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Product Personalization is Not a Trend

By Mark Romanelli | Published August 29, 2012 | Google+

In 1909 Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, was famously quoted as saying ‘Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as its black.’

With advances in technology and supply chain management, manufacturing has come a long way over the past 100 years.  But individual product customization has really only begun to gain momentum over the past 5 years and shows no sign of slowing down.

Just 15 years ago the idea of giving a personalized gift was typically limited to engraving a picture frame or customizing a coffee mug at places like Things Remembered.  Today consumers have tons of options to customize products that they are passionate about.

Its not just simple products like T-shirts & stationary that can be customized.  More complex products such as bicycles, hockey sticks, sunglasses, and baseball gloves are just a few examples of items that can be customized from the ground up online.  Even huge brands like Nike & Reebok have joined the fray offering custom sneakers that are made to order.

So why are many companies moving in this direction when having products mass produced is so much more convenient and generally cheaper?

I’m sure each organization moving in this direction or already there would answer that question differently.  On the surface giving customers the ability to personalize can lead to a competitive advantage, increased margins on a sale, improved customer loyalty, or simply to create buzz about something new.

For us, we started offering fully customized gift cards in 2008 for two reasons.  First, we wanted to provide the best product possible and something that everyone else wasn’t doing.  And secondly, we set out to remove the perception that giving a gift card wasn’t personal gift.

Since we launched our Create-A-Card Visa Gift Card and MasterCard Gift Card products, our sales have increased significantly each year.  The Create-A-Card is by far our most popular option, we’ve seen an increase in repeat customer orders, and the average gift card value is higher when the customer customizes their own card.

The move towards individualized product personalization is NOT a trend.  Trends are short lived and those organizations who offer personalization options to their customers that are user friendly will see the return on investment and likely build on that offering.

With the invention of 3D Printing equipment or what’s known as Additive Manufacturing, its quite possible that within 10 years personalizing products will not just be dominated by websites but retail stores will offer that option in-store.

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