We’re Only at the Beginning of the Personalized Revolution

Personalization does not just make products stand out, it also opens up new market and revenue opportunities in the form of gifts. “The personalized gifting market has exploded and shows no sign of slowing down – even the famously divisive brand Marmite jumped on the trend a couple of years ago in time for Christmas!” Mr Gibson remarked. “Gifting opportunities give consumers more reasons to buy brands more frequently and also do the job of a ‘member get member’ strategy as brands reach new customers through gifting.”

A personal touch
Consumer expectations are evolving rapidly and the massive growth in personalised product sales shows that to keep pace brands in a variety of industries need to be thinking about how they can add a personal touch to their proposition – and as such print and packaging suppliers need to be able to respond to these demands.
“As a result of this personalisation revolution, we’ve seen the profile of our client base shift in recent years. We’re now servicing more and more B2C brands offering personalised products and gifts on-demand, and we’re also attracting more packaging and label producers who have recognised the need to deliver digital customisation and personalisation options to their clients,” according to Mr Gibson.
User experience and automation can be key to success for companies introducing personalisation to their products. Online portals need to be easy to implement and manage for the supplier and offer a self-service, engaging experience for the end user, accessible 24/7 on whatever device they choose to use.

Unique experiences, personal engagement
Across the industry, there is a growing consensus that personalisation can do far more than we have seen so far. Richard Askam was one of the key brains behind ‘Share a Coke’, having been brought into the project by Coca-Cola after pioneering personalisation in his own wine business. While many of us may feel we’ve witnessed a revolution in the industry, he suggests that the revolution has yet to get going:
“Personalisation isn’t a new phenomenon – people have been personalising products since the Dark Ages,” Mr Askam told Packaging Europe. “What is new is the ability to put it on particular substrates. ‘Share a Coke’ opened the door. But what we’ve seen so far is just the beginning. Sticking someone’s name on a product is only scratching the surface of the possibilities. Personalisation has the capacity to make a real emotional connection – something like ‘You and I have been friends for 30 years… do you remember this song we used to listen to?’ Personalised products are a device to forge a direct relationship with the consumer, one that the brand owner used to outsource to the retailer. The brands that do the most innovative things today will be the big winners.”

Imagination must catch up with technology
Another increasingly held view is that while the first manifestation of personalized products came on labels, its future may be more diverse.
“The reason labels are so prevalent in the personalization initiatives we have seen is because they’re the easiest to do,” commented Richard Askam. These are all too often seen as a commodity rather than a product. My advice to carton manufacturers is ‘stop being bought from and start selling to! Take brands with you!’
Technology has been catching up with our creative imagination – perhaps now imagination must catch up with technology. “Once the orders arrive with the printer or the converter something needs to happen to it, e.g. it needs to be imposed or the finishing needs to be set up. Every time you touch something in the production process, even if that means setting up the finishing by changing a few dials, that costs money. The software workflow is taking over now whereby when the job comes in it can assess it, see the stock, set the engine up, set the finishing up. The consumer ultimately creates the job online. Printing technology and capabilities are continuously improving, new inks are being developed, and the software that brings it all together allows a platform for innovation, solutions, and ideas to be brought to the market.”
It’s clear that for all the advances there remain huge technological and imaginative challenges in realising the potential of personalisation. 

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