Choice. We have more of it than ever before. Our smartphones and other connected devices and the increasing dominance of ecommerce in the Retail space have caused a paradigm shift. Customers want to be more actively engaged in their purchasing decisions, for the brand to offer deeper levels of customer service than in the past, and to have far greater choice with what options are on offer to them.
Many brands have stepped up to the challenge to some degree or other, offering a set of different permutations of the same product (one style of running shoe available in black, pink, white or khaki, for example). Others are going further into consumer empowerment with customisable elements available on selected products via their ecommerce platform, either through basic drop down menu options or via more sophisticated configuration software. Yes, mass customisation is here - but there is so much more that can be done with it.
Of the brands using configurators on their ecommerce sites, however, few have as yet ventured into the realm of 3D. As a customer, seeing an image of the product you are customising to your own specifications is good, but there is still the risk that it will not meet your expectations if you are not able to visualise it properly on the screen before making your purchase. An inability for customers to accurately visualise a product prior to purchase can be detrimental to a brand in a number of ways. Fewer full conversions may result from a customisation process in which the consumer does not feel confident in what they can see on the screen. Where a sale ismade, dissatisfaction with the product purchased can be costly in terms of returns, damaging customer sentiment and reducing the likelihood of repeat custom.
Any way that a brand can improve user experience with more accurate representation of products, particularly those that are individualised, offers a strategic advantage. By presenting products in 3D, forward-thinking brands are able to add an extra element of positive user experience. Customers are able to view their prospective purchase from every angle, assessing each element that they customise in detail. This allows a greater understanding of exactly what they can expect from the physical product, giving them increased confidence and satisfaction in their choices.
The shift in customer sentiment, towards a more personalised, bespoke shopping experience, necessitates an obvious corresponding shift in how brands perceive and interact with them. The buyer is no longer ‘customer’ or (worse) ‘consumer’. Each shopper is an individual and demands to be treated as such. Brands must therefore now focus on understanding customers right down to a one-to-one level. How is this possible?
Whilst it may not be feasible to truly pay attention to each customer individually, a combination of customisation options and solid data analytics can, at least, give the impression of individual, tailored attention. Product customisation via 3D configurator software can also offer brands a two-pronged approach that covers both these bases. Sophisticated 3D configurator software, such as that offered by Modular, comes equipped with powerful data capture and analytics capabilities. This allows a brand to obtain a deep understanding of customer configuration behaviour across individual products and marry this insight with deep drill-downs into buyer journey analytics, data from mobile, and so on...
By offering customers flexibility through their buying journey and in the choices they make, the adoption of 3D configurator software for mass customisation of products offers brands a strategic advantage over competitors which may not be quite so engaged with their customers’ needs. Data capture delivered through the configurator software that communicates to the brand which configuration options are proving most popular across their product line is also advantageous. It offers a piecemeal approach to ascertaining buyer preferences, which allows the brand to tailor future product offerings to further meet these preferences. Over time, the brand is able to iteratively learn and select options for future lines that more accurately pinpoint customer desire.
Whilst the strategic value of offering mass customisation in retail is clear to see, it is also important that such an offering also offers economic value for brands. Is there tangible return on investment to be achieved?
Where the strategy executed by the brand is constructed with due attention and sensitivity, there is certainly a powerful business case for doing so. Improved customer satisfaction leads to a better brand image, which in turn drives an increase in both repeat custom and new buyers. But beyond this, looking to the production line, there is opportunity for cost savings on materials, reduction in excess inventory (thus saving storage costs), and general manufacturing efficiencies.
The economic value of implementing 3D configuration software that offers accurate, rounded and interactive visualisation of the product being customised is a value that is passed on to the customer, too. Whilst a small premium on customised goods is often a necessary side-effect of offering customised products, this is far from prohibitive. On the contrary, customers feel they are being offered bettervalue, as the products they choose more accurately represent their preferences.
A satisfied customer stays with your brand, and is unlikely to switch to another based on price point alone. Where they feel they are offered true value, an outstanding customer experience, this takes priority for the majority. As most brands know, the cost of acquiring a new customer is higher than that of retaining an existing one, so the better the experience they are offered, the more likely they are to stay.
A personalised service, and particularly one that allows them to actually have input into the design of their purchase itself, is key to this. Satisfied customers coming back for further purchases play an important role in driving brand revenue, not only through their sales directly, but also through the positive word-of-mouth they offer potential new customers as a direct result of their satisfaction. The value of such brand advocacy is incredibly powerful, and it may just be that it is your implementation of 3D configuration software that tips the scales to create those all-important advocates.