What’s been the big winner of the summer in the technology world? Many who have seen people walking but not concentrating on their movement, gazing at their phone screen in the vain hope of seeing tiny fictional characters, will undoubtedly choose Pokemon Go, Nintendo and Niantic.
However, there may soon be other winners that follow on from the brand’s re-emergence as a global talking point.
That’s because Pikachu and his chums have reintroduced VR and its virtues back into our consciousness. For now, it represents a platform for the newest step in gaming, but tomorrow it could be personalised shopping – perhaps without us even moving from our front room.
According to Wired, shopping itself may soon become a customised experience where a buyer will ‘visit’ shops using a VR helmet to look at new brands, ‘trying them on’ after scanning in your body statistics. Alternatively, they’ll be given the option of visiting preferred holiday destinations, or walk around a car showroom gazing longingly at sporty models. Already tablet and mobile users are downloading furniture apps, allowing them to accurately visualise how a drawer or cabinet will appear in a given room.
The older generation might scowl at such a thought, but it’s just the latest increment in personalisation. Once we only ventured into shops that interested us, and purchased magazines knowing that the advertisements were likely to be of interest; those magazines were merely catering for an expected audience in its rawest, primitive form. Then came the websites that we wanted to visit.
Now we are immersed in personalisation, in two directions; for retailers/service providers there is a strong market in targeting the person who is most likely to be receptive to their products using the process of segmentation. Once a potential buyer is interested, how can we give the buyer the scope to take the item and make it that little bit different, for themselves or a gift recipient?
With regards to targeted marketing, the internet has given us more access to information and fulfilment of our retail needs than ever before, with an active engagement in the process. Search engine giant Google has mapped the journey of micro-moments that lead from vague research and identification of a need, to an eventual purchase and advocacy of the product. While the journey was once in one direction now it is multi-faceted, with the internet watching.
Hence the search engine suggestions we receive, the videos we watch on YouTube, our recommendations on eBay and Amazon and the articles suggested on news portals, are all based on our likes, dislikes, purchases and behaviour. Suggestions for items appear on our search page, our social media and our email inbox. The consumer is king. No longer do we look for items, instead our wishes are brought to us, packaged and pre-chosen for our delectation.
Simultaneously, work in creating personas – specific descriptions of the ‘type’ of people who will like or search for a particular service or product – and marketing relevant content is big business for brands. Tools such as Facebook Audience Insights, Google Analytics, Twitter Trends and others can help us find the content and purchases certain demographics like, and then target other, similar people.
What of the products themselves? If they don’t suit us, then we change them. We replace the picture or words, or the colour or pattern or design. There is little that can’t be modified or altered, and – most of the time – modified means enhanced, and made better. A date, a specific photograph of a glorious moment from one’s life, even a sound can be incorporated into a present. Prince George even received a personalised skateboard for his birthday.
Celebrities, of course, relish both promoting and using their personalised brands. As well as the numerous items under the Kardashian umbrella, Kim was spotted earlier this year in a leather jacket adorned with images of her own face. Hip hop stars love nothing more than riding in their own distinctive, modified wheels, while wearing their own branded clothes.
Footballers’ shirts and boots (even celebrity versions) have their names, brands, colour designs, dates, and other intricacies ingrained in their ‘look’. Nowadays the modern footballer is a brand, and for evidence look at the unusual method used to announce the arrival of £90m midfielder Paul Pogba at Manchester United, heralded by grime artist Stormzy and sponsors Adidas. Other sports have followed suit. We’re familiar with personalised golf wear – some players also have the clubs, towels, and even balls personalised too. Boxers, tennis players, athletes and basketball stars are essentially giant walking adverts for themselves.
And so are we. While once our hairstyle and clothing were enough of an indicator of us as people, now personalised apparel and jewellery are big businesses. The tattoo industry, perhaps experiencing a revolution of its own, is worth $2.3 billion a year in the US alone. We can create our own perfume, our own shoes, and our own logo. In personalised gifting, for anyone of any age, a distinct and unique present is available. From toys to wine bottles, and from pictures or prints to mug, there is a perfect fit.
So we now can personalise anything we want, while simultaneously being channeled towards the kind of items that we would want. There are pros and cons of these modern methods of engaging potential customers, and many hinge upon the psychology of the target. For example, in 2014 fashion brand Burberry gave fragrance fans the chance to have initials carved on a 90ml My Burberry bottle for free as part of a bespoke monogramming service.
Additionally, shoppers passing through Piccadilly Circus in London and districts of New York could actually see their design appear on the big screens, should they give permission through their smartphone. This was generally received well, but a further feature – a partnership with Channel 4 to create personalised ads for registered 4oD desktop viewers – received mixed reviews. Some people liked the idea, others were terrified – it felt too personal, too intrusive, and bordering on invasive.
At this period in time we are becoming so familiar with targeted, connected advertising that it is no longer a novelty. Much of it is going on without us even knowing. For Super Bowl Sunday Coca Cola created huge numbers of adverts which are then broadcast or displayed to different segments of their audience, depending on the visitors’ interests, when they visit. And of course, Coca-Cola knows the value of letting fans create their own experience – its Share a Coke story was one of the most popular marketing campaigns of all time.
Beacon marketing targets people in specific locations, and the link between offline and online behaviour is becoming more blurred by the year. We know what we want, and when we want it, and we are transmitting that through our choices.
The future is probably more of the same, and that isn’t a bad thing. Why would companies want to advertise with a scattergun approach like a local newspaper, when they can specifically instantly find a more receptive audience? Why would they not want to offer a total customer experience, if it is viable, where that customer can make adjustments to change a good gift to a perfect one? And will more shopping brands now follow Pokemon Go’s lead, and embrace VR and augmented reality? For the consumer, it’s an interesting future – one that we can literally make ourselves.