Mass personalization and, in turn, customization, is quickly becoming a reality. According to a 2015 study by business advisory firm Deloitte, 36% of consumers saying they are interested in personalized products or services. Not surprisingly, those under 40 are more interested, with 43% of 16-24 year olds and 46% of 25-30 year olds attracted to customized goods and services. The desire for customized goods has so far contradicted actual consumer purchases, only one in six of consumers have ever bought these products or services. However, this leaves open the door for a wealth of potential and opportunity for those companies willing to seize on it and take advantage of the customization market. This begs the question, of course, what products lend themselves best to customization in such a way that consumers will want to purchase them.
Mass customization of products is possible for nearly every product, but there is one critical requirement – the interaction between company and customers. There are particular industries which are in great demand at the moment to provide customizable products and services to their customers.
A study from July, 2015 found that the three product categories where customers have already made the most customizable purchases were holidays (25% of customers), clothing (19%) such as Spreadshirt, Limberry and Shirtinator and home and garden (18%) such as are kooziez.com, Viesso, WOONIO and your-design.
By providing customization options, brands raise loyalty at a time when it’s more important than ever: In a recent Bain survey of more than 1,200 global executives across a range of industries, 67% believed their customers are becoming less loyal to their brand. Equally, customization helps companies differentiate their products from those of their competitors at a time when the Internet is rapidly creating high price transparency and making it easier for customers to compare products with standard features. According to Google, 49% of mobile phone owners use their device to compare prices, and the number of price comparison apps is increasing. We found that customers are willing to pay 20% more than standard equivalents for customized products—and many companies are successfully charging higher premiums.
In order to be successful in the customization business, companies must follow 5 strategic rules:
1. Companies should have a clear concept about the strategic value they intend to reach. Some companies utilize customization primarily to engage with customers and build brand advocacy. Others pursue customization of a chosen product line largely for its direct profit potential. Either way, consider the path the company intends to take with product customization and how it is intended to be used in order to maximize efficiency.
2. Companies must determine how much customization they really need to offer. Some brands allow consumers to design an incredibly unique product that will be built to order, with a plethora of features that can be added. Others offer only minor customization options, such as engraving a name on a briefcase. Some companies only allow customization in fit or design.
3. Successful companies offer customers a simple and easy design template as a starting point, as opposed to a blank canvas. If the online design process is too complicated, difficult or unattractive, many potential shoppers will be turned off. They may also reject too many options. Choosing the right user interface is crucial to creating a successful customization business.
4. In addition to making the design process enjoyable, companies need to make the return process effortless. Customers typically want the option of returning goods within a seemingly reasonable period, usually 30 days. It has been determined that demand for customization falls off precipitously if consumers think that they could be stuck with a product they don’t like—despite the fact that it has been found that return rates are lower for customized products than for standard products.
5. Don’t forget- help consumers share their creations with friends and relatives. For example, the North Face has launched a gallery of designs created by customers for its Denali jacket, which serve as inspiration points for others. Help spread the word and share consumer creations. After all, that’s partially the purpose of customization, right?
Although the number of consumers who purchase customized products is relatively low at the moment, there are three particular trends to be aware of that make it pretty likely that the trend towards purchasing customized products will increase significantly. First, online consumers are becoming used to customizing other aspects of their online shopping experiences nowadays. This is paving the way for them to eventually come to desire products that are customized, as well. Second, the technology used to interface with customers is becoming less expensive and costs will only continue to drop. Third, customer-facing interfaces are becoming more refined and adept, allowing for more product co-creation.
Now is the time to make your business more customizable, while there’s an opportunity to get in on the ground up and build consumer confidence in your business and your product.