As the internet continues to develop, consumers are showing they value the ability to customize their product experience. In the global marketplace of today, customization and user experience have become two of the key components to success. In a survey of over 1,000 online consumers, as much as 30 percent were interested in customization options.
This trend has created a shift in the way businesses view consumers. No longer are they simply recipients of the product, but co-creators of a very personalized item. Users are invested in the products they create, which makes them more engaged with the brand in general.
Giving over design control might take a leap of faith, but it can pay off in the end with bigger profits — you can charge more for customized items — and loyal customers. There are numerous reasons to hand this control over and examples of companies that have done so successfully.
1. More Engagement
Customers who have some control over the design process tend to engage more with the company by following them on social media and even commenting on the products they purchase from the company. This does a number of things for your business, including giving you more word-of-mouth advertising without spending a dime on marketing. It also builds a base of loyal fans that you can turn into a marketing street team to help spread the word about your products.
In addition, the customer is going to feel more involved with the process and will be more likely to return the next time he or she needs a similar product.
A good example of a company using customization to draw customers into the process is Timex, which now allows consumers to customize a watch with a very personal inscription on the back. This makes it the perfect gift for almost anyone. Consumers can choose from a large number of possible timepieces and then customize a bit further to make it the exact right match for the person it is being bought for.
2. Make the Process Simple
One of the reasons people shop online is so they don’t have to talk to anyone or go into a store and interact. There are a number of introverts out there who simply despise shopping that requires social interaction. It is important to keep the process simple enough that these people can order online, customize the item and buy it without ever having to talk to another soul. The easiest way to ensure your site is user-friendly is to test it regularly, pretending to be a customer.
Even if you create the simplest step-by-step process in the world, you should have online help for those who might get confused at some point in the customization process. Installing a chat feature or even a chat bot may be the key to ensuring consumers know exactly how to walk through the steps to order a custom item on your site.
3. Fulfilling Wants
Have you ever had an image in your mind of something you want, but you can’t find that imagined item anywhere? Using polls, market research and watching what competitors offer can help you figure out what the needs and wants of customers are. You can then further match your product to a specific customer by offering customization options. For example, if a customer wants a specific color, image or size, you may be able to accommodate with the right customization options.
A good example of this level of customization can be seen at Conestoga Log Cabin and Homes. The company specializes in commercial cabins, such as those for a campground. However, various clients may have different specifications to match what they already offer or the personality of their property. You can customize everything from room placement to where you think furniture is likely to be situated. The interactive software on the site allows you to easily move things around and switch things up until you find the exact mix you’d like for your cabin.
4. Reduce Customer Returns
Creating items that are highly personalized can help reduce the number of returned items. When a person invests time and effort into creating an item, they build an emotional attachment and feel a sense of ownership. They also are getting the item exactly the way they want it, so it is likely they will truly love what they’ve ordered instead of feeling as though it doesn’t quite meet their expectations.
This is called psychological ownership, and essentially it means the customer feels the item is theirs in a deep and lasting way. The item naturally has more value to them. Designing something allows the consumer to connect with that product.
5. Unique Items No One Else Offers
Customization allows your products to stand out from those of your competitors. You can take customization a step further and allow people to use their own images and logos to create a truly one-of-a-kind piece. This type of item customization appeals to both consumers and businesses, who might want to give items out as a promotional product. You might also see a huge uptick in holiday sales as people look for unique gifts to give out.
Take a look at Zippo Lighters as a good example of a product that can be highly personalized, including the use of family photographs, cartoon drawings, and even geometric shapes and symbols. The site offers some standard lighters, but they can be fully customized with images or text. You might choose a red lighter, add a bit of text, upload an image of the family pet and place your order.
Giving design control over to the user might seem like a scary proposition, especially if you have a background in design. However, it can actually be freeing in a sense and the customer will get exactly what he or she wants in your product.