Real Time 3D rendering technology, which allows for accurate, 360 degree viewing of a product, combined with the function of customising that product, is the future of retail. Rather than choosing from a limited set of pre-fabricated product options, the consumer is met with an immersive, active experience. The customer is always right, as the old saying goes, so why not put them in the driving seat?
In this article, we will look at the numerous ways in which the implementation of 3D rendering can benefit retail businesses. From marketing to production infrastructure, profit lines to brand perception and growth, the evidence clearly demonstrates that it is time for an overhaul in the way we present, produce and market products and services to consumers.
Let’s begin by learning about how the product itself, by presentation using digital 3D rendering, can increase in desirability and consumer experience, as well as giving the brand a leading edge on competition.
A recent study by Deloitte indicated that around 30% of respondents were prepared to pay a premium (of up to 10%) for tailored products and services. This telling statistic, gathered at such an early stage in the game, demonstrates the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be achieved through further implementation of 3D rendered, customisable product delivery.
By implementing a streamlined approach to production, not only is customer satisfaction certain to be improved, but we can also expect a significant reduction in lead times. A principal outcome of this is a shorter time to delivery for bespoke products, which is, of course, highly desirable for the consumer.
What’s more, the ability for the customer to actively participate in the design process of their product brings them closer to the brand and positions them at the centre of the experience.
The first brands to engage with 3D rendering technology are set to benefit from ‘early adopter advantage’. This has a huge amount to do with brand perception, not only by consumers themselves, but within their industry as a whole. With the improved communications with the customer, combined with the sophisticated data gathering tool that such customisation options offers, the brand has the edge of being ahead of emerging trends, further solidifying them as an influential and informed representative of their industry.
This, of course, leads to increased industrial competition. And where competition is heightened, so is the necessity to be creative and to innovate, with the result of creating a more vibrant, engaging marketplace for consumers as a whole.
Any successful business owner knows that continuing to innovate and drive forward new ideas keeps a brand fresh, and therefore successful. To emphasise the creativity and imagination of a brand is to set it among the most influential in its industry.
Creative innovation allows a brand to stand apart from its competition. To offer something original and unique chimes with consumers’ ever-increasing hunger to identify, and be identified, as original and unique themselves. Essentially, a buyer seeks a brand that reflects their own values. And considering that a majority of consumers, especially from the younger age-groups, are focused on their identity and uniqueness, offering them the opportunity to, at least in part, design their own products is hugely appealing.
The person behind the ‘consumer’ is important to recognise. To identify and understand their drives, their shopping habits, and their desires, we must seek to know them. Data gathering is one key way that 3D rendering technology and mass customisation can help us do this, and we will go into this in more depth later on. At a basic level, however, we can say that the consumer generally seeks engaging, attractive, and informative brands with which to interact.
The active engagement offered by allowing consumers to design their own purchases using 3D rendering is highly valuable. Rather than seeing themselves as a passive shopper, who clicks, adds to basket and pays, they feel involved in the process. They are the creators; they are the ones in control. The sense that someone on the other side of the screen is meeting their demands and constructing their desired product to their order is hugely attractive. They are at the centre of their own buying process.
On the whole, shoppers are visually-driven. They select products that appeal to them on an aesthetic level, but they also select brands based on that same basis.
A modern, attractive website, with the engaging features that 3D rendering for customised products offer, is therefore appealing. The design of the website itself enters into it, too. And with the data gleaned from assessing the aesthetic preferences of shoppers, brands can tailor their brand image in a way that targets their aesthetic choices.
At its core, however, the major attraction of designing and ordering one’s own custom-made products is that the consumer has the choice of which aesthetic appeals to them best. Whilst trends come and go, the drive to set oneself apart from the crowd and to choose the product which is most attractive to them will never die.
In order to offer consumers the products they desire, there is an ever-present need to understand, to pre-empt, and - ultimately - to drive those desires. Alongside the data gathering that mass customisation offers, brands must continually be ahead of the game in terms of what trends are developing in the industry (i.e. fashion from the catwalk and from street style; furniture style from world-leading designers, and so on).
Accompanying the options offered with the 3D rendering functionality on the website, businesses must engage their customers with the ‘philosophy’ behind those options. It is all well and good to offer a range of options that we thinkwill appeal, but to explain why those options are chosen, in how they relate to upcoming trends, posits the brand as an authority on its industry. With authority comes respect, and with respect for a brand comes trust and - crucially - returning custom.
This can be detailed directly on the product page, as well as via the brand’s advertising, newsletters, blogs and social media. Which, of course, brings us on to Marketing.
Understanding and satisfying specific customer expectation enables the achievement of a strategic fit with consumers’ long-term needs. And key to understanding that customer expectation is a close analysis of the information that is being provided by the customer themselves.
Gathering data from customers is never easy, especially considering the largely averse attitude many have towards the entire idea of sharing their data with brands. However, it’s important to note that not all data is strictly quantitative. A good marketer should be able to read customer trends not only from the facts and figures presented to them, but from the qualitative information they either willingly or inadvertently offer up. Social media feeds are a good place to begin. Where a brand has a strong, engaged following, it is easy to scour their comments for ideas as to what their drives and desires are. One of the key platforms for doing so is Instagram, which is highly visual by nature. Following your customers, whether influential or not, will give you a solid idea of what trends they are engaging with. However, if you are a marketer reading this, there’s a good chance we are teaching you to suck eggs here!
The point is, however, that analysis of what options your buyers are particularly choosing will give you some sense of what to promote, and what to offer more of. Whilst this is the case for mass production anyway, it takes on an extra dimension with customised products. Deeper targeting to customer desires is possible in a way previously only available on a superficial level. Knowing style trends in this much detail, gleaned from the data their buying habits offer you, will feed your marketing team, your brand’s designers, and thus the options offered in future.
In this way, you can - over time - create an increasingly sophisticated targeting mechanism, which satisfies consumer demand at an unparalleled, accurate level.
22% of respondents to a recent study by Deloitte expressed a willingness to share data in exchange for the opportunity to access customised products. This statistic could, arguably, be perceived as high enough to justify an extra layer of data gathering during the purchase process.
Social media is a ruling force in society. It not only consumes vast swathes of time people spend online; it is a brand marketer’s dream come true.
We have touched on the drive towards individualised identity is central to a large proportion of consumers. This is never more clearly articulated than on visually-based social media platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest. These social platforms are the perfect environment to assess themes and trends in purchasing habits. It is also the place where your brand’s customers congregate to show off the items they have purchased from you. In many ways, they have the potential to advertise your products for you. And where this drive to individuality is uppermost, so wins the brand that offers customisation.
With the ability to use 3D rendering to design products of their own comes the Holy Grail for the identity-centric consumer: a customised product that they have designed themselves. And they will, undoubtedly, show off their self-designed products via social media.
A company that offers 3D rendering and mass customisation of their products is ideally placed for organic virality. Once influencers are engaging with your brand’s customised products, the rest will follow. Your customer base grows through user-generated content.
All of this, of course, results in increased traffic to the website, as consumers cotton on to the notion that you are a brand that understands and delivers their unique demands. The wider audience afforded by social media, as you ride the coattails of individuality, has significant potential for increased sales, and exponential growth.
There is a huge number of benefits to adopting the mass customisation model. However, there is no escaping the fact that it represents a major overhaul in the infrastructure of a company. How do you replace mass production systems, which may have been in place for decades, with a mass customisation system?
The answer is: gradually.
By beginning to implement the mass customisation model, offering 3D rendering on the website for a proportion of products, you will begin to realise the benefits. Material costs are reduced, excess inventory is reduced, and you can charge a price premium for customised products. 30% of respondents to Deloitte’s study stated that they would like to buy customised products, and one in five of these would be prepared to pay around 10% more for tailored products and services.
The streamlined approach that a mass customisation infrastructure allows has a strong effect on efficiency. Less of the workforce will be taken up by unskilled factory workers, though skilled designers and craftspeople will be required to fill their place.
As the demand for customised products rises, your company can move an increasing section of the production to the custom model. It is likely that prefabricated products will still be desirable to some degree or another, but offering that extra service, whereby customers have the choice on the products they buy, will be a valuable weapon in your arsenal.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to profit margins. There is a strong sense that the mass customisation model has the potential to drive down costs significantly, by obliterating excess inventory, reducing the cost of order fulfilment, and streamlining the production process and workforce. This combines with five to eight times the ROI to be expected through increased sales at a price premium that can be charged for customised products.
Differentiation from the competition is one of the key benefits that will drive sales under the mass customisation model. This is at no cost to company performance, indeed decreasing lead times for order fulfilment and delivery. Quality is also increased as a result of the attention-to-detail required on each individual item.
We are living in a digital age where the internet has opened the doors to an unprecedented level of freedom of expression. From blogs and video to social media, gaming and beyond, people want to be recognised for their individuality. It is time that businesses wake up to the possibilities offered by placing the controls in their customers’ hands. Allowing them to take the reins, dictate what they want, and have it delivered precisely as they desire, will be ever-more important to the survival of brands in the future.
By integrating 3D rendering technology and the choice of customised products into their business strategy, those brands who adopt the mass customisation model will flourish. The game is changing, and fortune favours the brave.
Stake out your brand’s own individuality, stand apart, and be recognised for the great innovators you are.