Interview: Customization is becoming more ubiquitous

 Co-creation consulting firm Younomy recently published an interview on the topic of the rising popularity of product configurators and co-creation business models.  You can find it here.   Here is an excerpt.  Thanks, Younomy!

Dave Sloan is the CEO of Treehouse Logic, which offers a hosted design tool solution that enables customer co-creation. The Treehouse Logic platform enables a user experience that is high performance, guided to aid the decision process, and connected to social networks.

In this interview, Dave shares his views on how product configuration technologies advance the adoption of co-creation concepts in the industry and where the configuration technology is heading. Excerpts:

“Product configurators are becoming mainstream” 

1) Can you please cite few success stories in the configurator-centric co-creation space? 

Oprah endorses design-it-yourself sites

Funny I should get this question today. Just yesterday Oprah recommended Charmedbyingridanne, a jewelry configurator client of ours! Is there any better sign of success than an Oprah endorsement?

Here is another success story that is more measurable; we have found that our product configurator shopping flows can double sales of accessories. The configurator is a great bundling tool. Indeed “guided selling” increases the size of the cart. It’s nice to have proof of what we already knew.

2) What do you think are the key elements/features of a configurator platform/solution that companies should look for?

Well, we asked 200 shoppers that exact question. We had a group of online shoppers use a Treehouse Logic configurator and tell us what features were most important to them.  The answer was

a) Performance – fast and fun
b) Visualization – accurate visual of the custom product
c) Guided and social – Curated selections. Community based feedback from the vendor, experts and other customers

From an implementation perspective, companies should look for speed of development, ROI, ease of maintenance, and ease of integration to common shopping cart solutions. There is no reason to custom code a product configurator anymore.

3) Where do you see the configurator model heading in the near future? What’s next, after configurator, in the process of integrating co-creation in products?

Online product customization used to be very nichey. Only highly specialized products were customizable, and the configurator itself only served technical sales people or a very small power-user customer base. New tools like ours our opening up the market to the mainstream. We’re seeing a few key trends in visual configuration:

a) All shopping sites will include customization

“Customization” is becoming more transparent – it’s just part of a great search and purchase experience. Users expect some level of functional and style customization before they check out. The most common example is a t-shirt. After selecting a t-shirt design, shoppers select size and color. This is the most basic form of customization, and customers expect a level of control that they didn’t used to have. The shopping interface is becoming more visual and more interactive.  Originally, online shopping was all about a database search of static products. The next generation online storefront will include a product visualizer that is driven by attribute selections rather than a soulless search box.

Beyond ratings and recommendations, shoppers will see peer-generated designs that inspire. Customization will be an integral part of an end-to-end marketing strategy.

Vote for your favorite design

Online shopping is much more than just searching and purchasing. Users will engage with their favorite brands by designing products, posting them to a customer wall, and voting on their favorite peer-generated creations.  Product configurators drive creativity which in turn drives brand engagement and word of mouth marketing.  Visual customizers need to be fun, fast, and social.   The next generation of ecommerce will highlight entertainment and gaming.

Bespokeable proposals

c) Designer-facing tools

In the past, product configurator adoption stalled because end-users became overwhelmed with choice. A blank slate can be intimidating. We’re seeing a next generation of designer-facing visual configurators that help designers reach new shoppers.  Examples are the reverse auction business model of Bespokeable, as well as designer portals like Fabricly and Garmz. These sites allow micro-entrepreneurs to create their designs and have access to customers. These design portals enable crowd-sourced design, ala Zazzle, CafePress, and Threadless, that create network effects like eBay and Etsy.

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