Personalisation jumps out of browser into the real world

Disney personalised dollIt seems we’ve finally come out of the era when a personalised digital experience meant your face being virtually repurposed into all manner of unlikely scenes, whether that was in Intel’s Museum, 50 Cent’s living room, or on the computer screen of the shadiest of shady psychopaths.

In the not too distant past, a personalised experience online often meant a Facebook Connect experience. These few examples were the cream of the crop and delivered some impressive results (in terms of reach and engagement) in their own right. But this ship has surely sailed, even if some brands don’t think so. These kinds of experiences can only ever be fads, one-off novelty hits, hard to repeat for the brands that did them well and any others who wish to imitate. Now digital personalisation is starting to mean something much more powerful for the brands that use it well and more useful for their customers.

Personalisation in the digital space has jumped out of the web browser and into the real world. The L’Oreal smart vending machine recently in a New York subway station scanned the dominant colours in a user’s outfit and suggests the right makeup for them, which is then sold and dispensed on the spot. Last year, experts in the Internet of Things, EVRYTHNG, helped Diageo to personalise whisky bottles that sons gave to their Dads on Father’s Day. A video message was electronically ‘attached’ to the bottle which the Dad then viewed upon receiving it, if they could work out how to use their mobile to make the magic happen.

At the extreme end of the spectrum, the ever-innovative Disney are now selling personalised dolls (pictured), allowing young girls (or boys of course) to be a princess in toy form. These last two examples show how technology allows personalisation to be executed at varying levels of complexity; 3D printing introduces the possibility of actually physically creating one-off items but virtual tagging coupled with smartphone scanning provides the appealing option of attaching any manner of personalisation to an object without having to change it.

We should expect to see more of these types of personalised experiences in 2014 and I think it’s a smart move for many brands. These examples are powerful, unlike the novelty personalised online experiences of the past.

This new personalisation is fundamentally linked to the product and ultimately provides a reason to purchase it. In addition to advertisers playing in this space, we’re also seeing start-ups emerge who take this idea even further, with a core offering fundamentally based on the personal experience. Dressipi allows its users to select their body shape and fashion preferences and then scours the web to find clothes that are right for them, while Commodity is looking to disrupt the fragrance world with their concept based on selecting and sampling the right fragrances for your skin before deciding which to buy. Personalisation is a powerful enough tool for these businesses to shake up their sectors, and I’ll be eagerly keeping an eye out for others looking to use personalisation to do the same in their industries in 2014.

Sam Battams is Innovation Director at Vizeum.