If the early decades of the Twentieth Century marked the birth of mass production, then it’s safe to say that the first half of the Twenty-first is witnessing a renaissance of customization. Consumers, especially younger ones, are increasingly interested in making purchases that meet their specific needs or make unique statements about who they are. This reflects a culture that is rapidly rejecting labels and a world that is waiting to see how 3D printing is really going to come into its own. In the meantime, a company that offers customizable products holds a special value for its customers.
Recent surveys suggest that 62 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for customized products, and customization is great way to build customer loyalty and social referrals. A company that can customize products is also at a competitive advantage, since most of the world’s manufacturing is based on a mass-production model, and the vast majority of online marketplaces only offer mass-produced items. This may not be the case for long.
The Challenge of Customization
The challenge of offering real customization in an online store and combining it with a simple, intuitive experience can be daunting. While most eCommerce platforms accommodate products with options such as size and color, a truly customizable product is more complex. Images must be uploaded, text must be updated, selections must be combined, and it all has to be put together into a visual representation of the product that is appealing enough to compel a purchase. The nature of a customizable product means that it is difficult or impossible to create a one-size-fits-all solution for their UI. The interface must be intuitive and elegant enough to convince a customer to take time to engage with it, and that means that the UI is often as unique as the product that is being created. For years, this has often prevented all but the largest of merchants from providing customizable products online.
One company that has begun to lower the barrier to entry is Productimize, a subscription-based service that builds product customization solutions specifically suited to the needs of its clients. We recently worked with Productimize while developing an online store for With You Lockets. This jewelry startup based in Upstate New York specializes in high-quality lockets that are delivered with photographs of loved ones already inside them.
We selected Productimize as a partner because, as a SaaS with experience in the jewelry industry, we knew that they could seamlessly integrate their software into Magento 2, and that they could match the customization options to the design of the site without breaking our client’s budget.
Setting up Customizations
The first step to defining customizable products for With You Lockets was to determine what the customer can change when preparing to purchase a piece of jewelry. In this case, With You offers a product with an ideal level of customization that makes each product feel truly unique without overwhelming the customer with choices. Options included:
- Style of Locket
- Color of Locket
- Length of Chain
- Photograph(s) in Locket
- Gift Wrapping and Message
Out of these options, all but one could be handled by Magento’s standard features for building configurable products. The only element that Magento couldn’t handle out of the virtual box is allowing a customer to add a photograph to the product. That’s where Productimize came in. In this case, the flow was further streamlined by passing the custom gift message off to Productimize as well.
Productimize begins as a module that seamlessly integrates with Magento’s admin dashboard. From here, custom products can be created that are then linked to products in the Magento catalogue. The module allows the administrator to upload base images that will serve as canvases for the customization. These images are assigned to one or more views of the product. Each customization type is assigned a tab in customization workflow, and the tab options allow the mapping area to be defined for each visual customization.
These base images include transparent areas through which the customer’s uploaded photos can be seen.
Each customization type includes options to fine-tune its capabilities.
Because every store that offers customizable products has its own needs and branding, a development environment was handed over to Productimize so that they could work their SaaS magic, customizing the module so that every aspect was perfectly coordinated with the store’s unique qualities.
The end result is a product customization experience that is seamless for the customer and simple for the website’s administrator to manage.
Productimize allows the customer to manipulate their image after uploading it.
Customizations can be reviewed and edited after they are added to the cart.
The Future of Customizable Products
In 2013, an important study by Bain & Company quoted Ken Seiff, executive vice president of direct and omni-channel marketing at Brooks Brothers, as saying, “In general, customers who buy customized products are more satisfied and are more valuable. … In five years this will come to be expected by consumers.” The five-year benchmark has passed, and while customization is still the exception to the rule, trends clearly indicate that it is becoming an increasingly valuable tool in an online marketplace that is dominated by near-monopolies. A company like With You Lockets can beat the odds. It incorporates customization into its core products, combined with excellent customer service and a strong, relatable ethos. Using modern technology, it reintroduces customers to an old-fashion method of staying connected to loved ones.
At Shero, we expect 2019 to be a big year for customization and other personalized experiences. As consumers continue to become more connected to and through the same technologies that they use to shop with, companies like Magento and Productimize are pushing the boundaries to allow small companies with big ideas to meet a new set of expectations. Making connections is what we do, helping businesses to navigate the tools and technologies that will bring their visions to life.