The idea of product personalisation (Not the ‘Stick some initials on it’ kind) has been around a while.
20 years ago I had a pair of Levis made to my exact body measurements. I stepped into a body scanner wearing a weird leotard thing, got scanned, made some selections, (Bootcut was in back then) and 3 weeks later received the best pair of jeans I have ever worn.
I wore them until they literally fell apart and then cried at the thought of never having another pair. Unfortunately the experiment didn’t pay off for Levi’s and they stopped offering the service. On every visit to San Fran I would visit the store forlornly hoping that someone might resurrect it.
That hope might now be rewarded. Mass personalisation is back in vogue with the likes of Prose. They’re offering customised hair products produced to meet the exact requirements of each and every head. The key to this approach is profiling, the next step in the evolution of personalisation.
In the case of Prose, profiling is used to pinpoint consumers particular follicular challenges (Apologies for the alliteration, I couldn’t resist) but it’s being used more widely to present consumers with relevant product selections from the moment they engage with brands.
The problem with all personalisation technologies – even those that are ‘predictive’ – is that they work on historical data.
Who could have predicted that anyone would want to wear socks with sliders? and yet my teenage daughter sulks past me wearing black socks and slip ons. Indeed, the entire fashion industry is predicated on the principle that they can sell you something you probably wouldn’t have conceived of yesterday.
So how do you marry up the latest neon leggings with a punter you’ve never met before? – Ask them whether they’re fashion forward (And perhaps colour blind) or prefer a classic look, then let an algorithm curate your collection.
Forrester calls it ‘Zero Party Data’. It boils down to asking consumers (Nicely) exactly what they want, and then like a virtual personal shopper, curating and presenting products that fit those preferences. Or in the case of Prose actually custom making the product itself.
According to Deloitte, mass personalisation is also the next big thing so if manufacturers can get round production challenges (Levis I’m thinking of you here), then maybe we’ll all be a bit more comfortable some time soon.