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Having It Their Way: The Big Opportunity In Personalized Products

A great article by Forbes detailing the way large companies produce products that allow customers to personalize their items elevating customer loyalty and engagement with the brand.

Having It Their Way: The Big Opportunity In Personalized Products

Sellers of everything from dress shirts to handbags and even consumer packaged goods are discovering the value of letting customers create their own unique products. Retailers use Big Data to present a personalized set of products to their customers—it’s been a driving force behind Amazon’s success. Now brands are taking personalization a big step forward into mass customization. They are discovering that they can elevate customer loyalty and engagement—and use their customer base as an engine of advocacy to potential buyers.

Product customization helps brands boost sales on their own websites or gain share on a retailer’s site. For example, Pepperidge Farm customers now design Goldfish crackers, and Jawbone customers configure their own Jambox speakers. Trek enables cyclists to build a bike from the ground up. And Brooks Brothers allows men to create their own suits.

A Bain survey of more than 1,000 online shoppers found that while less than 10% have tried customization options, 25% to 30% are interested in doing so. While it is hard to gauge the overall potential of customization, if 25% of online sales of footwear were customized, that would equate to a market of $2 billion per year.

Beyond the pure size of the opportunity, our survey showed that those customers who had customized a product online engaged more with the company. They visited its website more frequently, stayed on the page longer and were more loyal to the brand.

Equally, customization helps companies differentiate their products from those of their competitors at a time when the Internet is rapidly making it easier for customers to compare the prices of products with standard features.

With the proliferation of social media and online publishing, styles and trends now change faster than ever. Customization helps companies gain insights from customized designs and fine-tune products to stay one step ahead of the competition. With each design choice, customers share real-time shopper preferences that go well beyond what they would say in a focus group. For example, what Brooks Brothers learns from its customers in one season is used to help it deliver the next season’s product line.

“All of this activity points to rapid growth in mass-customization offerings across categories. Early pioneers like Oakley have demonstrated strong consumer demand for customized products, and successfully orchestrated programs are delivering positive ROI and consumer engagement,”

according to Kent Deverell, CEO of Fluid, a digital agency and software as a service provider that helps companies launch customization offerings.

In our experience, all successful companies follow five rules.

1. Before testing the waters, companies should be clear about the strategic value they hope to achieve. Some companies use it primarily to engage with customers and build brand advocacy. Others pursue customization of a chosen product line largely for its direct profit potential. Consider Longchamp’s self-design versions of its iconic Le Pliage tote bag. On the extreme end of the spectrum: building a core business around a customized offering, such as Wild Things has done with its design-your-own Insulight jackets.

2. Companies also must determine how much customization they really need to offer. Some brands allow consumers to design a unique product that will be built to order, with a range of features that can be added. Others offer minor customization options—engraving a name on a briefcase, for example. Some companies only allow customization in fit or design. And others, like Serena & Lily, provide “consumer-choice bundling.” Shoppers at Serena & Lily’s online store design their own bedding combinations, buying existing products that are then collected from a warehouse and shipped to them. For most retailers, it’s the option that makes the most sense—they can sell from a standard product line.

3. Successful companies offer customers a simple and easy design template as a starting point, as opposed to a blank canvas. If the online design process is too complicated, difficult or unattractive, many potential shoppers will be turned off. They may also reject too many options.

4. In addition to making the design process enjoyable, companies need to make the return process seamless. All customers seem to want the option of returning goods within a reasonable period, typically 30 days. Our survey determined that demand for customization falls off precipitously if consumers think they could be stuck with something they don’t like—even though early adopters of product customization have found that return rates are lower than for standard products.

5. Another important consideration: helping consumers share their creations with friends and relatives. For example, the North Face has launched a gallery of designs created by customers for its Denali jacket, which serve as inspiration points for others. Jeld-Wen enables real-time, online collaboration for customers to co-create and share customized door designs.

As more retailers and brands give their customers the design-it-yourself option, they should see a boost in profitable revenues, stay connected to their best customers and lower costs. Winners will be those that know their objectives, understand how much customization they really need, keep things simple and create a repeatable model for delighting customers again and again.

 

Reaching The Unreachable: How Experiential Marketing Targets Brand-Savvy Millennials

This is a great article by Forbes. It tells us how millennials are targeted with experiential marketing pointing out that in addition to loving the experience of experiential marketing they also crave the authenticity of brands and handing out free swag is a sure fire way to get your brand noticed through following different social platforms on and sharing photos on social media with hashtags.

Reaching The Unreachable: How Experiential Marketing Targets Brand-Savvy Millennials

By Joey Kercher

Marketers are having a difficult time reaching millennials because tech-savvy and brand-savvy millennials tune out most forms of traditional marketing. They use ad blockers when using search engines, stream their entertainment while simultaneously blocking commercials, communicate and share news via social media, and ignore even the most brightly colored highway billboards or snail mail postcards. eMarketer reports that millennials choose to ignore ads, making it more difficult to catch their attention. Millennials know how to use technology to find products and services that meet their needs, but perhaps more importantly, millennials are brand savvy.

So how can experiential marketing target these brand-savvy millennials?

1. Millennials Love Experiences

It’s a sweeping generalization, but millennials are well known for their love of experiences. They eagerly attend festivals, concerts, trade shows, exhibits and sporting events and explore local nightlife and popular attractions. They want to experience the latest thing and are always looking for the next new and exciting thing. In fact, a study from the Harris Group reported that 72% of millennials would rather choose an experience over a material item.

When you take your product or service and highlight it at one of these events, you are sharing your brand with millennials in a context that they enjoy. You are integrating your brand into the millennials’ environment, ensuring that your brand will be on their radar. For brands to integrate themselves into the millennial environment, they need to seek out spaces millennials frequent such as malls, festivals, concerts, sporting events and college campuses (your exact target space will depend on your target demographic).

2. Millennials Crave Authenticity

It may seem counterintuitive to say that millennials crave authenticity when they spend hours each day on social media glamorizing their own lives and altering their personas. However, millennials are interested and attracted to other people and brands that are honest, transparent and authentic. You appear as an authentic brand when you connect person-to-person with millennials. You show them through personalized conversations with another human being what your brand stands for and how your products or services can help them. A Cohn & Wolfe study reported that 87% of all global consumers believed it was necessary for brands to “(act) with integrity at all times.” In fact, consumers went so far as to say that “authenticity” was more important to them than things such as “product uniqueness,” “product utility” and “popularity.” This is a distinct change compared to prior data and is theorized to be the result of millennials, as their “vote” in these studies push the results towards the need for authenticity from brands.

A great example of authenticity in an experiential marketing campaign is to develop a campaign designed to educate and share a product with your consumers rather than get something from them such as an email sign-up. Our agency has worked with Adidas on several campaigns where the goal was to share the latest sneakers with consumers by authentically having conversations about the new design aesthetic and performance changes. The goal was not to push the sneakers through sales but rather develop interest in them by authentically conveying why they were different to consumers. The goal was simply to have a conversation with consumers about the brand.

3. Hand Out Free Swag

Millennials are happy to share their feelings about brands on social media and branded events are no exception. In fact, Splash found (and shared in Adweek) that 81% of millennials shared photos on social media at a branded event, 71% used the event’s hashtag, 67% followed the brand on social and 56% signed up for an email list. All of this interaction took place at a branded event where millennials received products such as bottles, t-shirts, hats, glasses, totes or pens. Although branded swag isn’t required for millennials to talk about their branded event experience on social, it does help when it comes to images. Give millennials something to wear and share and they will.

The best way to encourage millennials to talk about their branded swag is to ensure that you give them a reason to show it off. This can be accomplished through a contest at the end of the day that requires a photo to be taken with the product or while wearing the branded swag. Sometimes it can be as simple as having a really unique and cool branded item that millennials are bound to use and want to show off immediately. In this way, branded swag can masquerade as a free product.

Millennials are not unreachable when you take the time to develop an authentic campaign aimed at connecting instead of selling and building brand awareness.

 

WHY FACE-TO-FACE COMMUNICATION WITH CONSUMERS IS IMPORTANT AT EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING EVENTS

Here is a great article by Factory. This article explains the benefits of why being face to face with your consumers at experiential marketing events is important and how these events build better relationships with your targeted audience.

WHY FACE-TO-FACE COMMUNICATION WITH CONSUMERS IS IMPORTANT AT EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING EVENTS.

One of the ways that experiential marketing differentiates itself from other forms of marketing is it allows brands to engage in face-to-face communication with their target audience. Regardless of what type event you plan on hosting, it’s strongly recommended that you have brand ambassadors communicating with your guests in some way. Why is this so important? Here are some of the many benefits of engaging in face-to-face communication with consumers:

Ask and answer questions

Using traditional forms of marketing such as TV commercials, print, or radio advertisements, brands are only able to engage in one-way communication with consumers. Brands can speak to the consumer, but the consumer cannot respond to the message. Unfortunately, this means that consumers won’t be able to get their questions answered. At an experiential marketing event, consumers have the chance to speak directly to the face of the brand and ask as many questions as they’d like to learn more about the brand and its products or services.

Letting consumers ask your brand ambassadors questions also helps clear up any misconceptions that the consumer may have about your products. For example, let’s say a company that sells allergy medications is hosting an experiential marketing event. As a brand ambassador talks to a guest, he may realize that the guest is under the impression that the allergy medication is available by prescription only, when it is actually sold as an over-the-counter medication. By engaging in face-to-face communication and asking each other questions, the brand ambassador has the opportunity to identify and clear up misconceptions.

Interpret reactions

There are other ways for brands to engage in two-way communication with consumers, such as on social media channels, so what makes face-to-face communication so important? Using social media channels, brands only get to see what consumers say, but they don’t get to see their nonverbal cues, which are sometimes more important than the words that have been spoken. A brand ambassador who is engaging in face-to-face communication with a consumer has the opportunity to listen to what each consumer has to say while also picking up on nonverbal cues. For example, let’s say a brand ambassador is speaking with an event attendee who asks the ambassador about the retail price of a certain product. Upon hearing the price, the attendee responds politely, but the ambassador is able to pick up on nonverbal cues that indicate he is not happy. The brand ambassador now has the unique opportunity to tailor the

conversation based on how he has interpreted the guest’s reaction. Instead of continuing to talk about the features of the product, the ambassador could begin to discuss rebates or special discounts to draw the consumer back in.

By interpreting nonverbal reactions during face-to-face communication, brand ambassadors can adjust the conversation as needed to ensure that the consumer remains engaged.

Build relationships by establishing trust

In order to sell to a consumer, you must have some sort of relationship with him, and there’s no better way to build the foundation of a relationship than with face-to-face communication. Why? Researchers have found that face-to-face communication is essential for building authentic relationships with other people. More specifically, studies have shown that making eye contact while engaging in face-to-face communication is key to building trust. If a brand ambassador at your event gets the chance to speak and make eye contact with consumers, these consumers may begin to trust your brand as a result of the conversation. Although trust can be established with consumers in other ways, it is typically created much faster during face-to-face communication than it would be using other methods.

Opportunity to show the brand’s personality

It can be difficult to show your brand’s personality using traditional forms of marketing. After all, there’s only so much that you can say and do within a thirty second commercial or a one-page magazine advertisement. However, it’s much easier to help consumers understand who you are as a brand using face-to-face communication at an experiential marketing event.

In order to show your brand’s personality, it’s important that you take the time to thoroughly train brand ambassadors so they understand how they can best represent you. For example, if you want consumers to see that you are a fun and playful brand, brand ambassadors should be relaxed, talkative, and friendly when speaking to consumers. If you use words such as “wise” and “reliable” to describe your brand, then your brand ambassadors should be trained in a different way. In this case, brand ambassadors should be able to answer every question thrown their way and should remain professional and courteous at all times. Properly training your brand ambassadors can ensure that they are ready to communicate directly with consumers and convey your brand’s personality to your target audience.

Gather feedback

Companies often pay thousands of dollars to market research firms so they can gather feedback about their products, messaging, and brand in general. But, why waste thousands of dollars on this research when you can gather feedback from consumers at experiential marketing events? Brand ambassadors have the unique opportunity to speak one-on-one with guests at the event and hear what they have to say. As long as brand ambassadors are trained properly, they should be able to collect all of this feedback so you can thoroughly review it after the event.

 

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