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Make Their Hearts Sing

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Customization has become a key tool for multi-channel retailers to drive online customer engagement, especially as a slowly recovering economy makes it harder to retain fickle consumers. Outdoor apparel company Wild Things, which operates one retail store and sells merchandise through Moosejaw as well as its own website, uses a customization process that allows shoppers to create personalized merchandise.

“It’s in our DNA to produce merchandise that our customers need for mountaineering, and this includes ensuring that they get the right fit,” says Wild Things CEO Ed Schmults. “By creating a customization service we can leapfrog the competition, as well as offer the next generation of our merchandise.”

IT-less management
A reliable platform was a pre-requisite for Wild Things’ personalization success. “We needed an infrastructure that could deliver a user-friendly customer interface, as well as be scalable enough to manage the process,” Schmults explains. “We add new product every 18 months, so we needed a software platform that could scale globally and help us work toward becoming a dominant worldwide supplier of customized product.”

Historically, this type of technology has been adopted by bigger brands with equally large budgets. Nike, for example, has a proprietary solution that offers online customization as a means of differentiation and fostering customer loyalty. Wild Things began evaluating technology partners last year and decided to work with Fluid to develop its customization tool, Fluid Retail.

This open solution is compatible with retailers’ existing infrastructure, including e-commerce platforms, analytics services and manufacturing and fulfillment systems, and can be customized for integration within corporate strategy and implementation. Unlike custom-built solutions, Fluid Retail’s intuitive administrative tools make it possible for merchants to manage changes without involving IT.

With Fluid Retail integrated behind the scenes of Wild Things’ e-commerce platform, the retailer is streamlining its customization user experience. Shoppers visit the retailer’s site and click on the “Design Your Own” icon. Here, they can create either a Custom Insulight Jacket or a Custom Wind Pro Hoody. Shoppers can create every aspect of either item, from outer shell fabric and color to liner thickness, hood choices, cuff, zipper and logo colors. Consumers control and manage the process with the help of three-dimensional views of the product at each stage of personalization.

Viral marketing bonus
All completed item orders are dropped within Wild Things’ e-commerce order management system and shared with its designers, who create merchandise at the company’s New Jersey manufacturing factory. “Custom orders take two weeks to complete,” Schmults says, “however, some items ship within three days after orders are placed.”

Since launching the service in November, Wild Things reports that customized merchandise is accounting for 30 percent of the company’s e-commerce business. “This is a great validation that our e-commerce business will double this year over last year,” he says.

Customers are also spending “double the time using the configurator service compared to average time on the site,” Schmults says. “That shows that shoppers want to try something new and are enjoying the process of designing their own merchandise.”

The solution has a built-in social feature that allows users to share their personalized merchandise via social media, including Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. “It is a way to make this engaging process even more interactive,” he says. “With a simple click or two, shoppers can get immediate feedback from family and peers. [It] even gives our service a viral marketing aspect.”

Although the service is still in its infancy, Wild Things is already working on improvements. Its first priority: tightening integration within its e-commerce operation, as well as with retail partners like Moosejaw. “Looking ahead, we expect customization to be an important part of our mission-critical business,” Schmults says. “This functionality opens up more opportunities to showcase our fabrics and merchandise and to partner with other retailers in the future.”