Personalisation comes at a cost, as yet uncounted

There is always another side to the breezy optimism with which the media and tech companies talk about the bright future where every single customer will have their journey personalised from communication and device, through channel mix, all the way to delivery and returns. And that’s without adding customisation of the actual product which we are seeing increasingly with monograms and colour combinations.

Spare a thought for the poor retailer and brand that has got behind this drive to personalisation based on the argument that, if you give people exactly what want, they will spend more with you and more often. There is research to support the view that relationships build to loyalty but what I have yet to see is research that shows an explicit link between personalisation and loyalty as it relates to profit.

Put another way, I am fiercely loyal to certain brands who invest heavily in selling to me but how valuable am actually to them and do I exploit every single promotion available. Answer to that last one of course is, of course I do.

Serving the spoiled and needy is expensive

Add to this paucity of data on the value of personalisation the fact that giving customers exactly what they want can be be linked to the rise of cohorts that are so indulged by brands that they have become spoiled and needy. Naturally these two words are judgemental rather than objective but consider the recent news from Pret a Manger which has had to change its ranges in response to complaints from subscription customers that certain premium drinks are now available as part of a very generous package that allows them five hot drinks a day every day for a month for just £25.

Pret has even had to close its vegan-only restaurants due to a lack of traffic and the fact that it offers many vegan and veggie options in its other restaurants. All credit to Pret for experimenting to cater for alternative diets and caffeine addicts but what this must have cost to fail must have been significant.

Let them eat virtual cake

The aim therefore for brands must be to give the appearance of giving you exactly what you want, as long as there are 1,000 other people basically getting the same thing. You might argue that this is exactly what brands have always done and you’d be right; my worry is that the continued drive to personalisation, while it is perfectly possible to deliver it simply by analysing the data, demands very costly logistics, and some brands may soon find that they cannot make a profit.

Meanwhile, the consumer’s self-obsession will continue to be pandered to by brands, which is why I feel NFTs are so popular. They are unique to each buyer (well not really but please don’t tell the emperor he is naked), cost nothing to develop and nothing to deliver and you can’t return them. It is the perfect conspiracy of fakery because everyone has bought into it. As to whether it will last is anyone’s guess, although I can predict that the Metaverse will only make things worse.

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