By Peter Woodd, CEO of IDT Systems

Personalisation is the buzz word of the moment. Whether it’s personalised emails, offers or products bearing our name or photos, we as consumers can’t get enough of it. The possibilities and avenues for personalisation or customisation are endless and despite the boom, it seems that as a society we are a long way from tiring of being pitched personalised products and services.

The market opportunities continue to grow, with personalised products no longer just the domain of specialist companies producing branded items for businesses or customised birthday cards or t-shirts. Mass personalisation is gathering pace with a key area being mobile phone and tablet accessories. With the accessory market valued at £15 billion at the end of 2013 and predicted to increase to £29 billion by 2015, retailers have a huge opportunity to capitalise on our insatiable appetite for all things smart device related.

With worldwide sales of smartphones to consumers totalling 968 million units in 2013, an increase of 42.3 percent from 2012, it’s not just mobile phone retailers that have an opportunity to cash in on this potentially lucrative market. Retailers from all walks of life can now offer their consumers a way to stand out from the crowd and make their devices even more unique to them, through personalisation and customisation.

The smart device revolution
We all, permanently, have a smartphone in our back pocket or handbag and with figures from Ofcom showing tablet sales have risen from 2 per cent of households in Q1 2011 to 11 per cent in Q1 2012, these devices are now an integral part of our daily lives. Used for shopping, working, chatting, photographing and gaming, we simply can’t live without them.

With a predicted 69 per cent of the world’s population owning a mobile phone by 2017, they are becoming more accessible and affordable than ever. Perhaps this explains why it’s not just what they are capable of doing that matters to us anymore but, as it becomes a mass consumed product, it’s what it looks like that counts. Customisation is a way for individuals to differentiate themselves and stand out from the crowd. Couple this with our appetite for personalising gifts, sharing photos with friends and ensuring the safety of our prized device - customising cases has become the next natural step in accessorising our daily lives.

A captive audience
Far from reaching saturation point, the continued growth of the mobile device accessory market gives retailers from both within and outside of the telecoms space an opportunity to cash in on a lucrative part of the smart device revolution. To date, mobile device accessory printing services have mainly been offered to customers via online channels, allowing them to upload an image and then await home delivery of their phone case.

However, much like the ability for consumers to print their own photographs within minutes in-store from their smartphone, tablet, camera or USB stick, technology in the personalised device case market has moved on significantly in recent years. Technology available today has seen the online model evolve to one of “print-on-demand”, giving consumers the opportunity to self-serve in-store much like with instant photos. But far from being a “cheap and cheerful” option, the technology is cutting-edge and produces high-end quality products on a mass scale, through 3D and 2D surface decoration printing.

This new model presents a great opportunity for non-telecoms retailers to sell to a captive audience by allowing them to offer a premium service to their shoppers in-store at an affordable price. A self-service machine means the retailer has no need for a telecoms background or to spend a huge amount of time and resource in setting up and offering the service.

Not only will this capability open up a new revenue channel for retailers, but they can enhance the shopping experience by helping to make the customer feel unique, adding value and desirability to stores and feeding consumers expectations for personalised products.

Endless opportunities
The possibilities for the retailer are endless, with consumer sales just the start of the story. Companies themselves are increasingly looking at ways to extend the reach of their brand and enhance their marketing efforts. With smartphones and tablets often the centrepiece of a meeting and highly visible on boardroom tables, being able to easily develop branded phone and tablet cases in corporate colours and logos at the touch of a button is a strong proposition.

As the smartphone has become a vital part of everyday life and tablets fast catching-up, the ability to make them unique and personal is more important than ever for individuals and businesses alike. Technology that exists today gives retailers a great opportunity to capitalise on our insatiable appetite for customisation and provide a potentially lucrative revenue stream that sees no sign of drying up.