It’s been a long time since I walked into a store and bought a one-size-fits-all sweater that didn’t really fit or a pair of shoes that pinched when I walked. With a growing demand for customization in consumer products, the simple fact is that we’re no longer forced to buy an off-the-shelf product that isn’t quite right. Add to that the rise in e-commerce competition and peer-to-peer portals offering authentic, tailor-made experiences, and the future of retail is evolving.
With giant strides in technology like 3D printing, what used to be cost-prohibitive customization is now possible. When we can get a pair of shoes, jeans, or eyewear literally made to measure, why would we settle for less? I sat down with Shamil Hargovan, CEO and Co-Founder of fashion-forward, custom-fit footwear company Wiivv, to get his insights on why customization is so popular, and how it can benefit consumers and retailers alike.
On-Demand Personalization Is On The Rise
“If you take a look at trends in consumer and retailer spaces right now, there’s an underlying cultural demand for custom consumer products,” he shares. This is only set to rise as technology makes it easier for retailers to tailor products around their clients. Yet, customization isn’t a new concept. “The funny thing is, customization itself is the original form of producing goods,” Hargovan points out. “Clothing and shoes used to be individually made for their users, by cobblers or tailors and dressmakers. When mass production hit, that’s when customization was lost.”
Brands like Nike and Adidas are making strides towards offering a custom-designed shoe. Yet it’s actually the smaller, more boutique companies that are truly able to make custom fit possible, going beyond the aesthetic benefit, and offering functional enhancement to a product, explains Hargovan. “Wiivv is the first footwear company to make this technology available from the smartphone, making it possible for every consumer or store assistant to easily create custom gear for themselves and their customers.”
MTailor and Revols are two other up-and-coming companies offering custom men’s suits and earphones (respectively), created from a smartphone app. And consumers are lapping it up. But it’s not only retail we’re talking about; customization is gaining protagonism in all areas of our lives, from our online behavior to our entertainment habits, with digital ads targeting offers based on data stored in our browsers. “People expect their favorite brands, products and apps to be smart and on-demand, so they can live better, easier lives. This is what custom-fit products are all about,” says Hargovan.
A Growing Opportunity For Retailers
The growing expectation of customization from consumers doesn’t have to spell the death of the retail store. After all, what better place is there to offer a completely customized purchasing experience than in a store equipped with your customers in mind? “We believe the future for retail is offering high-value services and staging unique experiences that drive customers into stores. Digital technology will improve to better support and enhance retail experiences,” says Hargovan.
Just consider how many major retailers are already using data. Companies like Walgreens and Target are transforming the customer experience thanks to the wealth of data stored on them allowing for personalization. They can target offers at point of sale and even based on customer in-store behavior and dwell times in aisles, blending their online and offline presence by completing a sale outside the store.
The Personalization Experience
The concept of using technology to produce custom fit products is still in its infancy, but there are several ways that retailers can take advantage and get ahead. At the store and experience level, brands can start by offering highly personalized recommendations. For example, a specialty running store can offer a walk/run assessment for personalized shoe recommendations. A retail clothing store can offer personal shopping experiences for unique budgets, body types and lifestyles. This personalization enhances the customer experience in-store and also allows customers to get the best product for them, resulting in improved retention.
The customization process is another touchpoint where customers can interact with a brand, and data about that customer can be collected. “We collect data points about the shape and structure of the foot, which change over time, so customers can update their foot profile annually, ensuring they always have up-to-date foot mappings and products,” explains Hargovan.
There are unlimited possibilities here for targeted retail marketing based on your business. Simply housing this kind of specific data on customers is instrumental in driving loyalty. Why would they go to another store and start the process again or purchase a size that doesn’t fit when they know what they’re getting with you? The future of retail is customization – and storing and utilizing previously untapped customer data to create offers they can’t resist in places impossible to miss.