Companies today are discovering the opportunities of a highly untapped market that exists within the possibilities of total product customization. This is something that is happening with shirts, bags, shoes and other products that can be personalized by customers through websites with simple apps. There is a great deal of value behind letting clients create their own original products and many companies are trying to tap into this trend and exploit its value.
Personalized product customization allows brands to enhance customer’s loyalty and their engagement with the organization while at the same time becoming another ambassador to the company and helping attract new prospective clients. The value and competitive advantage of allowing customers to personalized goods can give you a substantial lead over your competition.
If we take a look at some of the companies that are implementing these strategies, we can leave aside asking ourselves “why” we would want to adopt these practices and start thinking about “how” they can work for us. Pepperidge Farm, Jawbone and Mini are three companies that offer very different products but have in common the fact that they have user personalization strategies to engage with their customers and have been successful at doing so. Surveys have pointed towards a preference in users for adjusting the products and having the chance of making them their own; this translates into longer times spent using the websites to use customization tools, thus enhancing loyalty and engagement to the brand.
Another great advantage of offering customization options is the fact that it helps the brand differentiate their products from their competition. A customer is going to prefer buying a pair of Converse shoes that can be personalized with their own images, over the competition, even if the options make the product more expensive. Unique products used by customers that want to break the mold are the image of a company that stands out from the crowd.
Globalization, social media and online culture are changing the speed in which trends change, so customization is another great way of providing companies with a unique insight into what people want and what they would look for if the had their way. Personalization choices give companies the information they crave to stay ahead in the market.
Personalization has a lot of benefits but is by no means an easy thing to do. One of the first difficult tasks to face is the creation of a website that allows customers to interact with the customization tool and lets them see how their product would look like in real life. The company must be able to process each order in a timely fashion and being careful that personalization does not affect profitability, something that must be carefully balanced. Are products being manufactured locally? Do you need to assemble products in different facilities? Do you have to open a customization center in each one of your manufacturing sites? These are real questions that must be taken into consideration and that strongly affect your supply chain.
It is important to decide and outline how much customization does a company really need to offer. Does your company want to allow customers to build the product completely from scratch or do you permit them to choose from a list of options already created but that can be combined to create a large number of possibilities? Do you prefer to go with a more limited amount of features that perhaps stop at some custom engraving or some different colored covers? Think about what those options mean in term of value given and profitability.
Some companies go with a simple design template to start with instead of having their customers begin from scratch. Not everyone who uses your products is a designer so it may be more difficult for them to start from zero. A good balance between options and a bit of pre-made choices is a great way to allow them to make their product feel unique and original. A difficult process is just as much of a turn off than finding way too many options.
The return process is another factor to consider, as customers may be hesitant to use a service if they feel they may be stuck with a product they do not like. Research shows that custom products are less likely to be returned than regular merchandize, so giving customers a fair return policy will always work to your advantage.
A strategy to let customers show their creation is also a great idea. Vans and North Face are two companies that have used the social networks to create communities in which users can show off their creations and share it with friends. This type of engagement with the brand and the creation of an online community can help these initiatives be profitable and popular.
For more great articles about logistics and the supply chain, check out our entries at David Kiger’s Blog.
* Featured Image courtesy of Prat PR at Flickr.com