Are You Letting Your Customers Design Their Own Products Yet?

Photo by Lefteris kallergis on Unsplash

I subscribe to Trend Hunter’s newsletters, and it’s always fascinating to read about what innovations they are finding through their trend community. One of the trends they have been writing about for a while is customization. Customization in this context means enabling consumers to curate a product to their personal taste.

Their top customization trends for June 2018 lists 25 of the most popular products now being customized — everything from haircare systems targeting your personal hair goals to “alphabet” eyewear you can use to communicate messages from the comfort of your (raised?) eyebrows.

One of my favorites: Woolly, out of Portland, got Kickstarter funding to build an interface that enables people to customize their wallets by choosing leather colors, stitching, pattern and inscription. More than 280 backers pledged $25,116 to help bring this project to life.

Source: Woolly

Why Is Customization So Popular?

Source: Trend Hunter

Customization taps into deeper mega trends of personalization, co-creation and curation.

Millennials see customization as a form of luxury. According to a MindSwarm study, millennials perceive luxury differently than previous generations. They recognize “true luxury” — think ultra-expensive Rolex watches — still exists but is not yet attainable. But they also demand “my luxury,” where they can curate everyday experiences and products to make them their own.

So if millennials are important to your business, customization could be an innovation opportunity.

Customization As an Innovation Opportunity

A client of mine, Knack, is disrupting the gift industry by enabling customers to create custom gift sets for just about any occasion: employee appreciation programs, corporate events, thanking clients for their business, birthdays, wedding party gifts, college care packages, housiversaries (really, this is starting to become a thing in real estate) and even bad breakups.

When Knack looked at the market, it seemed saturated with gift baskets, florists, and “slap your corporate logo on this coffee mug” companies. But nothing struck them as particularly innovative or fresh. They researched giving from a number of different angles and learned that when it comes to gifts, employees and customers don’t want company swag — and a lot of people care about where their gifts come from. Knack developed an e-commerce site that enables gift givers to tailor gifts by occasion, recipient, interest/product category and ethos (local, handmade, sustainable, women entrepreneurs, fewer than 10 employees, etc.).

Source: Knack

Knack has been in business since 2014 and is getting great traction. One of the most exciting parts about scaling a business are the strategic choices. That leads to a number of questions that Knack continues to revisit.

7 Questions to Ask When Considering Customization

  1. Are millennials important to your business, either as direct purchasers or influencers? If so, how satisfied are they with existing solutions in your industry?
  2. What target segments are most important to prioritize when it comes to customization?
  3. Who in your industry — or adjacent to your industry — is offering customization? What lessons can you learn from them?
  4. What dimensions should you customize on? Consider product features, how it’s made, where it’s made and by whom.
  5. How much choice should you offer? Where’s the sweet spot?
  6. Will customers need help making a selection? What customer service is required?
  7. What technology is needed to make the user experience seamless and enjoyable?

I think regardless of industry, customization will continue to be an enduring trend. I would love to hear about your experiences and share best practices.

About the Author | Lisa Fernow

Lisa Fernow is passionate about innovation and brings over 25 years experience as a global marketer, entrepreneur, and consumer insights professional. At PepsiCo and Time Warner she helped to develop and launch a host of successful new products while accelerating growth for such iconic brands as 7Up, Diet Pepsi and Scooby Doo. She founded Fernow Consulting in 2000 to help organizations innovate and better capitalize on growth opportunities. Her clients range from early stage startups to Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industries, including one engagement with Nordstrom that led to her going in-house for two years to help the launch of their first Consumer Insights group.