Who are the product customizers?

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It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the prospect of starting a product customization program. Getting the right product configuration software, modifying your supply chain and logistics to handle single-piece orders, developing a marketing strategy, working with your retail partners. . . none of these tasks is trivial.

But you don’t have to let the project overwhelm you.

If you understand the segments of the product customization market, you can take the overall project in smaller, more manageable steps.

The product customization market is not a single, undifferentiated monolith comprised of one type of customer. Rather, there are three distinct market segments. Each segment demands different functionality and requires a different level of capability (and investment). Understanding what each segment wants and which customer you’re targeting is the key to a successful program.

customizers decorators personalizers pyramid

Personalizers: The largest segment of consumers interested in product customization is the Personalizer. Personalizers are happy with a brand’s inline product selection, but they want to add a little flair to the product with their signature or monogram. Serving these customers is comparatively simple and inexpensive, requiring little in the way of technology or special logistical capabilities. Your current factories and suppliers can typically handle personalization.

Decorators: Decorators enjoy designing a custom product, but they either lack the interest or the confidence to fully design their product. This customer will happily mix and match elements from a small, pre-selected palette of options. Decorators often add “whimsies” to their products – artwork, images, stickers, patches, and other designs – that provide increased personality to the items. Because the options are more limited, it’s less expensive to meet the needs of Decorators.

Customizers: The smallest segment of consumers are the Customizers. These are often the brand mavens, intensely interested in both the customization process and the look of the final product. They’re keenly aware of fashion trends, have a strong sense of style, and are highly individualistic. They don’t want to be one of a million; they want to be one in a million. To that end, they enjoy the process of creating a custom product, and are willing to spend 20 minutes or more configuring a product that speaks to their aesthetic sensibilities. Satisfying Customizers requires the heaviest investment in technology and logistics.

Customizers provide the fattest profit margins, but they represent the smallest market segment. By contrast, Personalizers are (currently) the bulk of the market, but the price premium for the products they desire is the smallest.

Brands that are just beginning to wade into the product customization waters should start by targeting the Personalizers. With only minimal financial investment, you’ll gain experience in all aspects of the customization process, from the front-end technology where the consumer designs the product, through order management at the factory, and the final mile delivery. You’ll learn about the glitches in the process and the key success factors for a good consumer experience. With that knowledge, you’ll be able to systematically and strategically invest in the more advanced capabilities that will enable you to reach the Decorators and Customizers.

Developing a product customization program isn’t trivial, but if you understand the three customer segments, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

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