In today’s “me-centric” marketplace, consumers are demanding customization on virtually everything, from bath towels to welcome mats to barware. Today, hundreds of thousands of U.S. businesses are offering some level of personalization on the products they’re selling, with annual sales well into the billions. And it looks like the trend isn’t fading anytime soon — each year, demand swells even higher for all things monogrammed, with a sharp peak during the holiday season.
So, what’s the appeal? In a word, ego. By adding their name, monogram, or personal message to an item, the buyer ensures that the end product will be truly unique, something the Joneses next door will never have. Personalized items are also popular choices for gifts, demonstrating the extra touch of thought and foresight to make them memorable. In the face of a hot trend, more parents are demanding customization for children’s décor items and toys to add a personal touch to nurseries and playrooms.
The industry has come a long way since the days of the pre-made, inexpensive personalized gifts that became popular in the 1950s. Back then, the options were limited to a few common names, and if you had an unusual moniker, you were out of luck. Today, the cutting-edge technology provided by online customization tools has revolutionized the art of personalization and extended it into the luxury marketplace.
Of course, as with any online marketing strategy, some sites do it better than others. Let’s explore some of the best practices of customization on the web.
Make it obvious
If an item can be personalized, trumpet it as one of the selling points. If you bury the option deep within the checkout process, you may miss out on customers who are browsing for customizable items. Frontgate.com does a good job of including the monogramming option in the product name and within the product copy.
Provide a preview
Ordering a personalized item online is always a leap of faith. Until the shipment arrives at the customer’s doorstep, they’re never fully certain it will match their specifications. Allowing shoppers to preview their monogrammed or personalized item exactly as it will appear significantly helps to boost their buying confidence. Benefits for you? More conversions, fewer mistakes, and a reduced return rate.
GrandinRoad.com has a nifty built-in tool that allows the customer to dynamically preview their personalization before adding it to the cart:
Include cart confirmation
Once the customer has made their configurations and clicked Add To Cart, you should reinforce their selection by displaying the monogramming details within the shopping cart, as LandsEnd.com does. Include a prominent option to modify the item details in case something has been entered incorrectly. Again, this strategy helps to ease the customer’s qualms about mistakes, reduces chances of cart abandonment, and lessens the rate of returns of personalized items.
Specify your return policy
The last thing you want is a bunch of personalized items sitting around in your warehouse, branded as largely unsellable. Make it clear to the customer that if they choose to personalize an item, it cannot be returned unless it arrives damaged or defective. Back to Frontgate.com: they include a disclaimer within the product copy stating as such.
Include clear instructions
We like how RedEnvelope.com posts explicit instructions for how the monogram should be entered. With a variety of traditional and contemporary monogramming styles, many customers can become confused about the order in which initials should be specified, for example. To ensure that the personalization meets the customer’s specifications, provide as much instructional detail as possible.
Of course, before rolling out the functionality, you’ll need to be sure your fulfillment center or drop-ship manufacturer is equipped to handle on-demand monogramming without adding long wait times. If customization will take an extra day or two, be upfront about the lead time to avoid customer frustration.
With a market hungry for personalized products and slick technologies that make the process easy and virtually error-proof, can you afford not to offer customization to your consumers? Done correctly, it can result in a spike in sales and some very happy customers.