Think back to the beginning of the industrial age. The biggest factor that contributed to the achievement of real wealth was mass production: the ability to use machinery and automated processes to deliver a large quantity of identical goods in an easy and affordable manner.
The benefits of mass production included the ability to leverage time and resources to deliver goods at a sharply lower cost. However, as we grew accustomed to the one-size-fits-all concept—a well-priced package vacation is better than no vacation—we started to crave more individualization, a.k.a. the personal touch.
Thanks to technology, individualization for the masses is now very much a reality. The publishing industry has been one of the biggest to undergo this change. Not long ago, if you wanted to be an author, you needed the services of a major publishing company and a large budget to cover a minimum production run. Now it can be done online with the right software, a ghostwriter in, say, the Philippines, and a drop-shipping publisher in China that can produce one book at a time and distribute it to a specified address within days.
Now it's the jeweler's turn to get in on the action. Manufacturing retailers have long built their reputations on customized work designed for the consumer. Today, this customization needs to extend beyond the product and become part of the whole buying experience. If you have the ability to gather all kinds of information about your customers—from their children's names to their shoe sizes—why wouldn't you use it?
Altrendo Images /Getty Images
Personalization could boost your shoppers' spirits and your bottom line.
But it's not just information that offers the opportunity. If you've seen Steven Spielberg's 2002 film Minority Report, you may recall the scene where Tom Cruise walks through a mall and advertisements literally call out his name. That's the degree to which technology will eventually be able to customize the shopping experience. Identity-recognition software that can match a customer's face to a recorded image already exists; it can provide, at the point of sale, the name that sales associates use to greet the customer.
The fact is, online companies are already taking advantage of this. You and a friend can both search the same Facebook information, but view it through separate lenses, each designed to customize the experience that meets your demographic and geographic interests. Offline retailers must harness every tool to make the retail experience unique, too, or lose out to an online world that won't just win on price, but can also deliver a unique, personalized experience en masse.
More Market Intelligence on JCKonline.com:
+ Referral of Fortune: How Jewelers Can Thrive on Referral Business
+ Advertising in the Digital Age
+ Customer Contact in the Information Age