“All these activities point to rapid growth in mass customization offerings across all categories. Early pioneers such as Oakley have shown that consumer demand for customized products in high, and successful programs provide positive ROI and customer engagement.” said Kent Deverell, CEO of Fluid, a digital agency and software service provider that helps companies introduce customization offerings.
Customers are becoming more and more accustomed to the possibilities of product customization, just as the framework conditions are evolving to serve the market. The technology has evolved to enable flexible, digitally controlled manufacturing processes and to integrate customer-initiated design processes into supply chains. Computing power and bandwidth are now sufficient to enable customer design processes without losing sight of the user experience. Companies like Fluid act as a one-stop shop for eCommerce retailers and brands who want to offer their customers tailor-made solutions. Ultimately, companies need to make adjustments, especially in the materials supply chain, to ensure the profitability of customization – but these challenges are increasingly being met.
“What companies offer depends on what consumer want. We originally focused on the fitness issues that some competitive athletes face, but we found that people are not so interested in fit and size online,” said Harm Ohlmeyer, Chief eCommerce Officer at Adidas. Consumer preferences vary from category to category. Bains` survey showed that shoe customers want to wait three to four weeks for a product to be delivered, but that interest in tailor-made men`s shirts has declined after two weeks of waiting. All customers seem to want one thing: the ability to return the gods within a reasonable period, usually 30 days. Our survey showed that demand for custom products decreases rapidly when consumers think they might be dealing with something they don`t like – even if the response rates for early adopters of product customizations are lower than for standard products.
In addition to adapting the offer to the customer, success also requires that you decide in advance what a company wants to get out of the game. Some companies use it to improve customer acquisition and retention, while others turn it into an independent company. The knowledge of the objective helps to determine a second big consideration: How much customization do we offer you?
All successful companies follow five rules.
Know what you want. Before companies test the new possibilities, they must be aware of the strategic value they expect from product visualization. If the goal is to increase customer loyalty, the costs for product customization will be as high as in PR, advertising, market research or social media. According to the digital agency Fluid, Pepperridge Farm`s investment in customizable goldfish trackers will result in significantly higher costs. For other companies, on the other hand, the profit potential is the main reason for dealing with product customization. According to Fluid, this was the motivation for Longchamps to develop self-designed versions of its legendary Le Pliage carrier bags. At the extreme end of the spectrum are companies where product customization is the core business. One example is Wild Things, which offers customizable Insulight jackets.
Know how much customization you really need to offer. Some brands allow consumers to design a unique product that is customized after the order is made and allows a number of customized functions. This is exactly what Indochino does with its tailor-made suits that are only available online. Other companies, on the other hand, offer smaller customization options such as adding a monogram to a standard shirt or engraving names on briefcases. And still others, like Serena & Lily offer the so-called “consumer-choice bundling”, where customers can, for example, combine their own bed linen from an appropriate selection. The process may feel personal, but it is not about product customization. Customers buy existing products, which are then picked up from a warehouse and shipped to them. For most retailersm it is the option that makes the most sense – they can sell from a standard product line. Serena & Lily`s average order value is 88% higher for customers who order bundles than for customers who buy items for items.
Make it simple. The visualizations used for product customization must be easy for the customer to use. If the customization processes are too complicated, many users will cancel the design process and ultimately the purchase process. Too large a selection also has a negative effect on the ordering process. In the case of shoes, for example, this could be achieved by limiting the individualization options to 7 to 10 design variants, which are important and easy to implement for the customer.