Customization Moves Beyond Birthday Cakes

Oct 14, 2010

By Tom Ryan

The internet has enabled many retailers to provide customizable
options to their customers, and many of these options are being extended to
their brick and mortar

In Texas, United Supermarkets is enabling customers to create custom
wine labels in a new promotion. As part of a 3 Dreams Wine tour of its North
and West Texas stores, guests purchasing one of the specialized bottles of
chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot or cabernet sauvignon for $15.99 can add
their favorite photo onto a personalized wine label for no additional cost.
Those without a photo can choose from existing designs or enlist a 3 Dreams
Wine graphic artist to render an original idea. The labels are completed within

"Wine is a classic piece of the gift-giving tradition, and these
custom wine labeling events give United guests the opportunity to add their
personal touches into a time-honored, customary practice," said Roger
Scott, business manager of beer and wine for United Supermarkets, in a statement. "Whether
celebrating an anniversary, birthday, engagement, new home, special event or
holiday, personalized wine bottles preserve the memories with a lasting keepsake."

Finish Line athletic footwear chain is rolling out touch-screen t-shirt customization
at several of its larger stores as part of its new Nike Track Club in-store
concept. After choosing their size and color, customers can pick up to three
graphics from a selection of original art. These may be one of a selection
of team logos, including local high schools; or athletic-themed phrases such
as "skilled at every position" and "Does this shirt make my butt look FAST?"
Names and numbers can also be added. The shirts cost about $30 with a turnaround
time of 15 to 20-minutes.

"This was really about us creating an experience for the customers in
the mall," Finish Line chief merchandising officer Sam Sato told the Indianapolis
Business Journal
. "E-commerce is a significant part of what we do,
but the engine that drives our company is our mall stores. We felt it important
to evolve and upgrade the store experience."

customization options being offered by retailers, both online in and in-store:

  • LeSportSac, TimBuk2 and 21154 LILL Studio all enable customers to design
    their own bags.
  • Blank Label, ShirtsMyWay and Lands’ End are among the websites
    offering customized dress shirts. Lands’ End also offers customized swimsuits.
    Lids provides customized embroidery on its baseball caps at most of its
    stores as well as on its website.
  • Jewelers such as Zales and Blue Nile provide engraving
    as well as customizable options. For diamond rings, for instance, customers
    can chose the diamond and the setting.
  • Nike, Converse and Vans allow customers to design their
    own sneakers online. Beyond colors, Nike allows customers to choose
    firmer or softer cushioning, as well as soles and inner lining options.
    Many of Nike’s stores offer the service on an appointment-only basis.

Discussion Questions: What do you think of the opportunity for customization
at retail? Which customization options make the most sense?

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9 Comments on "Customization Moves Beyond Birthday Cakes"

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Max Goldberg
11 years 7 months ago

Customization makes sense when it can be done quickly (within a consumer’s reasonable time frame) and is perceived as added value, even at a higher price. It’s not a tactic that all brands should want to pursue.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
11 years 7 months ago

Everyone likes to be flattered by personalization–providing it doesn’t take too much time or seem too hokey.

Ian Percy
11 years 7 months ago

Customization creates a ‘one of a kind’ experience for the customer, providing a significantly higher level of engagement that is almost totally missing in the retail non-experience right now. “Where did you get that?” will be the most asked question for years to come.

For those who want to kill the fun…yes, of course there are disconnect points like price and time to deliver. But I’ve got a feeling there’s a lot more tolerance for those factors than we imagine.

I’m spending a lot of time convincing corporations that the ultimate success question is: “What is possible?” The customization trend feeds right into that concept. Bravo!

Paul R. Schottmiller
Paul R. Schottmiller
11 years 7 months ago

Inevitable. I believe it will increase significantly in both volume and scope and change customer expectations.

Personally, my recent favorite…my Flip Video with customized design.

Kevin Price
Kevin Price
11 years 7 months ago

Wow, what a concept! Enhancing retail capabilities to more precisely give people what they want…even if it’s a generic version and not customized whatsoever! Looks like a potential strategic advantage to me: giving the customer another reason to choose one store over another. Therefore, I expect there will be little adoption within retail.

Ed Rosenbaum
11 years 7 months ago

This could be a boon at Holiday time. I can see businesses giving bottles of wine to larger clients with the clients picture on the label. Oh wait, most businesses have stopped giving gifts at Holiday time.

This is a fad that will be short lived except for birthday cakes. It will take time and additional money to have the customization done. Neither are in abundance now.

Gene Detroyer
11 years 7 months ago

Customized products are FUN! I have used customized wine with the giftee’s name on it for years and it has always been wonderfully received. M&Ms has customized candy that has been a hit at Christmas Time and Birthdays. Yes, these customized products were a bit expensive, but the FUN value far exceeded the cost.)

I like the idea. I am going to the BlankLabel site right now to check it out.

Bill Bittner
Bill Bittner
11 years 7 months ago
Many years ago, I saw a demonstration of “virtual manufacturing.” In this demonstration, a remote computer scanned a teacup to create an engineering specification that was transmitted to the device in our room. The device then created a copy of the teacup. It still has long way to go, but as manufacturing becomes more automated it makes perfect sense for the finished product to be produced on sight. Imagine a “Retail Outlet” being a warehouse of raw materials and a fabricating machine that produces finished products. The consumer gets on the internet, designs their product, then schedules the production. Instead of mailing the product, the retailer produces it locally and the customer picks it up. Of course this is only going to work for a limited number of products, but I can see it working for some types of clothing, dishes, some types of furniture, etc. More complicated products, let’s say a computer, might be designed with local assembly in mind so that the local electronics retailer can assemble the memory, disk drives, and shell… Read more »
Odonna Mathews
Odonna Mathews
11 years 7 months ago

Customization provides consumers with more choices, and that’s good. Consumers may be willing to spend a little more on gifts for weddings, birthdays, reunions, and other special occasions. I recently saw an ad for a customized granola bar where the consumer can choose their own mix of ingredients and the package will have their name on it.

These products provide entertainment value and should grow in popularity as long as there are some reasonably economical choices, too.


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