The Personalisation Experience: changing the dynamic
Next week’s FESPA’s new exhibition, the Personalisation Experience, will showcase the untapped potential of print personalisation.
The importance of personalisation in the future of the print industry cannot be underestimated. Digital printing has shown that print runs of one are commercially viable, and consumers expect and demand more choice. The mass production of the early 20th century completely changed the industry, with thousands of identical Ford Model Ts to choose from – “as long as it’s black”. The trend towards personalisation turns production lines back towards individually made products, created “just in time” and offers customers the opportunity to self-brand and make stronger emotional connections to a brand.
In a world where the young people of Generation Z and Generation Alpha, the social media natives, are demanding authenticity and emotional value, why aren’t more of our products personalised already? The Personalisation Experience, held at the FESPA Global Print Expo 2023 in Munich next week, will assemble stakeholders from across the value chain to showcase the potential of personalisation, share knowledge and experiences, create excitement, and network with those who can help grow business.
What exactly is the Personalisation Experience? It’s a 360-degree view of personalisation: a conference, an exhibition and an experiential showcase. Attendees can walk through the personalisation process all the way from the formulation of a product and the point of order, to the customer receiving it.
What is personalisation in print?
Even those in the industry find it hard to define exactly what personalisation is, as it covers so many sectors: A brand name on a coffee mug? A name on a chocolate bar? Your favourite song lyrics on a T-shirt? Or a T-shirt that fits you perfectly from a body scan? A car ergonomically designed for your maximum comfort, with every detail of the interior chosen by the customer?
What seems to link all these possible applications is emotion. We are all seeking a personal, emotional connection and want to be recognised: it is human nature. Personalisation elevates products from the norm, attaches longer-lasting loyal relationships to brands and allows customers to reflect their individuality and separate themselves from the masses. We all seek uniqueness in a noisy world where we can be drowned out by our noisy peers on social media.
Are we still stuck at “Personalisation 1.0”? Is personalisation limited to gifts and novelty items? Where will the next big thing come from?
A famous example of personalisaiton is the Share A Coke campaign, which was launched in Australia in 2011, where the top 150 most popular names were printed on to individual bottles. This attempted to reflect individual choice and spark shared moments of pleasure. People bought Cokes with their name on not for the drink itself but for the joy of sharing an experience – so surely there is ample potential to grow brands to unprecedented heights, beyond their original use. But are we still stuck at “Personalisation 1.0”? We are all familiar with the most popular examples of personalisation: photobooks and greetings cards. But is personalisation limited to these gifts and novelty items? Or to marketing emails and utility bills? Where will the next big thing come from?
The way personalisation can encapsulate people’s memories surely means there are greater heights to scale and benefits to explore in a more meaningful way. The cost-of-living crisis means lower disposable incomes and businesses competing harder for customer money – so meaningful engagement is going to be more important for brands.
Trying to create something unique for the customer brings value to the product, raises profit margins and brand loyalty and is more sustainable – customers are more likely to keep and reuse a product that means more to them. The industry’s ability to configure bespoke products in interior décor, garments, software and consumer goods (packaging, food delivery) is already there and ready to go, waiting to be used to its fullest potential. And an increasing number of FESPA stakeholders have been spotting the opportunities and flowing into the personalisation space.
COVID-19 may well have delayed the progress of personalisation, but the pandemic also caused brands to take a shorter route and make direct contact with housebound consumers. Perhaps a lack of education or awareness on the part of the consumer of the plentiful opportunities of personalisation have not yet been leveraged to their full potential? Or brands themselves are missing the opportunities? All these questions and more will be addressed at the Personalisation Experience.
Sales and marketing have been front runners in personalisation with targeted email campaigns – often cold-calling leads, they are trying to start a conversation: their communications are friendly, create a connection and establish a relationship. In social media everything is personalised, and users are effectively self-branding customised content providers. When we look for a novel on Amazon, we are offered personalised suggestions about the next book we should buy. Personalisation services are common already – but productising them more effectively should be the next step.
The entire value chain, from creatives and printers to manufacturers and suppliers, will gather in Munich to show what is possible in personalisation now and in the future
Marketers have spent years gathering customer data – through loyalty cards, competitions, marketing campaigns – and now it’s time to use that knowledge to create more accurate and exciting personalised products for their customers.
FESPA is attempting to connect these dots at the Personalisation Experience, where the entire value chain, from creatives and printers to manufacturers and suppliers, will gather to show what is possible now and in the future: to illuminate, inspire and demystify personalisation.
Beyond names and addresses
What needs to be discussed throughout the value chain? There are problems with personalisation. Has the industry really progressed since Share A Coke? Personalising products with names seems like a good place to start the conversation, but what truly new products have entered the market since then?
Also, how much do customers really want to customise their products? To an extent, with interior décor or graphics, wouldn’t they rather rely on the taste-makers and design creatives who know what they’re doing? Perhaps, as with bespoke greetings cards, they want to “tweak” rather than create from scratch?
And to what extent can businesses scale up their personalisation enterprises away from gift products? How should they streamline systems and workflow to adjust to personalisation?
There are also new consumers to consider. It is clear that young people, who curate their memories and desires online every day, who want to be seen, are key movers in making personalisation the fabric of all our lives. But what do these young people want? There is already sign of burnout in the amount of “teachable moments” brands are foisting on consumers – perhaps a return to emotional connection and pleasure will chime with young people’s life experiences.
It seems that the print industry is waiting for the next big idea – something that will hopefully be generated at FESPA’s Personalisation Experience. Speakers include industry experts and leading innovators from Printful, Canon, Moonpig and Agfa who will present case studies, data and strategies and shine a light on new technologies. To join us, click the link below.
The Personalisation Experience will bring together 3,500 stakeholders from retailers, brands, agencies to printers and fulfilment houses, connecting them with software providers and OEMs to explore the potential of personalisation in sportswear, packaging, product, loyalty and custom interiors from 23 to 26 May. For more information, see personalisationexperience.com
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