We are pleased to have a guest blogger for this post, Rodney Laws. Rodney is an eCommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsior. Read on to learn how to make the most of the personalized products trend.
Back when people did all of their shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, one person’s purchases could feel very different from those of another, even when the items were essentially the same. The key was context: the experiences that surrounded those buys. That novelty cup in your cupboard wasn’t just a product — it was a reminder of the day on which you bought it, and the store you got it from, and why you made that particular choice.
When ecommerce came along and largely supplanted traditional retail (for particular types of product, at least), it radically changed this model. Convenience skyrocketed and prices fell, but the context fell by the wayside. When you buy everything from Amazon, it’s difficult to have unique retail experiences — what’s more, the immense breadth of the product range can start to make everything feel insubstantial somehow, just as a rich person can grow tired of opulence.
This is one of several reasons why there’s been a major move towards personalized products. Whether they’re regular designs with minor aesthetic customizations or fully custom builds made on request at extra cost, personalized products can capture the attention and feel consequential in ways that generic products simply can’t.
If you’re a retailer, then, you might be wondering how you can take advantage of this trend. To get you moving in the right direction, here are some basic personalized product pointers:
Note all your options for personalization
The first thing you should do is make a list of all the ways in which you could personalize your products. This will depend on what you sell, what you make in-house, have assembled, or import, and what could suit your brand. For instance, if you sell office items, you’ll have a huge range of possibilities based around printing personalized messages.
Alternatively, if you create products from scratch, it should be fairly straightforward to offer custom versions. This is something that shoe sellers have had a lot of success doing: almost every major footwear company now offers some kind of shoe design tool (here are some examples). If you want a pair of shoes using every neon color you can think of, there’s nothing stopping you (aside from taste).
Look at what your competitors are doing for some quick inspiration. If they offer something and it appears to be popular, that’s a good indication that there’s money to be made, but the ideal situation is that you offer something that your rivals don’t. If you can come up with something that’s similar to an existing hit but takes a unique angle, that should be a great performer.
For each type of personalization, you need to think about two things in particular: how easy it will be to market, and how difficult it will be to achieve. Making a custom shirt is fairly simple, and building a custom chair is complex and costly. The former is easy to sell but very common, while the latter is a tougher sell but with a lot more creative scope. It isn’t easy to decide, but remember that you can always change your mind later — and that making things to order ensures that you don’t bother with something unless your price is met.
Use much more substantial profit margins
The downside of offering personalized products is that they can be relatively expensive to produce. Anything that deviates from the production line formula is an inconvenience of sorts, and the more intricate the project, the longer it will take — and the more resources it will drain. Because of this, a key part of offering personalized products is ensuring that you’re charging enough money to make it all worthwhile.
Think not only about the material cost of your personalized products but also the creative cost of designing and producing them. Look at luxury photo products: they look incredible and don’t cost that much to produce (particularly if you use the right software along the way), but they still require time for creatives to work. On top of that, factor in the exclusivity. A generic product can easily be purchased elsewhere, but your personalized products are unique, so you’re justified in charging significantly more.
People view value in strange ways. If you see a cheap product, you’ll assume that it’s worse than an expensive product, all because of the price tag. If you charge a large amount for a personalized product, shoppers will likely perceive it as more valuable than if you maintained a narrow profit margin. If people can get similar items elsewhere, choose a competitive price point and optimize your marketing. If there’s nothing similar around, price however you like — you can always quietly shift the cost down until people start to bite.
Offer custom products as user recommendations
Providing logged-in shoppers with personalized recommendation lists is a well-established part of ecommerce at this point. Amazon led the way with its analytics-driven process, and when other sellers saw how successfully it was driving sales to its existing customers, they set about replicating its formula as thoroughly as they could.
Any online seller who is not already offering user-specific recommendations is massively behind the curve, so we’ll assume for the moment that you’re doing it (if not, take action to fix that as a matter of great urgency, then come back and resume reading). How can you make it better? Quite simply, by doubling down on your personalization strategy.
Alongside the generic products you mention in your list, you can include some customizable items to really catch the eye. For instance, if you run a clothing store and a particular customer keeps purchasing jeans, you can list some customizable jeans alongside your standard products in that category. If you can try to have at least one item in each category that’s suitable for personalization, then every type of customer should have a suitable option in their list of dynamic recommendations.
Lean on emotive user-generated content
As we established at the start, the core appeal of the personalized product is that it feels special, standing out from the generic crowd. The result is typically emotional investment, particularly since the average personalized product is bought as a gift — and you can use that emotional investment to your advantage.
When you sell a personalized product, follow up with the buyer to see how they like it, or how well it was received as a gift. Assuming their feedback is positive, encourage them to share it through social media, ideally with a photo (visual content is always impactful, and personalized touches are extremely effective because we’re sentimental creatures).
There’s often a great story behind someone buying a personalized product: they want to commemorate an occasion, or look back on a special event, or cheer someone up, or apologize, or show forgiveness. That’s great marketing material, so use it whenever it comes up, and your brand will benefit.
Personalized products stand out in a time of ubiquitous generic ecommerce products, so you stand to profit and bolster your brand by working them into your product lineup. Follow these suggestions, and you’ll give yourself a great chance of getting ahead. And, having a powerful software like Mediaclip’s solution will support your strategy to really tap the massive revenue potential hidden within the product personalization market.