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I was recently at a talk given by David Perlmutter, author of “Blogwars,” and he had a new insight that left me pondering its implications. Essentially, he stated that while online environments are becoming more personalized, real-world environments are becoming more depersonalized.
The move to more personalized and interactive environments online seems destined to have dramatic implications for offline ventures, if only because it may mean more rapid abandonment of them.
In order to survive, offline spaces may have to become more personalized or risk falling into obscurity and disuse, transforming themselves into something out of Minority Report,
Is it possible? Some offline interactions are already somewhat personalized, with the coupon machines at supermarkets coming to mind. They generate coupons based on what you’ve just purchased or have purchased in the past. Supermarkets are also experimenting with handheld scanners that know where you are in the store and, based on your purchasing trends, can point out sales and items relevant to you as you wander the aisles.
Some sports retailers have gotten into the picture, with special fitting systems for bike saddles and cycling shoes, one pair having an insole that is heated to conform to your foot. Nike has a line of customized shoes, and a very cool way of building up your own.
Yet, customized isn’t personalized, which is both individual and anticipatory. We will have to transmit our ID at all times for true real-world personlization to happen. Is this far off? It’s already been attempted, with Broadcast Bluetooth (in the UK) and DialPlus (a startup that uses caller ID to grab associated Web content and deliver it to your phone while you talk) as possible, but early, examples.
As users become more accustomed to personalized online experiences, offline experiences will be forced by consumer preference to follow, and the path will be leveled as digital, networked communications become more and more integrated into everyday life.
Get ready to feel less depersonalized in the real world.