Online customisation meets DIY – an opportunity or limitation?

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

Online customisation and DIY

Related tags: Marketing

Belinda Carli, Director of the Institute of Personal Care Science provides an in-depth look at how consumers are influencing the customisation trend, both on and offline, and what this means for businesses and product quality.

Consumers are wanting more control than ever over their personal care purchases, and an online store to pick and choose what gets added (or not) to a product sounds like an ideal opportunity… but is it?

Customisation is set to be one of the hottest trends of 2017 – but large-scale approaches to customisation require the purchase of a ‘pack’ containing a base product with concentrates.

These packs are pre-determined and manufactured by selected brands to suit specific sectors of the market.

Being able to go online and make specific selections on ingredients that then get mixed into a finished product is more of a customisable DIY option than large scale customisation.

This may sound like the same offering to many consumers, but there are big differences between consumers and brands alike from both options.

The DIY Concept

The concept sounds promising: a consumer could go online and make selections about exactly what oils, extracts or actives they want in a personal care product, and what they want it to smell like.

They may also choose specifically what doesn’t get included in the product or ingredients they want to avoid. The product would then be manufactured using their selections, packaged in their self-selected container, and sent out to them.

For brands, it provides an opportunity for consumers to take ownership of their ingredient selections and create a product unique to them.

For consumers, it lets them try different ingredient combinations without having to know how to formulate, worry about quality issues in manufacturing or needing to source individual materials.

The Limitations

Unbeknownst to the consumer, the online DIY approach can actually limit the performance, aesthetics and stability of the product they purchase. Here’s how:

      1. Labour costs

The amount of money required to prepare such individual products is quite high, which means savings need to be made of the materials used, which can affect performance and sensorial properties.

      2. Larger scale

Products brought to market on a larger scale, even if designed as customisable bases, have been carefully formulated to suit a specific target market using more selective materials.

Selecting materials to suit a defined target market makes the end product, in general, aesthetically pleasing and suited to a specific skin type and age, by experienced chemists.

Compare this to a consumer/DIY approach, where selections are commonly based on personal reasons rather than scientific rigour.

      3. Extracts

If used in DIY, these are generally much cheaper and less effective than the clinically proven actives that go into commercial products or customisable ‘serum’ concentrates.

This is because the minimum purchase quantities required of high performing cosmeceutical ingredients is prohibitive to smaller brands offering DIY products.

      4. Stability

In customisable DIY products, a relatively simple ‘base’ product is made and tested to help ensure stability and a good shelf life. This limits how much the DIY formulation can actually be changed in the first place.

The Opportunities

While there are definitely opportunities in this sector, the limitations on DIY customisation and commercialisation need to be appropriately weighed and measured.

There are certain consumers that will enjoy the online DIY approach despite its limitations on dramatically altering or tailoring aesthetic and performance attributes.

However, there will be much more who will prefer a more retail approach of mass produced customisable bases with concentrates because of the enhanced skin feel and performance results that can be achieved.

One thing that DIY and large scale customisation have in common, however: videos to promote and explain how to customise the product is a must. The performance, skin feel and perceived value of either approach are ultimately up to the consumer to judge through a repeat purchase… or not.

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