Personalized Products: How to Personalize Your Brand for Customers

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We recently attended a conference in San Francisco all about the growing trend of personalizing beauty products. It’s clear this will be one of the “next big things” in the beauty scene, but less clear is how smaller brands can compete. Let’s run down the main trends in this space and then discuss how to personalize products for your own customers.

The Conference: Personalized Beauty Summit 2019

Most speakers at the conference were brand founders or owners, but the majority were new to the beauty industry. Instead, most of the founders we heard from came from the tech, computer science, or engineering worlds. This helps explain the common theme amongst these brands: the use of technology to create both a personalized experience and personalized products.

As an example, there were several hair care-focused brands providing personalized hair color or shampoos and conditioners. Customers sign up for the service, fill out a questionnaire via a website or app, are sometimes offered a live consultation via the internet, and they then are presented with either a range of recommended items or a formula created entirely for them. Companies that offered these services had made hundreds of thousands (and occasionally up to billions) of unique formulations based on the tiny differences required by each customer. Many companies will create a mix specifically for one person, then mail it to you with your name and personalized instructions printed on the bottle. It’s a fast way to make the experience feel special, but it relies on a great deal of equipment and technology to function smoothly.

Issues for Small Brands

This equipment and technology requirement is what stands in the way of small brands accessing this market at competitive prices. Most of the companies that presented have patent-pending machines, computer programs, or even augmented reality (AR) apps. Large manufacturing facilities are required to create these custom products, and labeling alone requires special machines and a precision production line. For most small and medium indie beauty brands, this type of personalization is out of reach. However, smaller brands can still play a part in the personalized products markets.

Whatever the focus of your brand, there are ways to provide an experience that increases the sense of personalization and attachment customers have to your products, chosen specially for them. You do not necessarily need to provide a fully personalized product and custom formulation, but a few options for people with varying needs and a personalized experience are enough to make a difference.

How to Personalize Your Products

You don’t need to have hundreds of options for every customer, instead a small range can still provide a custom experience. For example, you might have 4 different moisturizers, each one focused on a specific niche –  oily versus dry skin, or perhaps a “City Line” developed for anti-pollution skin care. With just 4 moisturizers, add in 4 trait-specific serums, and perhaps 4 separate cleansers. Now there are 48 potential combinations if you take one from each category.

The trick is to increase personalization via some sort of consultation, whether it be on paper, an online quiz, or person to person (Skype appointments, perhaps) so you can recommend the ideal combination of products. Once you have the data from your questionnaires, you need to analyze it. This means presenting the customer with either one or multiple options of products best suited to their needs (skin type, hair type, etc.). This can be accomplished by relatively simple programs hosted on your website and makes the customer feel more connected to the products that are designed for them.

With our 12 example products from above, you can ask a few questions and then be able to deliver one of 48 custom skin care routines. These products may not be entirely personalized, but the experience is, and customers are more likely to feel a sense of ownership over products chosen specially for them.

Questionnaires for Personalization

Depending on your products, varying degrees of personalization will be possible. Here are some sample questions that might help you hone in on what each customer needs:

  1. What type of skin do you have? Normal, Oily, Dry, Combination
  2. How old are you? (questions like this help figure out the maturing state of skin)
  3. Are you currently concerned more about retaining your youthful glow or reversing the appearance of age? (some ingredients are best at prevention, others at addressing current fine lines and wrinkles)
  4. Do you live in a densely populated area? (you might focus on an anti-pollution regimen)

With hair products, you might consider asking things like:

  1. Is your hair color-treated?
  2. Is your hair fine, medium, or thick?
  3. How curly is your hair? (on the typical 1-4 scale or ask if it’s straight, wavy, curly, or coily)
  4. What is your chief hair goal? Hydration, Smoothness, Shine, Volume

These are relatively broad questions but enough to make recommendations from your brand’s catalog of products. You can then present the customer with the 3 products best suited to their own bodies, and potentially also where they live. This experience alone is enough to stand out when compared to shopping without direction on most websites or in brick and mortar locations. Although personalizing products may require a significant expansion of your current brand catalog, it may be worth it, in the long run, to stay ahead of the curve and secure loyal customers.

Dry Products to Mixup at Home

Another way to create a customized, personal recommendation is to see different dry masks or exfoliants and after you analyze the answers your customers provide, recommend how to use the powder — add an oil, a tincture, water, almond milk, tea, etc., You can sell the powder and some of the add-ins to create just-in-time personalized products with longer shelf lives and multiple options.

Let us know how feasible you think personalization is for small beauty brands, and if you have any tips or experience that might be helpful for other entrepreneurs!

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2 years ago

Good points! Do you have any recommendations for programs for this: “This can be accomplished by relatively simple programs hosted on your website”?