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Personalization leads to polarization

News, 04 November 2016

NEW YORK: The personalization of everything from products to information is leading to the increasing polarization of attitudes and knowledge, with implications for brands, according to an industry figure.

That picture, painted by Stacy Glasgow, Consumer Trends Consultant at market intelligence firm Mintel, is all too evident in the current presidential election which has divided the US as never before in modern times.

"Whether or not they are aware, many consumers find themselves in a perpetual cycle of being exposed only to ideas, beliefs, opinions and services with which they already identify," said Glasgow.

"In the coming year, these figurative echo chambers will place a greater distance between people – and between consumers and brands – leaving the latter with complex challenges."

This is just one of four key developments for next year identified in Mintel's new North America Consumer Trends 2017 report.

Glasgow noted that people are increasingly living in digital worlds where AI systems are driving curated worldviews and wedging people into "separate allegorical ecosystems".

This lack of diverse content, she argued, "could be detrimental for consumers who, in this experience-driven culture, do, in fact, want access to new and unique products, services and knowledge".

AI should, in time, be able to both make personalized recommendations and leave space for consumer discovery, Glasgow expected, but until then, "brands must be more agile in creating innovative disruptors that can connect with consumers whose computer algorithms continue to feed them a small array of information.

"Brands that guide decision-making, but still keep minds open to new possibilities, will flourish," she said. "In doing so, adding a layer of context can arm participants with the tools to make easy, yet informed, decisions."

Other key trends noted in the report include increased use of voice control and smart automated services, the growth of virtual and augmented reality and live streaming, and brands becoming agents of change as people grow frustrated with "the system".

Data sourced from Mintel; additional content by Warc staff