12 December 2016   

10 min read
Fashion is one of the greatest forms of personal expression so it’s no surprise that personalisation in fashion product and service is one of this year’s biggest retail trends. Retailers worldwide are taking a more personal approach to differentiate themselves from their competitors and create an immersive shopping experience where customers can explore, connect and personalise the brands they love.

While luxury and aspirational brands have always championed personalisation, mass personalisation is on the rise for fashion brands that want to focus on the creativity and experience of the brand as customers increasingly dictate what they want and where they want it. 

According to recent research from the Australian Consumer Retail and Services Research Unit (ACRS) at Monash Business School, personalisation appeals to customers because it allows them to play and experiment with products. 

In Australia we’re seeing the rise of personalisation of both product and service as retailers and brands adapt to give customers a more individual experience.

Personalisation of Service 

More and more customers want retailers to provide curated lifestyle experiences. Enter David Jones and its new signature boutique store, which recently opened in Sydney’s Barangaroo, with a second store to follow in Brisbane early next year. 

The small format stores – one-tenth the size of its average department store – house an edited range of bespoke fashion, beauty and accessories tailored to the local demographic. The new stores have personal shopping and suit fitting services, shop by appointment and bookable beauty services that are designed to appeal to high-end shoppers. Customers also have access to the department store’s full collections via its Click & Collect service. 

This dynamic David Jones format enables them to deliver an innovative store experience in a smaller footprint, with a customised fashion and beauty offering and specialised services. 

Likewise, Target at Wetherill Park is one of Target’s next generation stores designed to enhance the shopper’s experience and make customers stay longer. Target’s app, which was introduced last year and was immediately embraced by customers, integrates with its new Click & Collect service. The T-shirt printing station allows customers to bring their own designs to life and the clothing alteration service allows customers to personalise items off the shelf. 

A children’s play area and parents’ room and modern fitting rooms are all designed to make shopping a more personal experience.

Personalisation of Product 

The personalisation of product taps into the customer’s desire to connect with the things they buy and make them their own. According to ACRS, personalising products sometimes requires very little mental and physical effort from the customer and sometimes it requires more involvement and the personalisation is more flexible. 

An example of low effort personalisation is Muji’s flagship store in New York, which allows customers to engage at different touch points such as using existing scents and combining them to make a personalised scent for an aroma diffuser. Or, Gucci’s DIY station, that allows customers to personalise handbags with pre-made embroidered patches. 

On the other hand, retailers such as Converse allow customers to create their shoes with a dedicated designer, which demands high involvement from the customer. 

The mass customisation trend plays to consumers’ desire for instant gratification from fast fashion, while also demanding custom design products. It also extends the promise of clothing that’s perfectly designed to fit the individual, at price points that are accessible to consumers unable to afford traditional bespoke clothing.

Integration with Technology 

In Australia we’re also seeing brands using technology and personalisation to immerse customers in new retail experiences and retail spaces. The benefit for retailers is that social media and digital platforms allow customers to advocate and promote a personalised brand to their friends. 

Tapping into the male aversion to shopping, Australia’s Kent & Lime takes the hassle out of shopping with its smart retail model that combines data-driven technology and human interaction to make shopping simple for men. Shoppers complete a style profile and talk to a stylist, who curates a personalised wardrobe based on your budget and style. The box of clothing is delivered to your door and you keep what you want and send back what you don’t. 

Last year, Melbourne-based niche concept store Dust offered customers ten T-shirt designs that were uploaded to Instagram over ten days and printed and delivered to customers in store. 

habbot allows customers to build their shoes from the ground up, using its signature brogue as the template for an individual product. With #myhabbot, customers can choose from 14 leathers, as well as finishes and laces. 

A-ESQUE has introduced the Initials Bureau, a lettering service to personalise bags and wallets with a customer’s initials. 

Other brands venturing into customisation include Mimco, which employs an embosser at its new Chadstone store and menswear brand Peter Jackson, which just introduced a made-to-measure suit program. 

Uniqlo is the first retail brand in Australia to experiment with neural technology to bring a new shopping experience to its customers. In Sydney, Uniqlo launched wearable technology to track the brain activity of customers while they watch a series of short videos and images and then match their mood to one of 600 T-shirt designs. 

In England, Unmade creates bespoke knitwear and encourages its customers to ‘unmake’ the designs by altering them online. Unmade have a zero stock approach to retail and only produce garments when a customer creates and buys it online, which means zero wastage. 

Another new beauty app called Slapp launched in September this year matches beauty products to your skin tone to speed up the process of online makeup shopping. Users take a selfie before being presented with suitable products that are available to be purchased through the app, which offers same-day delivery. 

The personalisation trend is also filtering down to children’s clothes. Launched in America in August 2016, Picture This Clothing gives children the chance to ‘wear their imagination’ on their clothes. Parents download a template, ask their child to colour it in and upload it the website. Picture This Clothing then produces the garments, with customers receiving their dress in around two weeks. 

Personalised Campaigns 

Retailers are also getting personal with tailored offers and targeted messages around a customer’s individual purchasing habits. 

Witchery recently started to offer customers the opportunity to customise accessories by spelling out their initials, name or even a word by attaching a personalisation pin to perforated clutches, fabric bags, canvas handles or key rings. 

In October, Country Road introduced a custom monogramming service for its popular tote bags. Customers can add up to three initials in one of six colours on one of the side panels of the tote. 

Retailer Wins 

The good news for retailers is that some customers are willing to pay up to 150% more for personalised products. Retailers that explore personalisation can differentiate their brand, better engage with their customers, command a price premium, boost sales, and improve customer loyalty.