Our daughter is celebrating her first birthday in less than a month, and she received a present today from her Aunt called “The Little Girl Who Lost her Name.” If you haven’t heard of this book before, it is a customized book that follows the journey to find the readers name. Each page is dedicated to a letter in her name (the books are available at: Lostmy.name).
I wanted to share this story becomes it shows where the future of retail is headed, and that is leveraging technology to create individualized experiences, and in the case of this book, a completely customized product.
Experiential stores are nothing new to retail
The “experiential” shopping strategy is nothing new to retail. American Girl and Build-A-Bear have been doing it since the mid-90’s. Today, you see other retailers creating a more cohesive shopping experience in their stores, online and in social media – the new ‘omni-channel’ shopping experience.
There are some massive advancements that are enabling both retailers and brands to improve this experience, and deliver a truly unique individualized experience. The biggest of these advancements are in the digitization of unique experiences and the production technologies supporting them.
Digitizing a unique experience
If you have not had the pleasure of building your own plush toy at “Build-A-Bear”, here is a basic version of how it works. You select your plush toy, add an optional voice recorded message, stuff your plush toy in a special stuffing machine with the assistance of a Build-A-Bear staff, and then dress and customize your plush toy. Once completed, you choose your toys name and a digital identity is created. Both Build-A-Bear and American Doll have created virtual environments where you can interact with other “virtual” plush toys – extended your experience beyond the 4 walls.
This unique digitized experience enables the retailer to gain valuable insight about every user, which will help them create an even better experience, hyper-individualized content, and advertising while still providing an entertaining individualized unique experience.
Leveraging production technology
American Doll stores have created an amazing experience that brings their shoppers back time and time again. Digital Competitor, Makie, is taking this experience to a new level by leveraging 3D printing and a unique interface to allow you to create a 100% customized doll. Makie goes way beyond selecting just clothes and accessories, you select advanced details like “eye-shape, nostril, ear shape, eye color, etc.” Once completed this functioning doll is manufactured using a 3D printer. This is as individualized as it gets.
The merits of 3D in production are a topic on their own, but in the case of Makie, they are disrupting an industry that had little advancements and are capturing market share quickly.
What does this mean for retailers and brands?
Nothing will replace the retail “shopping” experience, like taking your American Doll doll to the spa or doctor (located within American Doll stores), however, retailers and brands need to look outside their traditional “experiences” and production models for inspiration. Access to these production technologies continues to decrease in cost, which allows for smaller more nimble start-ups to capture market share.