Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett
Selfie Action Figures Created on 3D Printers:
"Any color so long as it is black," pronounced Henry Ford about his one-size-fits-all Ford automobiles. Now, 113 years later, technology offers more ways than ever to personalize or customize products and services to meet individual needs.
"Personalization is the act of tailoring an experience or communication based on information a company has learned about an individual," according to Salesforce.com. The vendor takes the lead and "modifies the experience." When personalizing, vendors show they care about their customers. In fact, many customers expect personalization, for instance to listen to their favorite music. Businesses expect personalized services, as well, such as wheat ranchers when applying for agricultural loans and small tech companies when applying for working capital.
In contrast, customization allows customers to configure a product based on their specifications, such as suits made to a customer’s measurements. Now Hasbro and Formlabs (Somerville, MA) are partnering to create the Hasbro Selfie Series of 3D printed action figures that resemble specific people! Here the customer "modifies the experience."
Personalization and customization require detailed customer information acquired from email opens and clicks, website visits, and also in-store or chat conversations. Past purchases and content accessed and read or viewed are among other information sources that companies use. The New York Times online now offers Story Portrait, a list of the stories a reader has downloaded, color-coded by category of story.
For companies with products or services that lend themselves to individualization, personalization done well can forge deeper bonds with a company’s target market. It also helps customers find what they need or even solves their problems. However, vendors must also have the time, the skill, and the resources to be able to provide more individualized services without sacrificing profits.
Vendors should not harass customers with personalized messages the customers don’t want. Who wants birthday greetings from their dentist? And, vendors should be respectful of customers’ desire for privacy. Target notoriously sent emails with pictures of baby products to women they assumed were pregnant based on the women’s previous Target purchases. That is how a furious father learned of his teenage daughter’s extra-curricular activities.
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Henry Ford’s "comment during a meeting in 1909." (Henry Ford in collaboration with Samuel Crowther in My Life and Work. 1922. Page 72).
Personalization Defined: What is Personalization? - Salesforce.com
"Hasbro partners with local 3-d printing startup," Boston Globe, 7/13/22.
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