Digital technology has created a wealth of opportunities for buyers to personalise products before purchase. Phillip Rooke, CEO, Spreadshirt, explains how merchandising has changed with the rise of print-on-demand technology, and how this accelerating trend which will drive a number of consumer product categories.
Branded clothing used to be all about bulk-buying one design and giving it away in the knowledge that sooner rather than later, it would be used for washing the car in. As the Forrester report (Mass Customization Is (Finally) The Future Of Products) indicates, technology has changed all that with print-on-demand making customisation accessible not just to large brands, but smaller organisations and campaign groups, designers, bloggers, bands…anyone with a following.
This clothing-commerce allows brand advocates to bring their ideas to life on clothing and create something they’re invested in, of a quality they want to wear. It gives a tailored solution to merchandise, with personalisation perhaps through minor tweaks to a lightly branded design; ie. selecting a slogan from a range, filling in your marathon time and choosing the right-sized t-shirt, or just picking a band’s established design, but having it in a colour and style to suit you.
For example, a recent launch for a Newcastle Brown Ale in the USA, invited consumers to customise branded t-shirts with their own one-liners and sold over 3,000 shirts, created by advocates; an effective way of keeping the beer top of mind with the consumer even when they are not at a bar. As the brand, you can create a t-shirt which reflects your values but which allows your champions to also show their individuality.
The impact of this easy customisation is to engender customer loyalty, an idea supported by the Forrester report, which says “Buyers gain additional value from the certainty that features will be exactly what they want. And they can express themselves with public goods. These psychological benefits translate into a higher willingness to pay, into loyal, repeat-purchasing customers”.
Print-on-demand technology means, of course, that each item of clothing can be printed as it is ordered. This removes the need for a large investment upfront, or surplus stock.
Brands can have a seamless shop created on their own website, where their consumers or followers can be offered a range of customisation and personalisation tools on clothing from t-shirts and hoodies to babygrows and bags. Then choosing the exact style, colour and size to suit them. Brands no longer have to decide on a bulk order from the outset, which also means that the clothing or customisation offering can develop as the campaign goes on at limited risk to themselves.
It also means that customized clothing can be tied in to social media campaigns. For example, asking for design or slogan ideas on their Facebook page, enabling voting and then quickly converted into personalised clothing for sale. The straight-forward process makes it easy to offer innovative merchandising that brand advocates will want to wear.
Developments in technology and the internet are changing traditional business models. In this new online social media world, we want to encourage organisations, brands, designers, bloggers and bands to bring their message to life on clothing and benefit from increased interaction with their consumers, turning them into brand advocates through customisation and clothing-commerce.
By Phillip Rooke