How Big Brands Use Customization to Drive Engagement

A growing trend in retail is to offer customization of products. There is great potential here to increase engagement, foster brand loyalty, and boost conversions and average order value. One study showed that customers consider personalization to be very influential in determining the value of the product. Customized products showed a 20 percent increase in average order price compared to similar uncustomized offerings. When Kate Spade Saturday offered customized weekend bags, the page quickly became the third most visited page on the company’s site. Shoppers enjoyed the creativity of using the customization tool to configure a custom-designed bag, and it was easy to post images of their creations on social media, which helped to spread the word.

In a world of so many choices and options, shoppers are attracted to sites where they know they can find something perfect for themselves or as a gift. One of the customizations offered by Kate Spade Saturday is monogramming, which is an easy way to create a truly unique purchase or gift. Technology is making it easier than ever to offer customization on a wider variety of products and materials.

There is an additional benefit for brands whose products are also sold on third-party discount sites. Product customization can be something unique that only the brand’s site offers, so that site will differentiate from the third-party sites and further promote brand loyalty. At a time when it is commonplace to shop in multiple channels simultaneously and compare product price, features, and reviews with a click, and only one in three customers say that brand is an influencing factor in their purchase, the ability to customize becomes more important than ever. The quality of time customers spend actively engaging in the product-creation experience leads to greater satisfaction and brand loyalty.

Want to offer customers the ability to customize products on your site? Here are some things to consider:

Visual customization experiences matter

When offering product customization, you must show customers an accurate, photo-realistic preview of how their choices will look on the product and give them the ability to make changes, corrections, or adjustments on the fly. This will encourage them to buy because they are confident in what they are getting, reduce the number of returns due to misinformation or mistakes, and improve customer satisfaction.

For example, you can’t just overlay a monogram on a product image. This will not show the texture of the product or the monogram stitching correctly. In addition, you must consider the shape and curvature of the product on which you are overlaying text, and account for that in the rendering of the composite image, especially with round products (such as a glass). Finally, a product shown in realistic settings will have subtle variations of lighting and shadow. It can be time consuming and complex to create all of these effects, so it is important to use technology that allows you to use image templates to create all the variants you might need.

Customization can add complexity; help customers navigate with simple choices

It is important to engage customers in the product-customization experience without overwhelming them and thereby creating confusion or frustration. Your customers may want to make a customized product, but they do not want to learn how to use a complicated app.

Your product configurator needs to be intuitive and easily found, drop-dead simple, and inviting to use, hiding the complexity behind the scenes. Great apps start with a template or three simple steps and let customers fill in the blanks. Also, be sure to give thought to the choices you will offer. Make sure colors will be compatible. You want to protect the customer as much as possible from creating an unattractive product.

The monogram maker at is a good example of how to offer a lot of choice in an easy-to-use tool.

Use templates to create “virtual inventory”

This level of choice can pose a digital management challenge. Mark and Graham’s online monogram design tool offers tremendous possibilities, which means that the number of product-monogram combinations could reach the millions. The company offers monogramming on a wide variety of products, including linens, leather satchels, dinner glasses, and in a wide variety of fonts, formats, colors and styles, including stitching, etching, and engraving. It would be virtually impossible and considerably expensive to manufacture and photograph all of these combinations to show a preview. The inventory challenge for both the product and the images would be staggering.

What you need for this is a virtual inventory, where the product-monogram combinations exist as templates. Each product is photographed in a high-resolution master, which can then be used to dynamically render the color and lettering choices at the moment the shopper chooses them. The images are further sized to meet the requirements of the device and bandwidth the customer is using. A modern digital asset management system is capable of providing this “design once, deliver endless possibilities to any device” approach.

The potential benefits of product customization technology will pay dividends in increased order value and customer engagement, making it well worth the investment.