The Growing Confluence of Health And Retail

It seems pretty far fetched to imagine a time when your health might influence the offers you receive when shopping, but a recent study from the University of South Carolina suggests it’s a perfectly feasible future.

The paper argues that the next stage of hyper-personalization will be based upon our personal biomarkers that will indicate our biological state.

“Technologies are now in place that will transform the consumer goods industries in the next five to ten years; most notably in health, wellness and beauty products,” the authors explain. “We envision consumers increasingly purchasing products, such as vitamins, meals and cosmetics, that are formulated based upon a consumer’s unique DNA sequence.”

Biological personalization

The paper suggests that companies are already heading down this path in areas such as home-delivered meals and skin care, with services customized based upon the DNA of customers.  Likewise, a number of innovative nutrition companies are working with wearable technologies to help inform customers of their bodily needs more effectively.

This kind of personalization is predicated on sharing of considerable amounts of data.  Is it something people are willing to do?  Will privacy be gladly traded for convenience?  Various studies suggest that whilst there is concern about privacy, that tends to be trumped by a desire for a more personalized experience.

For instance, the Oracle Retail 2025 Report found that whilst shoppers are generally conservative about the technologies required to deliver personalized service, they are more relaxed when the technology comes from brands they trust.  For instance, just over half of respondents revealed that they would be comfortable sharing wearable data with their pharmacy to track activity levels and receive personalized recommendations.  The authors believe that such technologies could potentially have life saving implications.

“Wireless communication technologies such as RFID-NFC and quantum ID tags have the potential to prevent consumers from knowingly purchasing counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs or infant formula,” they say. “This technology is being refined by luxury manufacturers who want to prevent counterfeiters from destroying brand equity. Yet, the impact could be profound in preventing deaths and injury from the consumption of fake and potentially poisonous medicine and supplements.”

Suffice to say, we are still at a very early stage in this journey and it is far from certain how it will unfold.  The authors themselves concede that more work is required to help both industry figures and the consumer understand the implications, both around the appropriate use of sensitive data and the security requirements to ensure data is kept safe from hackers.  Likewise, there is an inadequate legal framework for technologies that incorrectly read our biomarkers.

Whilst there are undoubtedly hurdles to overcome, it remains an interesting technology and it will be a fascinating trend to follow.