Henry Ford famously said that people could order Fords in any color they wanted, as long as it was black. If e-commerce existed more than a century ago, Ford might have been in trouble. In fact, it wasn't long after auto manufacturing became a major industry that customer demand kicked in, and car makers began offering options.
Today, personalization is everywhere. People no longer buy "just some product". They want to get an experience along with it. Customization allows instilling a feeling of "uniqnuess" and "self expression", making even a mass-market product appearing more exquisite and, hence, desirable. This desire for customization isn't simply an urge to modify cosmetic features either. Consumers may also want to customize functional elements.
The solution is interactive eCommerce. It enables the business to set the parameters, by defining what can be customized and the options that customers have. Customers can then select the options that they desire. The end result are products that truly meet customers' needs.
So, customers can pick and choose. What's new about that? Interactive eCommerce gives brands the chance to create interactive user experiences long before a customer is ready to convert.
Someone can enter the eCommerce site of a drum manufacturer, and spend hours designing the perfect drum kit long before they are ready to make a purchase. Even better, the experience is social. Imagine a young couple customizing the bicycles they plan on purchasing to use on their upcoming honeymoon. Finally, this kind of interactivity gives consumers the chance to see the results of their choices in real time.
There are also benefits for brands that offer up this kind of customization. When a customer creates what they consider to be the perfect item (football jersey, motorbike, engagement ring, etc.), they don't keep that to themselves. Instead, they share it on social media. They ask for opinions. This results in engagement and increased traffic as more visitors come to check things out, and see how they might create their own customized product.
E-Commerce Sites That Are Getting Interactivity Right
Here are a few eCommerce websites that are doing a great job of providing interactive user experiences for their visitors.
If you've ever been involved in athletics at any level, you know that one of the best days of any season is the day that new uniforms are issued. Both coaches and athletic directors relish the opportunity to hand pick the features of the uniforms that they hope will instill pride in both the athletes and those rooting for them.
Dynamic Team Sports is a major manufacturer of athletic apparel. They provide clothing for sports teams of all types. In order to create the best user experience possible, they turned to Doogma to create an interactive design solution that allows users to customize their team's athletic apparel.
Here's how it works. Dynamic gives visitors the opportunity to first select the sports category they are looking for. Then, they pick the uniform style they want. This is when the interactive experience truly begins. The coach or athletic director can then customize various elements of the uniforms by selecting colors, fonts, and other features. They can even customize logos by typing in team names or uploading the team logo. As the user customizes each element of the uniform, they see the results of their selections right before their eyes. This means that they know exactly what they are going to get.
Once they have designed the perfect uniform, the customer can take the option to receive a price quote. If they aren't quite ready to order, they can share what they have created on social media. This is a great opportunity to get feedback from players and fans alike. Athletic coaches, sponsors, parents, and even team members can then bond over the uniform selection process. Even better for the brand, they can share their choices and opinions on Instagram and other social media channels.
It only takes a few minutes on the Modify Furniture website to see that this is a pristine example of an eCommerce site that provides potential customers with a truly detailed experience. Modify Furniture offers sleek, modern furniture that is highly customizable. Their interactive eCommerce website doesn't only support customization of a few elements. Instead, customers can personalize furniture inside and out, and in three dimensions. Front, back, and side panels can be customized as visitors select both finish and color. In some cases, visitors can select multiple colors to create patterns within the front back and center of the furniture that they are considering. Here is an example of one of their pieces and the customization options:
Game Day Screens
Hook 'em Horns! Roll Tide! Go Gators!!
There is no denying it. Sports gets people fired up. High School level, college level, pro, or even little league sports ignite passion in fans. Game Day Screens produces window screens that can be displayed on houses and businesses on game day, or even throughout the season. Customers pick their college team and the logo designs for that team are displayed. From that point, the customer designs the screen, with the customized choices/decisions showing up on a blank screen.
Autonomy Guitars - Music Your Way
Musicians are artists. They also have "signature sounds" and an image they want to portray. What better way than for them to custom design their guitars, rather than to purchase one "off the shelf" that anyone can buy. Founder Oren Levy, Autonomy Guitars, has now made it possible for a guitarist to put his uniqueness into his instrument. The concept is a DIY kit, so to speak, beginning with a basic design and then adding customized features and designs at will.
Getting on Board with Interactivity
These are just a few examples of customization and interactivity for consumers as they shop. But here's the thing. Consumers who shop online no longer have an experience with the company, in a physical environment. That is a piece that is emotionally missing. Add to that the need for customers, especially millennials, to have more personalized relationships with companies with which they do business. The logical outcome for e-commerce is to provide interactive customization and personalization, so that consumers feel a "connection." Currently, clothiers, jewelry enterprises, and even razor blade companies are getting into personalization by adding engaging interactive experiences to their product lines and catalogs.
Companies that embrace interactivity will find that their brands are promoted by their consumers in a far more effective manner than any ad campaign can accomplish.