Monday, August 27, 2007

Build Your Own Brand

Customization has long been a hallmark of direct marketing. For example, direct marketers have figured out a way to personalize almost every inch of a direct mail piece or e-mail creative. We've all received those mail pieces with our names slapped all over them. Studies repeatedly show that personalization improves open and response rates.

Other studies have proven that if we present a group of product offerings (i.e.: create a customized catalog version) tailored to a specific audience segment, we'll get more sales.

Well, this article made me think about customization in a whole new way. From The Economic Times (of India Times), the article discusses product customization "to enhance the terms of endearment with their consumers". It cites examples of brands that are introducing products that are easily and quickly customizable. One example:

"Wrangler Jeans has come out with its ‘Build Your Jeans’ kit last year that provides consumers to design the fit and accessorise jeans. “It made us differentiate from other jeans brands. Those who did not buy Wrangler, they also started purchasing one,” says Janani Subramaniam, business head of Wrangler. For the denim marketer, this move saw sales skyrocket by 30%."

Other examples from the article include travel agencies who offer customizable trip packages and auto manufacturers who are giving buyers more and more choices to make their car their own.

The article states: "Brands are banking on this concept to add value and build customer loyalty." I tend to agree with them. The concept of ultimate customization builds on a few key marketing premises:

1. Listen to your customers and give them what they want. What better way to serve your customers than to let them essentially build your product? You're changing the paradigm from one where you (as the seller) are pushing generic products out to your buyer to one where your buyer is purchasing exactly what he/she wants.

2. Engage your customers. An engaged customer is much more likely to purchase from you. And, what better method of engagement than to let a customer customize what they're purchasing? Once they've invested time with you (deciding on options, etc), they're much more likely to complete the purchase.

3. Grow value for each sale. The article discusses how customized products come at a premium price (the winning number seems to be 20-30% higher than off-the-shelf). Adding customizable options may allow you to increase your price, hence grow overall profit.

It may be time to review your product and positioning strategy, with an eye towards customization.

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