In 2011, Forrester predicted mass customization would be the future of products. Now, that future has arrived. As attitudes shift from the antiquated notion of one size fits all, customization has entered the mainstream and consumers demand to have it their way. What was once viewed as an exclusive service for affluent shoppers is now a value-add for the masses.
The appeal of customization to younger consumers in particular is its inherent ability to allow them to express their individuality, creating a “market of one.” This statement of expression also fosters an emotional bond with the brand, stemming in part from the shopper’s role as cocreator of a product.
Customization also establishes loyalty. For the Astound Insights report “8 Ways to Optimize the Customization Journey,” Astound Commerce surveyed 500 US consumers to gain insight into their perceptions of online product builders (the technology platforms that enable customization) and the customization process itself. Participants shared their views on several topics, including the factors that influence their design decisions when customizing a product and what causes them to abandon the customization process altogether. The latter has potentially large financial implications: 80 percent of surveyed shoppers said they would return to a retailer after successfully creating a custom product with the company.
Customization = Differentiation
Customization is a strong competitive differentiator if retailers are willing—and able—to effectively use it as such. Brands can leverage the power of customization to create a truly immersive experience that delights shoppers. Consumers demand sufficient custom design options; product visualization elements; and transparency about pricing, delivery, and returns—all within a seamless, efficient interface.
But do today’s product builders deliver? To better understand the current customization journey, Astound assessed 25 online retailers across several verticals including apparel, accessories, and sporting goods that offer customization. Astound evaluated each step of these customization journeys for the report, from visibility of the retailers’ customization messaging and fluidity of their customization process, to accessibility of the product builder platform across multiple channels, to integration with customer service. The clear disconnect between shoppers’ expectations and what retailers currently offer reveals important opportunities for growth within the customization landscape.
Meeting Expectations in a Changing Landscape
Based on the combined results of this two-part research study, Astound identified eight factors that are integral to the customization experience. “8 Ways to Optimize the Customization Journey” presents key takeaways and insights—including the right ways to handle messaging and transparency—as well as best-practice examples researchers encountered during their shopping journeys.
Today’s shoppers expect seamlessness—in-store, online, and at every available touchpoint of their shopping journey. When this expectation is not met, customers will choose another brand that can meet their needs. Retailers have very few opportunities to get the customer experience right in this new era of high-stakes retail.
As shopping behaviors continue to rapidly evolve and with nearly three-quarters of shoppers stating they are willing to pay a premium of 10 percent or more for a customized item, arming consumers with the technology to customize products can open the door to increased revenue. But the experience must meet, or better yet exceed, customer expectations. Advanced technology, social media, and personalization have had a significant impact on the way people shop, and tech-savvy consumers also expect product visualization tools such as augmented reality and 3-D. These enhancements make the shopping experience more fun, boost engagement, and can help to increase conversion rates by providing customers with a better sense of what the product will look like in real life. The journey of customizing a product should do more of the same.
The strategies outlined in “8 Ways to Optimize the Customization Journey” can serve as a foundation for providing a richer, more customer-centric customization experience. Download the report now.