CES 2018: Product personalisation


CES 2018: Product personalisation

Rafe Blandford

Product personalisation has long been a trend to watch at CES - never more so than this year. Rafe Blandford, Strategy Director at Digitas, outlines why you need to know about it.

What’s happening?

Mass production, assembly lines, and standardised products have been the keystones for the creation of physical consumer products for the last 70 years. However, on the back of the rise of digital products in the last 15 years, there has also been an ever-increasing emphasis on personalisation. Coca-cola, with their “Share a Coke” personalised labels, and Nike, with its NikeID personalised show service, have both demonstrated how personalisation can be brought alive for physical products. However, the question remains – how far can actual product personalisation be achieved in the physical, rather than the virtual world?

Multiple examples we saw at CES this year suggest that there is continued demand towards making just what you need just when you need it (preferably at home) — and that it is becoming increasingly sophisticated, with the creation of very specific products for the individual.

French startup Romy showed its personalised cosmetics maker, which uses three small capsules of your choice to make a single dose of product each time you need it. The accompanying app not only controls the manufacturing process, it will also make recommendations for the best skincare treatment based on environmental conditions and the activities you have been undertaking. The formulating machine costs just over £700 and Romy estimates £150 a month for typical use, reflecting the premium nature of the product. 

A similar product was B2B Cosmetics’ award-winning Emuage machine, which combines two or three organic components of your choice with water to produce 30ml batches of personalised skin care product. There are currently 40 ingredient pods available for Emuage, allowing for up to 100,000 different combinations.

Also on display was the Nota Nota perfume producer, which uses cartridges of different fragrance components to allow you to compose your own blend on your smartphone and generate 5ml of personalised scent at a time. The company emphasised the social element of the accounting app, one that allows users to share their scent creations and follow their favourite “producers”. Nota Nota described this as radical shift from the seasonal perfume trends being dictated by big brands.

LifeFuels enhancement of the mundane water bottle was attracting a lot of attention at CES. It uses plug-in “fuelpods” that contain your choice of additives (including fruit flavours, vitamins and salts) to create a beverage that is unique to you. Each £110 bottle can hold three pods, enabling the creation of 45 different drinks on the go.

Further examples of product personalisation on display at CES included O’2Nails mobile nail printer, Nuraphones’ sound profile headphones, Formlabs’ Phoenix In-Ear Scanner for creating custom earbuds, and Bartesian custom cocktail maker.  

Why does it matter for marketers?

This is a trend that’s not going away. We’ve witnessed strong growth in this sector over several years at CES. Savvy marketers always need to respond to consumer demand. Even more savvy marketers should be ahead of the curve. If brands want to succeed in the modern world, they need to consider how they can be more personal. This trend offers a great opportunity to develop a closeness with consumers which in turn will result in a better customer experience and improved engagement levels. 

What are the implications for the future? 

We think the products showcased at CES are a taster of a groundswell of distributed manufacturing, other aspects of which were also in evidence in the form of flexible manufacturing robots and increasingly sophisticated 3D printers.

And while not everyone will want machines in their homes to make things, the same technologies will undoubtedly be deployed to deliver personalised products on demand to many customers at or below the cost of mass-produced products today.

No brand — not even a pure service brand — can afford to ignore the change in customer expectations that this will bring.

Rafe Blandford

Rafe Blandford

Chief Product Officer

As Chief Product Officer at Digitas, Rafe leads a blended team of strategy, creative and technology experts, leveraging his extensive mobile knowledge and working with the agency’s clients to help develop mobile strategies and creative solutions.

Prior to joining Digitas in 2014, Rafe was an independent mobile consultant, advising brands including Nokia, Orange and Ericsson on their business strategies. 

Rafe is co-host of mobile technology podcast 361 Degrees, and the founder and editor of the All About Windows Phone and All About Symbian sites, which have a combined reach of more than a million.


CES 2018: Unattended retail