Dale Carnegie once said, “a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language”. Friends and family use your name all the time. Everyone has received at least one email which has your your name in it and might talk about your situation. But, what about physical products? Why can’t products be modified to our needs too?
This has always been difficult for business because personalised products fly in the face of the industrial revolution which gave us the benefits of mass production.
Instead of paying more for something that was customised to our needs (usually at greater expense) mass production in factories meant we could buy products for a much cheaper price.
But custom products and the artisan trend is back in fashion. There’s an emerging market in Australia which has found ways to personalise products at a scale like never before at a reasonable price. Savvy retailers are embracing new technology to make it economical to give us exactly what we want at a reasonable price. This personalisation niche market is big business and a burgeoning industry in Australia.
The problem is, few of us know these products even exist, let alone know who to buy them from.
Today this changes.
Here are 20 examples of Australian online businesses who are bridging the gap and seem to be doing pretty well.
1 – Shannon from Milton Ashby
Shannon founded Milton Ashby after struggling to find toys that were stylish, beautiful and great quality. “I wanted to make wooden toys that I was proud to give as a gift”, said Shannon. From early on, he started to receive customer requests to engrave the names of children into some of the products in the standard range. He obliged using equipment that was available at hand at the time, but it was impractical, slow and error prone. Once it became apparent that most customers wanted personalisation, he invested in specialised equipment and refined the process to be efficient and consistent.
Now the sale of personalized wooden toys contributes toward the vast majority of his business. He finds this in-house production works the best for him as it adds minutes to the time needed to ship an order, rather than days if it were outsourced.
Kids will love this personalised aeroplane which starts at $65
2 – Louise and James from My Pen Pals
Louise and James started My Pen Pals just 18 months ago and it’s already blossoming into a business with legs. As a former teacher, Louise knew a lot about teaching kids before funneling this knowledge into a business. At pre-school, kids typically begin learning how to write and she found the best way for them to start is by writing their own name. My Pen Pals sells handwriting books which are personalised so that the child’s name is present throughout. When purchasing these books online, all customers have to do is enter the name of the child in a field when checking out and the My Pen Pals team customise the pages of the book before printing. It’s time consuming work as each book has to be personalized, printed and shipped by hand but they find the results in terms of the child’s handwriting is so powerful.
“Our personalised books allow kids to feel ownership even at a very young age”, Louise said. When asked if she was wary of larger book retailers offering something similar she said, “Big business find it hard to be small and personal”. How true.
These writing kits for $49 are popular with mums and dads who prefer to buy online
3 – Olivia from Lunets
As a former student of architecture, Olivia always had an interest in bespoke design. A naturally creative person, the idea for Lunets came while working at another business who also specialises in product personalisation. Since launching in August last year, she’s worked on automating as much as the production process as she can except for the part of the production process which involves bonding the person’s name to the accessory.
The personalisation feature online, is powered by a website plugin which helps show the customer what the finished product will look like before the order is placed. She says this applied technology makes the world of difference as it speeds up the store’s efficiency, appeal and consistency.“The customer gets very excited about seeing the product modify before their eyes. The preview feature is the sales pitch.” says Olivia. At the minute this is still just a side-gig but she hopes one day the store will become large enough to occupy her attention full-time. She finds the Lunets brand connects well with customers who value the importance of being unique and standing out from the crowd.
Make your own bag online by visiting her website. This Venus Heart Clutch bag is a standout for $250
4 – Craig from Jigsaw Gallery
Craig had the idea for Jigsaw Gallery while traveling around the country and working as a professional photographer. He still travels a lot and enjoys doing jigsaws in his spare time. The business started when he decided to combine the two. He started by contracting fellow photographers and asked them to contribute their images for the website, where they receive a commission from each jigsaw sale. Over time, he’s ensured the range of products is diverse enough that it covered as much of the country’s geography as possible. Since then, he’s branched out into aerial city maps, including specific suburb and street shots which he finds are popular with real estate agents.
He still does landscape & commercial photography work, but the jigsaw business continues to grow since its conception in August 2018.
Customers can also forward their own photo and he will make a personalized jigsaw for them. This is proving a very popular gift for family and friends. The health benefits from jigsaws are surprising to the layman including: improved memory, problem solving skills, improved mood, lower stress and can even delay the dementia and alzheimers.
Create your own personalized jigsaw from $34.50
5 – Lucy from Kentaur Australia
Lucy is a showjumping rider and like any dedicated rider she enjoys quality riding gear that’s fits perfectly. But when she was searching for a supplier who could make customisations to her next purchase, she had trouble finding anyone in Australia who could make what she wanted. This is when the idea for her business first started. “Having gear customized to your needs is very important with horse riding”, says Lucy. The length of the saddle components and the cut of chaps is essential. “When you’re on the horse it’s important you feel in-control yet comfortable”, she said. So, she ended up getting her gear custom-made using a specialist overseas supplier. Impressed at the quality of her new purchase, others in the industry then offered to pay Lucy to make similar gear for them also. Kentaur Australia was born.
The most popular personalised products are saddles, chaps, bridal gear and the KEP helmets. She started out selling a lot of KEP Italian helmets, but demand has waned since the brand increased the size of their retailer network. Lucy has since concentrated mostly on other products now and uses mostly offshore production because the work is so specialised. “People are willing to wait and love the product when it arrives. It’s hard for other people who sell off-the-shelf products to compete”, she says.
Buy this standard KEP helmet for a cool $1079 or click the KEP configurator link at the bottom of the page to customize your own creation
6 – Kate from UberKate
Kate Sutton is a bit of a Sydney celebrity. Known in social circles for pioneering custom jewellery in the early days of the internet, she has since carved out a nice little niche within the Australian market. Uberkate became famous originally for a product called an Ubercircle. Ubercircles started when Kate took some existing silver, squashed it with a hammer and engraved family members’ names into it in her garage workshop before wearing it to work at Channel 9. It wasn’t long before everyone at work was admiring her creation and wanted one for themselves. One of the news presenters wore one on camera and business took off from there.
She started her online store in 2002 when e-commerce was just taking off. “Social media didn’t even really exist then,” she says. Kate was an early adopter of Facebook and then Instagram which boosted the brand further. She opened a flagship physical store recently in Sydney and fans come from far and wide to visit. Kate is realistic about her successes, “Not everything you try works, but if you stop trying everything stops dead in the water.” She has just released a new customized ring product called Duet by You which is also manufactured in-house. As an early pioneer in the personalisation game, she has seen a lot of her original ideas replicated by others around the world. However, they do say, imitation is the ultimate form of flattery
7 – Nisha from Vurdan
Nisha always wanted to be an entrepreneur. One day while thinking about which gap in the market she would fill, she watched a video one night that appeared in her social media feed. It showed the degree of cruelty that exists within the leather industry and she was aghast. This emotional moment changed her perspective forever and she declared from that day forth that she was going to do something about it. While there were already a few vegan friendly leather brands out there, after a quick search she couldn’t find any who were offering personalization. So in 2017 she opened Vurdan which offers a range of luxury, vegan-friendly, eco-friendly, sustainable faux leather accessories for men and women.
When asked about the merits of imitation leather she was adamant that nearly all of these other materials have their own set of environmental problems. “Fake leather is not environmentally friendly. I had to do 6 months of research before I found the type of faux-leather which I now use for all of my products. It comes from the same supplier that, Nike and Adidas use,” she said.
This supplier wouldn’t do business with her at first due to the low order volumes, but she eventually convinced them to sell their leftover material before being able to justify that they ramp up production and give her a real go. Personalization was her focus from the start, and she took inspiration from other brands which adopted a similar eco-friendly mindset.
There were early problems with the monogramming equipment she purchased and set up in her home garage. “I didn’t think it would be hard. The first day, I had 10 orders, and was over the moon, so I came home at night after work to fulfill the first one and got the alignment wrong. I wasted 10 purses just to get the first one right. So I made a huge loss on my first day of sales”, she said. Nisha has since conceded that it’s more efficient to outsource the personalization to a specialist studio in Melbourne and simply absorb the expense.
She wants each product to be unique to the customer and make them feel special Ironically, the vegan leather is a strong selling point with customers who are not vegan. She suspects it’s a way for people who eat meat to vote with their dollars and support the cause without committing to an animal-free diet.
This classic black pouch can be yours and monogrammed for only $134
8 – Aditi from JoyStreet
Aditi started JoyStreet while shopping for gifts for her kids. She initially only started selling a range of personalized products aimed at the general gift market before adding other items to the product range. She gradually expanded into other categories like jewellery and home decor.
Her husband is a big shopaholic so she used him as a research muse together with friends as a quasi focus group. If a product gets them all excited it is marked as a potential candidate for the online shop. The journey from concept to stock is time-consuming and complex because she has to find suitable suppliers who can do the personalisation required for each different type of product. She gets a few samples created as a way to trial different fonts and to set up the right personalisation procedure until the product can be sold on the store.
Aditi believes that because personalisation offers more intimacy, customers are more than happy to wait longer for their order to arrive. The team takes great pride in ensuring their customer service exceeds expectations. This involves timely communication, cross-checking the details of the personalization process with customers and transparency throughout the production/delivery process. Aditi is hopeful that she will be able to move on from her full time job in IT once the store hits some growth targets she has set.
This Kosso wood personalised watch is priced at $93.50. You can add your own personalised message which can be engraved on the back of the watch giving that special feel.
9 – Carl from Lilycraft
Lilycraft is one of the largest personalized product houses in Australia. Carl experimented with overseas production for a while before taking the leap and investing in his own equipment, bringing everything back in-house. “We tried using a few suppliers in the Phillipines in the past, but in the end it was just too expensive and time consuming.’ He said. He admits to a failed business or two in the past before his sisters wedding was the spark that ended up making Lilycraft a success. He had access to a laser cutter so he thought it would be great to make a personalized cake topper for his sister’s wedding cake. At the wedding everyone loved the design and word spread from there.
Next he decided to test the waters by putting some of his designs on E-bay and the business took off. Since then he’s branched out from just cake toppers into a whole collection of mostly wooden, metal and leather products, all of which can be personalised. Carl admits that the technical configuration of the machines he has purchased was complex and is something he is still perfecting. While they use machinery to aid in crafting their products, each piece is hand finished, hand assembled and hand packed by an artisan in Australia.
A lot of care, love and design goes into crafting and packaging each and every one of their products.
This personalised hammer gift set is popular and looks great from just $49
10 – Rachel from Lolly Mail
Back in 2013, Rachel was working in London and noticed an article in a local newspaper which featured a story about an innovative local candy company who were personalising their products. It was only when she returned to Brisbane and was trying to find a store that could do something similar for her father’s birthday that she learnt there was a gap in the local market. No matter how much she searched, she couldn’t find a store which sold her father’s favourite licquorish lollies, so she decided to set up her own store instead.
She experimented with different packaging and customisation options before deciding on a dual product offering of fully-personalised lolly jars and standardized pre-mixed jars. Lolly Mail essentially virtualises what a traditional pick and mix lolly stores do in real life.
She had trouble finding a technical solution for the build-your-own jars because each separate lolly had a different cost to weight ratio, meaning that if someone filled the jar with a lot of the more expensive lollies, this had to be reflected in the final price or the profit margins would suffer.
Creating the online user interface so customers could easily follow the order process as they built their own jar was also challenging. She was considering a custom coded solution before hearing about Spiff’s upcoming product release which will allow her to do just that, in 3D.
Have a go mixing your own lolly jar starting at $63
Try Spiff’s E-commerce Personalisation Technology
Play around with some live demo products on our Shopify demo site by clicking the ‘personalise now’ button.