives at your door with your dog’s name printed on the packaging. It ticks the brand engagement box, but works logistically and commercially to keep the supplier’s cost and effort to a minimum.

Personalisation doesn’t always have to be about product and packaging; curated choice and tailored service can also help brand and retailers tick the ‘personal service’ box. And according to KPMG, providing a more personal service across the board could also lead to a higher rate of impulse purchases.

In a recent study, KPMG found that by offering online shoppers related recommended products based on their purchase, impulse buys went up by 21 per cent. However, when the same approach was applied in store, impulse purchase rates were 35 per cent, which proves personalisation alone isn’t the answer, particularly when it’s fuelled by data alone, not human or physical interaction.

So, while personalisation of packaging can be difficult, especially for brands without their own dedicated online sales channels, there is an opportunity to personalise on different levels.

"Across a range of industries, the paradigm of a single, uniform price for a given product or services being charged to all customers could be coming to an end," says futurologist David Smith.

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"Payment according to use and individual circumstances is already apparent, with streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify.

"It has been suggested that online retailers can tailor pricing according to factors such as time of purchase, type of browser being used and the number of times a buyer has visited a relevant web page."

So soon it seems as though our shopping experience could be personalised not only on what we shop for, but also how, where and when we shop too.