It's clear to see that customized products are having a moment in today's retail industry. Wherever you turn, it seems retailers are clamoring for opportunities to give their customers a hand in personalizing their purchases.
For example, Monogramming is an add-on service that's being increasingly offered by retailers like J. Crew, Madewell, Cuyana and West Elm. Ray-Ban offers the customization of their shades through customers selecting from dozens of color combinations and personalized engraving options. Other retail disruptors like Indochino, have made tailored suits available to a broader audience by offering custom-built suits that are delivered within 3 weeks and cost under $500.
The beauty industry has also begun to offer personalized products. Form Beauty, for instance, surveys customers on their hair health and habits to offer them a customized hair regimen. Keeps, a new hair loss prevention program, also provides custom hair regimens to men. Fenty Beauty, Rhianna's recently launched beauty line, was welcomed with the hype surrounding its offering of a large range of shades to better match consumers skin tones.
Across the retail industry, you'll see this same mania with customized products which plays into a much larger trend of personalization that has been driving digital brand strategies over the past few years. Feeding the demand for customized products is one thing, but feeding the demand for instant gratification takes it to the next level. Nike and Vans are both exploring ways to operate at the intersection of those two things - offering high-level customization at rapid turnaround times.
Nike By You
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Nike By You
is offering a high-tech custom retail experience to select customers (by invitation only at present) at its Makers' Studio in Manhattan. At the studio, customers slip into a pair of white sneakers and begin the customization process through a projected design. They can indicate preferences through voice commands and their customizations are displayed on the blank shoe through the use of augmented reality technologies.
This technique allows for consumers to experience how the shoe will look on their feet before committing to a final design. Once the designer is satisfied with their creation, the shoe goes into production and within a remarkable 60 minutes or less they'll have their finalized product.
Nike By You
brings the best that retail has to offer to the in-person brand experience. At a time when brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling to find ways to bring consumers into stores, Nike proves that incorporating technology into the in-store experience in innovative ways has the potential to lure shoppers back to traditional retail.
Nike, which opened an immersive retail experience in SoHo in 2016 and has long offered custom Nike ID sneakers, is clearly a retail pioneer. This most recent venture into high tech customization is a move other retailers would be wise to watch.
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The Vans heritage is one that has been on the idea of customization from the earliest days of the brand. On the Vans website, the brand boasts they've been doing custom design "Since before that was a thing," noting that "Vans Customs has been a tradition since 1966 when Paul Van Doren made shoes with any fabric people brought to the shop."
The customization process available on the website is already pretty advanced. Every element of the shoe can be tweaked in different materials, colors, and patterns. Users can even upload their own art to the site to have it printed on their shoes. The logical next step? Making custom Vans available in a mere 15 minutes.
This idea of instantaneous customization is behind the company's Waffle Works Innovation Studio
, which transforms any graphic into a custom-printed shoe in 15 minutes. A specialized printer brings the shoes to life, transferring the graphic to the shoe using a proprietary machine.
The technology isn't available to the public yet and has so far been limited to press from tech blogs and sneaker aficionado sites.
Still, Vans' commitment to enhancing the experience of customization is evident from the time and effort the brand has dedicated to developing the technology required to bring 15-minute personalized sneakers to life. It's clear that this type of customization service has the potential to be a major draw to stores and Vans-sponsored events once it's ready to roll out to the general public.
The Future Of Customization
Sneaker brands have long been in on the customization game, but Nike and Vans, in particular, are upping the ante by offering new ways to personalize products in time spans short enough to give consumers what they really crave: instant gratification.
Both brands are using innovative technology to enhance the consumer experience, and it won't be long before we see these improved customization capabilities popping up in retail stores. Additionally, it's likely that these innovations in customized products in real time will cause a ripple effect in the retail industry as a whole.