“One Size Never Fits all. One Size Fits One. Period”, said Tom Peters.
Years ago, almost everything was custom-made, right from clothes, shoes, watches, perfume to food, homes, tools, medicine and education. Artisans, craftsmen, handymen and specialists with specific expertise had to sharpen their saws continuously and take on greater challenges periodically. Their drive towards excellence helped the humankind reach new heights, create pieces of history and inspire the posterity to raise the bar.
Not ‘either or’ … we need both at the same time
Over a period of time, thinkers and entrepreneurs started automation to mass-produce items at low costs, high volumes in significantly less time and great standardization. As population increased and socio-economic conditions got better, demand for products and services have risen. The automation world has been serving the ground realities well.
It will continue to do the same for decades ahead in certain parts of the world, especially the developing economies. Artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality and many such advances in science are going to uphold the values of mass production. We will continue to see products and services in standard sizes with predefined features being made available to customers cost-effectively in a reliable manner. The demand for standard sizes and features with value for money will continue.
At the same time, the well-to-do and the connoisseurs want personalization because they have specific needs which may not be matching perfectly with the offerings off-the-shelf. They can afford the cost of custom-making the product for them and are willing to wait for a reasonable time to avail the product. Sometimes, their need is driven by their desire to stand out in a crowd. There is a need of tailor-making a product or service, may it be footwear, watch, clothes, food, items of personal use or services such as security, healthcare, hospitality, media, entertainment or education. Everything is getting personalized.
Opportunity for Enterprises
The world is changing continuously across socio-economic milieu. Every market is experiencing the change. The quantum of change could be different, but the direction is the same. Enterprises need to see those for themselves and evolve.
Multi-national companies believed in copy-paste approach. Global leaders in cars, watches, computers, phones, cameras, medicines to food, beverages, supply chain, retail, education and healthcare have learnt the hard way about the need of localizing their business keeping in mind the preferences of the market, cultural orientation of their stakeholders and sometimes brass tacks like climatic conditions.
Easier said than done, to identify what to drop, what to add and what to change. The leadership team often being away from the ground finds it hard to fathom the reality and estimate the real opportunity. Organizations and their leaders know that they have to localize some of their offerings and prepare well to cater to the needs of a segment of the market looking for tailor-made products and services. Their market insight, agility and sensitivity determines their success.
Done well, stakeholder returns are high
We have enough examples of brands having been able to do well and some having bungled it up. Brands like Nokia, Kodak, IBM were market leaders in certain categories; they had to transform themselves significantly to remain relevant. Hence, it is important to choose the right market and product category to deploy the strategy of personalization.
The returns are high because one could realize higher profits for each unit of revenue, and build strong brand recall leading to high referrals and repeat sales. Further, the company gets more intimate with the customer and can keep on innovating better than its peers, thus putting itself on the path of a virtuous cycle.
There are challenges, though! For every attempt of offering personalized services like the age-old days, it is human-intensive. At each moment of truth, the passion to serve and excel has to be experienced by the customer. The brand promise needs to be delivered primarily by the person offering the service or the product. The packaging, the ambiance of the store, online presence and so on become secondary. The organization needs to develop a strong culture, hire right, invest energy in developing the human resources and sharpening their capabilities on an ongoing basis; above all, retain its best resources.
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