We’ve come a long way from Henry Ford offering new shades of paint on his cars. Personalisation is an intrinsic part of the global economy, and our options as consumers are growing at a frenetic pace.
Customising the goods and services we buy has various benefits - not only does it mean they’re better suited to satisfying our needs, but it helps us show our identity to the world. Think footballers painting their cars in lurid colours and bartenders and baristas tattooing every inch of their skin. Even sports brands let you customise your running shoes down to the texture of the laces. Freedom of expression makes us feel unique.
When it comes to hyper-personalised goods, there can be many operational hurdles for businesses wanting to deliver a wide range of options. Making a thousand varieties of running shoe is clearly harder than five, but thankfully, manufacturing technology isn’t standing still.
And for the consumer, it’s not always completely wondrous either. It can be a little unnerving when Alexa calls you by your name (even more so when she starts cackling in the middle of the night). It’s a bit strange when Netflix changes the thumbnails for its films, based on the ones you click the most. And not many can say they haven’t bought something just because a recommendation algorithm put it right under their nose.
But according to a Deloitte report, "22% of consumers are happy to share some data in return for a more personalised customer product or service.” The demand is there, and the wealth of options confirms it. We think personalisation can be a great force for good - there’s a balance between relevance and intrusion, and responsible use of data can lead to big leaps in human wellbeing.
Here are some of the most interesting cases of hyper-personalisation that’re driving society into an exciting new age.
Food delivery trends have evolved from pizzas and kebabs to a much healthier range of fitness foods. Not just “healthy”, today’s options such as Kettlebell Kitchen deliver meals that can be customised towards specific fitness goals, like muscle building or weight loss. They arrive prepped and ready to cook (all that’s left is a robot butler to heat it up for you - surely just a matter of time until they appear).
Companies like Fresh Fitness Food go one step further by taking into account your bodily make-up, and crunching the numbers to provide you with truly personalised meals to your door. The downside with these options is that the logistics of food production and delivery mean there’s a limit to how affordable they can be.
In fact, of all personalisable products and services, we believe that health and wellness should be right at the top of the list - we’re not about creating products that suit your personal taste, we’re about creating utterly personalised vitamins and supplements. There are over a billion possible combinations of our Nourishments, and so each person’s specific order is precisely that: specific.
As well as putting good stuff into your body, you’ve got to move. But do you know the best way to move for your body specifically? Personal trainers have been a common sight in gyms for a long time, but consumer tech is working to provide even more options.
Personalised workout plans have been available for a while through fitness apps (using body metrics info alongside workout goals to provide a set of exercises), but home-based workout tech equipment is making a digitised comeback.
Peloton is a stationary cycle with a screen allowing the rider to participate in online group fitness classes personalised to their fitness goals. Combined with wearables like Fitbit (and their online subscription services) that measure athletic performance down to the variation in heart rhythms, that’s a lot of useful information.
In future, we’re likely to see things like AR (Augmented Reality) fitness apps, where you can watch yourself through your iPad front camera and react in real-time to an overlaid movement guide. Or laser-scanning x-ray tech at the gym that tallies up biometric data in an instant to tell you what machine to use and how.
On the screen and in our ears, the digital experience has become more and more personalised - just think how many services want you to sign up with a login these days. From social networks to entertainment to ecommerce, data is being harvested, stored and analysed to provide users with sights and sounds specific to their needs (or what the algorithms think they need).
Sign in to Spotify and you’ll see daily recommendations based on the time of day, your location, and your listening history down to the second. The data-driven ideology powering this is making its way into other areas like education, travel, restaurant food, clothes, even employee recruitment.
Imbellus, a recruitment tech firm, provides immersive game-like assessments in a virtual world to see how people think and overcome problems. This data-driven approach to ever-more specific personality types could provide firms with a great way to hire exactly the right person for a specific role. We’ve come a long way since Myers-Briggs type indicators.
What’s next for the digital experience? Well, there’s a lot more to come. Virtual Reality (VR) has evolved over 30 years as primarily a gaming experience. It still is, for the most part, but mainstream consumer devices like Oculus Rift are built upon recording, analysing and responding to the player’s every move. This raises privacy concerns (especially as Oculus is owned by Facebook) but has the capability of delivering intensely personalised experiences based on the user’s input. A great example of this is VR horror game Nevermind - it connects to a heart rate monitor to change the gameplay depending on how stressed the player is. Imagine how this technology could be used in a therapeutic, social or artistic context.
Almost anything else you can spend your money on will continue to be personalised, too. Clothing, jewellery, cars, medicines, therapy holidays, and more all have the chance of having data-driven, bespoke customisation options for the discerning customer. The future is an exciting place to be.