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Most mass produced products are “fire and forget.” A small team develops a product and once it has been produced others market and sell this product to a distant customer. A company may use focus groups, research, internal feedback or customer suggestions to set out on a product development path.
However during the product development process and after the product is launched feedback and ideas are often not solicited. Market research may be conducted afterwards to determine a product’s positioning or relative success. Subsequently the product development team sets off again to make a new thing or improve the previous thing.
There is a far more agile, responsive and proactive way to develop products however. By using the power of 3D customization coupled with digital manufacturing companies can design products that better fit their customers. Companies can in a more active way engage their customers in a continual dialogue. This lets customers have a voice in a product’s design and helps make that product better.
Twikit design studio
Mass Customization and Customer Interaction
In mass customization a customer can design the product that they wish to have. Using online software tools, such as those that Twikit develops, people can play and interact with a design online. They can size a thing so it fits their face, feet or hands. They can input data such as birthdays or things that they enjoy. Based on this the customer can then design their own product. Rather than give people a set amount of products to choose from mass customization gives them many options and the freedom to customize or be creative with a product. By immediately making any changes the customer makes visual in their browser the customer can see how they are influencing the design process. If they’ve found or made the design they like they can then order it. This is a very different method of selling to a customer. Instead of them having only a few options they have many. Giving people the freedom to have choice whilst not overwhelming them with too many choices to make, is the key element to designing online user experiences that work in mass customization.
Engaging customers through play
Once this balance of choice has been done properly, customers can have a new kind of shopping experience. They play with the product, interact with it, have fun with it. The product and the brand giving them access to this product, become a canvas. Shopping is now a playful process where people can use their imagination to make a thing more perfect for them. They can add letters, phrases, make design changes and see the results appear before them. Letters can be made and erased, shapes can be changed. The fun element lets people enjoy the experience. The also continually imagine what that object would feel like or what it would be like to own it or purchase it in that particular configuration. One they feel that they’ve arrived at something that they would like then they purchase it. If done properly online mass customization tools are therefore easy to use whilst providing the user with feedback on the final look and price of the item. The fundamental interaction is different. Rather than “Buy these Sunglasses for $199” in red, blue or black the interaction is more open ended. Design these sunglasses to perfectly fit you, is a partnership. It is a creative process that you undertake together with your customer.
For this to make sense to the consumer the value proposition needs to be very clear from the onset. Pricing has to be clear. It can not be seen to jump or be to unpredictable. We’d always recommend a very straightforward, linear or unitary pricing model that is easy to understand. If it seems to variable or unpredictable conversion will suffer.
The UX and UI also has to give the customer enough room to play in. Things should be changeable and the customer should know what they are changing and how. Any interaction should be straightforward or self explanatory. If these factors are taken into account a playful interaction will ensue. Rather than judging the value of an object the consumer is judging the value of what she has created together with you.
Engaging customers through unique designs
If the mass customization canvas in which the consumer plays is broad enough for them to be creative but defined enough for them not to be overwhelmed by choice, a playful customized interaction can occur. As a result a unique design may emerge. If ‘unique’ is promised it is important that the design is so variable that it is actually unique. People prize unique things and feel more proud of owning them whilst having a stronger desire to acquire them. If the term is however overused or leads to an item which is clearly not unique (eg a bike where I can only choose one of five colors) then this will lead to disappointment by the customer. If this is managed well then the customer will not only be confronted by a unique item but a unique item that they have helped create. This will increase their affect towards the object that they have made. This coupled with a sense of accomplishment and the idea that they’ve made the perfect thing for them will greatly increase their predisposition to acquire that item.
Emotional Connection with your brand
If this design process is then done in tight concert with the branding of your product then the customer’s pride will be transferred to your brand. The customer will develop a true emotional connection with you. Before they have even held the product in their hands they will have had the emotional bond of having made something together with you. Here is a company that listens. Here is someone who understands me. Here is an organization that can let me create the perfect thing for me. Essentially you are through mass customization empowering the individual to a greater sense of self gratification. For the same amount of money they could acquire standard items everyone else has elsewhere. Instead they create together with you the perfect object. This empowering feeling will transfer itself to you.
The resulting object will once it has been received have a higher satisfaction. The customer has after all made it with you. They have not bought something that they have no connection with. Instead they have gone through a process with you that made them the ideal thing for them. People like to create and are proud of the things that they make. Once they have this made thing they will be happier with it and happier with you. Customers rate their own involvement in creation very highly. If the process itself is smooth and the product meets expectations they will be more likely to not only like it for themselves but to share this.
Ambassadors not customers
Twikit design studio
“I bought a new car” is something that in some cultures is a salonfähig thing to share(or should we say Facebookfähig nowadays). In other cultures one would be considered a braggart to openly talk so much about acquiring a new object. Depending on how prevalent automobiles were the news would either be pedestrian or greeted with excitement. “I designed my dream car” is an altogether more noteworthy and newsworthy thing to share. In many more cultures such a message would be greeted more warmly and appreciated as well as being more interesting. If the consumer has that feeling about the automobile they also will be much more likely to share the news of its creation more widely. Notice that not only is the news item more interesting, its meaning has been shifted. “I acquired a new object” has become “I have done an interesting thing.” One often overlooked fact is that mass customization makes the consumer’s acquisition story more interesting while motivating the consumer more to share it. The customer will not only be more satisfied with the mass customized item but their possession has a story behind it that they can recount. The fact that the customer is recounting their tale of having customized the item simultaneously takes it from a bragging scenario and turns it into more of an “interesting things that I’ve done” one. Having more perfect objects in which the consumer has a stake leads to them becoming more likely to be true ambassadors for your brand. They can have relevant tales to tell and also acquire an object to boot. This will have positive effects on the marketing return and growth of the mass customized product.
Engaging customers through better fit
A few possibilities would be
– Golf club handles that fit the individual grip of the golfer or perhaps even correct it.
– Insoles and shoe soles made specifically for your size and weight.
– Chin, knee and other protective guards for sports.
– Corrective postoperative prosthetics.
– Customized Handles for walkers and wheel chairs.
– Mobile phones with cases that exactly fit an individual hand.
– Custom slippers or other footwear.
– Individually fitted tools or surgical instruments.
– Backpacks that are fitted to a person’s frame.
And many more.
Interested in exploring how to use mass customization to give your customers a better fit with your products? Contact us to find out more.