People want personalized and customized goods
People have wanted personalized and customized goods since forever. Before the industrial revolution, that's all you could get, because everything was made by individual craftspeople.
The industrial revolution showed that people would trade low price for a lack of personalization. Remember the famous saying, attributed to Henry Ford: "The customer can have any color they want, as long as it's black". Low price in automobiles actually translated to access; before the Model T, few people could afford to buy a car.
Information technology = affordable personalization
What the information revolution has given us is affordable personalization. For some years now, this has meant incredible amounts of consumer choice in first world countries in items such as clothing and home decor.
The hold-outs are organizations that want you to display their brand, even if their brand isn't particularly cool or stylish. So we've had two or three choices in computer color -- black, grey and beige, with the occasional dollop of white and silver. Cell phones, equally boring, spawned a whole industry of covers, to give people more customization ability.
Personalization comes to financial services
The last hold-outs have been banks, typically offering very limited choice or customization options, uniformly bundled up in the corporate color with the logo occupying most of the real estate. Change is on the horizon, however.
Postbank.nv lets you customize the look of your credit card
Postbank in the Netherlands lets you customize your Maestro debit card. You can use their images, or use your own image that you upload at the time of application. There are rules about the images -- nothing copyrighted, no pictures of art, no naked bodies, etc. This is just too much fun for words, and apparently quite popular. Postbank.nv is part of the innovative ING group.
Customized Visa card from Postbank.de
The German Postbank let me create this good looking card with a picture of my summer place*.
Garanti Bank Flexi-Card offers many options, not just color
Turkish Garanti bank offers the Flexi-card. In addition to visuals, the Flexi lets the customer build their own feature set:
"During the application process on the web, applicants can manipulate over 10 parameters such as the reward rate and type, interest rate, card fee, and campaign type to create their preferred combination. Customers who want a simple approach can choose to select one of the four ready-made packages from the web -www.flexicard.com-
or from Garanti branches."
GE Consumer Finance is a 25% shareholder of Garanti, so we may see more of this among the GE family. More information on an English-language site is here.
Are you using IT to give more control over customization and personalization to your customers? If you aren't, now would be a good time to start, before you are totally behind the proverbial 8-ball.
Tip of the hat to Springwise, who brought two of cards to my attention.
Zopa and Prosper, who give their customers the opportunity to lend their money to borrowers using customized lending syndicates, also appear to be a manifestation of this trend. We wrote about them recently here.
* The castle is actually an outbuilding of a castle near Alexandria Bay, N.Y., built in an age when hundreds of craftspeople worked for dozens of years to build something unique and individual that only the super-wealthy could afford. A nice era to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.