“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” These are the words of American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead. It is unlikely that Mead was proffering this insight for the benefit of retailers in 2018, but nevertheless, ‘personalisation’, treating each consumer as an individual, is the future of retail.
This is not a revelation. According to customer relationship management platform Salesforce’s latest ‘State of the Connected Customer’ report, 66% of the more than 7,000 consumers and business buyers surveyed globally said they were more likely to switch brands if they felt they were being treated like a number rather than an individual.
Amazon uses algorithms to personalise your homepage, making product recommendations based on your purchase history, while Netflix uses similar technology to inform its film and TV recommendations. Less agile retailers are still struggling to catch up, but for industry leaders like Amazon, homepage personalisation is old hat. Amazon’s augmented reality AR View app allows consumers to visualise products available on its site in their own homes. IKEA has a similar app, Place, which allows users to place virtual scale models of IKEA furniture in their own homes. Amazon also recently received a patent for an on-demand apparel manufacturing system that could rapidly fulfil orders for bespoke garments.
But personalisation doesn’t have to be restricted to the digital sphere. The Chapar and Enclothed are two examples of online clothing retailers that have created a differentiated and individual shopping experience: consumers input their preferences online, a stylist then chooses items based on those preferences, the items are delivered, consumers try on the items, keep and pay for those they like and request the unwanted items are collected by the retailer. As the customer buys and rejects, their preferences and personality are stored and built upon.
Leading sports brands such as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour have moved heavily into on-demand, personalised products. Market leader Nike’s NIKEiD has allowed consumers to design their own trainers since its launch in 2007, with the option of adding a personal message with Personalized iD (PiD). Now Nike has taken personalisation to a whole new level with the Nike iD Direct Studio at its Niketown store in London. Thanks to augmented video-mapping technology, consumers can visit the NikeiD configurator booth and design their own pair of Nike Air Force 1s using an iPad, which is then sent to the NikeiD factory to be manufactured. Adidas has its Speedfactory concept. In Ansbach, Bavaria and Atlanta, Georgia it has hi-tech factories with small, highly-skilled human workforces where technology allows the production of more than one million pairs of trainers per year. “What’s more, thanks to robotic flexibility, there’s the possibility that every single one could be tailored to taste and fit,” writes Rowland Manthorpe for Wired. Under Armour’s Lighthouse design and manufacturing centre also creates custom footwear and apparel.
ShopBot is a chatbot created by e-commerce site eBay and accessible through Facebook Messenger that not only recommends products based on previous purchases but also records consumers’ favourite brands and clothing sizes to simplify the checkout process. Last year eBay reconfirmed its commitment to personalisation, teaming up with online art gallery Saatchi Art to create The Art of Shopping, a personalised shopping experience. Before entering an art gallery, guests were kitted out with electroencephalogram (EEG) headsets, designed to monitor brain activity. The headsets were able to calculate when the wearers were inspired by a piece of art. Each guest was then presented with a personalised shopping list.
Jeans manufacturer Levi’s has launched its own chatbot, available both on Facebook Messenger and on Levi’s website. Virtual Stylist is designed to make sure consumers find the perfect pair of jeans.
Stores are beginning to personalise the customer shopping experience through smart technology. ShelfPoint is a digital shelf display fitted with an optical sensor and emotion scanning AI that is able to detect consumers’ demographic data and emotional responses and present product messaging and promotional content targeted to individual consumers. Tulip Retail, meanwhile, is a mobile app designed to help in-store sales staff personalise consumers’ shopping experience by having the details and stories of all products on a hand-held iPad. Its client list includes Bonobus, Coach, Kate Spade, Michael Kors and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Last year, online fashion platform Farfetch announced plans for its Store of the Future, which will utilise technology including virtual reality and emotion scanning software to personalise the shopping experience. The Store of the Future concept will be introduced in Browns and Thom Browne stores soon. “The next stage in the evolution of the fashion industry is the connected store, which uses technology to enhance the luxury retail experience to become even more customer centric,” said the brand’s founder, José Neves, speaking at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference.
From connected stores, to fast-turnaround uniquely designed goods, retail is quickly becoming all about the personalised experience.
This story is designed to throw an everyday lens on some of the issues being discussed and debated by investors across the world; it is not research, so please do not interpret it as a recommendation for your personal investments. However, if something has piqued your interest and you would like to find out more or discuss what investments might be suitable for you, please contact one of our Investment Managers on 020 7337 0777.