I Want It That Way

By: Rachel Wozniak

Brands like Spotify, Nike, Brooks Brothers and Chipotle have one essential thing in common – they are made-to-order. In a generation where technology can decipher users’ exact personalities, likes, dislikes and habits, consumers are no longer satisfied with “one-size fits all” products. The obsession with hyper-personalization has grown rapidly from its origins, entering a space where customization is no longer a perk, but a requirement. Before true customization, companies were giving consumer options that allowed them to minimally customize existing products.

As Apple is often seen as the leader in innovation, it is no surprise that their iPod Mini was one of the first products in this space. The ability to choose the color and add an engraving quickly differentiated this MP3 player and created a large, diverse market. Mars also broke into the personalization space early when they started allowing consumers to create their own custom M&Ms. Beyond personalized messaging, companies soon began giving users even more freedom towards full personalization. NIKEiD made it possible for consumers to customize every aspect of their sneakers and Brooks Brothers even has the option for men to completely design their own suits, from lining to lapel. Soon brands such as Chipotle, that based their entire customer experience on a hyper-personalized product, began to pop up. Consumers may not always know exactly what they want, but they do know that they want it their way.


Personalized Music Evolution

Even the music industry has begun to allow personalization. It started with programs such as Napster and LimeWire that allowed users to search and download almost any song onto their computers. No longer being tied to the purchase of an entire album, it allowed consumers to listen to a wider variety of music. This space soon transformed from one of illegal and questionable activity to a legitimate digital realm where users could listen to customized stations without ever actually downloading a song – enter Pandora. Pandora allows users to create stations from any artist, song or genre, which can further be fine-tuned by “liking” or “disliking” songs. As revolutionary as they were, technologies such as Pandora have been outshined by new music evolutions such as Spotify. With Spotify, users can choose almost any song, and listen to it on demand, while also being offered suggestions based on listening history, preferences and even what their friends are listening to. Users are no longer accepting the confinements of a radio station or a physical album, they want to listen to what they want, when they want, and they will become frustrated when it isn’t possible.


Going Social

The obsession with technology, social media and digital interaction, has moved customization into a space where consumers can share their creations digitally and more importantly, immediately. Snack brands, music technology and social outlets alike allow consumers to truly share their customization! Lays chips created their “Do Us a Flavor” campaign, where users could create any combination of flavors and textures and share these flavors for others to vote on. On Spotify, users can share their custom playlists with their friends or with the entire Spotify community. Even Instagram is proof that people love to show off their own personalized work, making a custom photo using filter and adjustment choices.

In a study done by Bain & Company, only 10% of online consumers had actually purchased a customized product, while between 25%-30% expressed interest in a customized product, showing a massive opportunity for perfecting and marketing to these potential customers. Consumers have a much stronger loyalty to brands that give them the ability to have a hand in the creation of their product. Through insights, we can discover consumers’ explicit and unarticulated needs, but its what we do with those needs that matters. Companies need to use insights to understand how to interact and collaborate with each individual consumer in order to establish continued loyalty and longevity.


Rachel is a Senior Associate at 113 Industries, specializing in Consumer Insights and Spanish-language analysis. She is also an online shopping extraordinaire, Lion King enthusiast and can be spotted running around the City of Bridges.