- Technology is playing a key role in the success of personalization, helping businesses find out what makes each client unique and different.
- But simply personalizing products is not enough; to reach higher levels of success, a business must personalize the experience a client has.
- Providing personalized experiences can lead to new business opportunities, as well as new challenges.
Personalization and mass customization are prevalent in retailing. With improved production technology and the support of big data, many companies adopt personalization as a way to boost sales. To customers, more products are uniquely available to them as a person for a particular moment.
Most companies that offer personalized products allow customers to put their names, anniversary dates, and messages on a product. However, personalization should go much further; after all, people are more than names and numbers.
When GREAT WINE, Inc. was founded in 2015, the management team unanimously decided that it will be a company which respects personalization. Like other businesses, GREAT WINE also puts company names and messages on packaging. However, it goes one-step ahead of its counterparts: it offers wines of personalized taste. As the CEO of the company, I would like to share my views on where personalization as a business trend is going. More importantly, I would like to talk about how personalization as a business tactic can destabilize what we think about consumer goods.
Finding Clients’ Unique Taste
The first question we should ask is how personalization can potentially disturb the consumers’ market now. Adding names, messages, and dates on a product are not new. Where is the virgin land then? In the future, the technology adopted in product making is something no business can ignore. In this regard, technology does not only make a product, but it also creates an environment in which symbiotic parts of the market will thrive together to create higher product demand and supply. In other words, we should not only think about technology for production; we should also explore technology for market segment creation.
Besides adopting groundbreaking technology in winemaking, GREAT WINE also collaborates with myVinotype—a smart wine recommendation platform for wine-related businesses and connoisseurs to learn more about clients’ wine preferences. All features of the platform are supported by data analytics to be more personalized and client-oriented.
For many businesses like us, personalization is more than putting personalized elements such as names and anniversary dates on a template product. The new trend of personalization should push us to think beyond how clients would interact with a product. Only by doing so can personalization become a two-way street.
From Product to Experience
If clients are starting to interact with a product, then client experience becomes the next target area of every business. While experience can arbitrarily happen among people at any time, business-minded professionals should ask the key question of how businesses and advocates of personalization can build a cradle for unique experiences to happen. To frame the question another way: can businesses create the environment necessary for experiences to take place?
In the wine industry, clients do not only need wines that speak to their palate; clients are also eager to learn more about wine and themselves in a stress-free setting. Tastings that immerse into complex languages may not be for all clients. GREAT WINE then opened its first tasting room in the Seattle Metro Area in 2016, which serves as a private space where clients can talk about wine freely. Every client works very closely with wine specialists to uncover their preferences or needs.
Many critics would say personalization does not work anymore. Instead of asking why personalization does not work, I instead ask how we can make personalization work by providing both the right products and the right environment. I encourage my counterparts to think along the same line.
Shared Knowledge, Shared Experience
If personalization is not only about name and numbers on a product, then personalization should become an experience. And an experience will gain higher value when it's shared. Business-minded people of the previous generation may call this “word-of-mouth,” but then the question becomes what in an experience can encourage clients to share it. Can a retailer elevate buying and trying out products to be the most enjoyable times, when clients are creating new self-knowledge by sharing their views with friends and families?
In GREAT WINE's experience, business growth comes when we empower clients. They want to share their experiences with their family, friends, and business partners. Gradually, we invite clients to come to our tasting room for the total experience because this also gives us a chance to talk about the ideas behind our wine labels. We discover that clients introduce business partners to us because they would like to share their enjoyable moments with others. For example, we have a client who runs a construction company. That client eventually introduced us to his business partners who are investors and brokers in the same industry.
Clients are not paying for products; they are casting a vote of trust in the quality of the product in exchange for knowledge and a great experience. Then, the fun part about retailing is sharing, not treating the business world as a closed sphere.
Challenges and Opportunities
GREAT WINE, just like all other businesses, is in fierce competition with well-established brands. A marketing team of the future has to build a brand which would successfully create a loyal client-base, by managing multiple channels dynamically to communicate with clients. We believe that this is hugely different from reading a wine book because people come together and participate in knowledge-making together.
The GREAT WINE team hopes that unveiling the traditions and innovations of Californian winemaking will contribute to active business and cultural exchanges between the U.S. and other countries. This is perhaps most eloquently stated in the fact that our wines are embedded with delicate flavors of teas such as pu-erh and jasmine, long-time “personalized” favorites of Asian connoisseurs.
In both the USA and China, we are also exploring the possibility of applying VR/AR to wine experiences. We hope that this would give our clients a more realistic experience of aroma, palate, and vision. Again, these endeavors will bring the personalization industry to another level—from product to experience. We hope more retailers will join us on our way to another stage of personalization business.