The importance and relevance of customization in other industries and our own creates a unique opportunity for differentiation.
According to the Deloitte Consumer Review, the digital world of today empowers consumers and they expect to be considered in the personalization and creation of the products and services they purchase. Endless availability of information at our fingertips allows individuals to know what’s available, and with this knowledge comes the desire to have products built specifically for their needs. From a business perspective, there also seems to be significant implications supporting the monetary value and importance of providing individualized products as a means to differentiate from competitors: “businesses that do not incorporate an element of personalization into their offering risk losing revenue and customer loyalty.” While customized products and services can generate higher satisfaction with end consumers, the production process can take days or weeks. This is significantly longer than modular or off-the-shelf products which can be purchased and taken home immediately. But end consumers don’t seem to mind waiting it out: 48% of individuals surveyed reported that they were “willing to wait longer for a personalized product or service”. Even though customization takes a bit longer, this digital generation craves individualization and is willing to wait for it.
For this reason, customization is becoming a hot topic in a variety of industries. Customization dates back as early as 1297 when tailored clothing started to become fashionable in Europe. Today, the rise in demand for customization is driven by baby boomers, rather than bespoke Englishman. For instance, “the 55+ population are more likely to purchase a personalized holiday than the 16-24s.” High end customized sports equipment like golf clubs and running shoes are also popular, but the demand for customized medical products and services has continued to grow over time. While the hearing aid industry blazed the trail over 25 years ago, 3D printed reading glasses and dental implants, customized joint replacements and bone implants, and custom orthotics and orthopedics are all available today and are increasing in popularity. These industries are positioning product personalization as a luxury and with a premium price tag, but the consumers don’t seem to mind! According to Deloitte, 1 in 5 consumers who expressed an interest in personalized products or services are willing to pay at least a 20% premium.
The hearing aid industry was an early adopter of customization. Phonak began pioneering mass customization technology by 3D printing custom hearing aid shells. This replaced previous hand-made construction that was done by creating a series of casts from the ear impression. The 3D printers at Phonak today can print either in titanium or acrylic, and have extremely low tolerances so the outcome of the shell fit is more precise than ever. But the customizing doesn’t stop with physical fit. The hearing care professional (HCP) plays a critical role in further customizing hearing aids to suit the needs of the client. They do this by making changes within the Target software according to the client’s preferences, customizing the adaptation level, conducting Real Ear Measures and feedback tests, and prescribing an Acoustically Optimized Vents (AOV) which calculates the precise vent mass based on the client’s specific anatomy. Perhaps the most impactful hearing aid customization to date is AutoSense OS, real-time automatic customization to the client’s environment. AutoSense OS analyses the client’s surroundings every 0.4 seconds and automatically adapts the signal processing to provide the client with customized hearing all day, regardless of where they are by blending automatically between 200 settings to customize directionality and sound quality. Customization is critical- and with all of this consumer demand what will be the next frontier in customization?
To learn more about how Phonak customizes hearing aids, visit phonakpro.com.