Research notes: The pillars of customization

Here are a few key points from our recent study on consumer preferences:

Visualization is critical

Many customizers don’t show a ‘WYSIWYG” representation of the final product, which is a mistake.   Visualization boosts consumer confidence and increases sales conversions.   Users expect accurate visualizations of their creations.  That said, they don’t necessarily expect tricky visual animations, just accurate ones.   Visualization help builds trust.

Pillars of customization

The fit problem

“The fit problem” is the primary barrier to adoption to buying custom apparel.     This is not just a customization problem; it’s an online retailing problem.   Asking customers to self-measure is very risky.  “…online retailing is being hit by crippling returns, up to 30% of goods are sent back: very often simply because they don’t fit.” – WSJ

User experience

Don’t expect your customers to be tolerant of awkward software design just because you offer customization.  What is good user experience?  Is it just a polished website design?  The answer isn’t that clear.  Designing a great customization experience is something we all agree is critical, but there is no universal answer to how UX design is done well.

Price premium

The majority of customers are price sensitive.  Walmart.com, Amazon and eBay are all about price savings, for example.   Groupon is the fastest growing company in history, and their core value is offering 50% off valuable products and services.   Per a recent Deloitte study: “discounted prices become an anticipated part of the consumer products shopping experience.”

Customization is not just for luxury products, it will be part of almost every shopping experience in the form of select, adjust design, add accessories, personalize, etc.   Brands that compete on price can also differentiate by offering customization.

BUT, luxury brands continue to thrive and can command premium prices for customization.   Burburry just launched a customizer that sells $7,000 fur trench coats.   BMW reports that customers that use their configurator spend 20% more than those that go to the car dealer.

The key here is to realize that for many brands, visual customization is expected. It is a requirement.  Price is still king.   But certainly, customization continues to be a differentiator that helps command a premium price.   At MCPC 2011, someone commented that personalization is the process of changing an object into something with a high emotional value attached.

(More on guidance in an upcoming post…)

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