Sep 02 2008

Make it Personal: Tips for Effective Customization

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.

Frontgate Personalized Products Screenshot

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:

GrandinRod.com Personalization Preview

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.
Land's End Shopping Cart Page

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.
Frontgate Return Policy

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.

Red Envelope Personalization Instructions

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.

Blue Acorn

12 Comments

Casey
Sep 03 2008

Great selling point- it gives a special touch to any gift!

Reply
Justin @ Palmer Web Marketing
Sep 05 2008

Great ideas. Speaking for a client that does personalized jewelry, customers do demand features and explanations like those listed above.

I believe a lenient return policy is necessary in order to instill customer confidence in your personalized products. Yes, you will have to eat the cost of a non-usable return product occasionally, but the confidence it creates to know that you can return it if unsatisfied is priceless.

Reply
Gab Goldenberg
Sep 05 2008

I like this post – some good points on an original topic. Nice to see :).

p.s. So there’s you, Melissa, and I met Kevin at SMX Advanced… anyone else?

Reply
Casey
Sep 07 2008

It’s true I worked for a jewelry website and clients used to ask us all the time if we personalize jewelry…we didn’t offer it but we should’ve started to! The idea is very popular!

Reply
Kevin
Sep 09 2008

Hey Gab, we’ve got a whole crew over here =)

Reply
Tim
Sep 11 2008

Very interesting. Thank you. We make personalized baby blankets in cashmere, and I’ve just realised that the relevant category page on our site doesn’t even make the fact clear. The product pictures shows how we knit the message right into the blanket. But the words don’t say that.
Oh dear.

Reply
Amrendra
Sep 13 2008

Since, consumers have always more to ask for the service providers, retailers must have to come with more features like this.

Reply
Ian
Jul 09 2009

I’m looking for a good ecommerce solution which provides product personalisation. Can you suggest any that offer this feature?

Reply
The Gift Lady
Sep 06 2010

Great points. You do have to make instructions very clear to avoid confusion in the customers mind. If they have any doubts you risk the losing the sale.

Reply
Auto Refi
Dec 07 2010

Good article – often putting the preview along with featuring customer reviews will result in a much better shopping experience and higher conversion.

Reply
Mike
Jan 13 2011

I have a question: Do you know a way of creating that preview in a Magento store?
Great ideas, but now I need to make them real!

Reply

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