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Product Customization was difficult until now

Every customer wants a product customized exactly to their needs, but for the online store owner, offering this fuctionality can be technically difficult. If you go down the custom coding route, it quickly becomes a costly nightmare, requiring constant maintenance. It’s far easier to sell standardized products off the shelf, but if you want to offer customization an app or plugin is the best way to do it.

For a quick overview of our Shopify Product Customizer, watch the video below.

Customization vs Personalization

The difference between between product personalization and product customization is subtle, but important to understand so you choose the right option.

In a nutshell, product customizers will give the user an ability to choose from a set of pre-determined selections. Product personalizers will give the user the ability to create something unique, tailored to just them. The most common examples of personalization would be ordering a t-shirt with your name on it. There is crossover between the two but personalization takes customization one step further. If you need a longer explanation – read this article.

Types of Customization Apps

These are the different types of customization tech options available to you. 

Static, Non-Visual

This means users can customize the product but they can’t see what the finished product will look like prior to purchase. 

1 – Product Options Customizers

A lot of website owners start their foray into customization by adding a sequence of form selections or ‘product variations’ to a base product. These apps are commonly called ‘product options’ apps. You will find many solutions, but they all with their own quirks and limitations.

What they allow you to do is add product options via additional fields for the customer to fill out with information before the product is added to the cart. This could be something as simple as adding a custom text field so they can add their name to the product for example.

The downside with product options app is that the product page can start to look clunky. What you end up with is a whole series of fields running down the page which can distract or confuse the user. There’s also a lot of perceived risk because the customer can’t visualize the augmented product prior to checkout. They won’t be as confident in the moment of purchase. 

Another downside is that these apps rarely integrate downstream into your inventory, design, ordering and fulfillment processes. Typically this means there needs to be a lot of manual, back and forth communication between all the parties which absorbs resources and makes the product less profitable. 

Product options customizer app

2 – Customized Product Options Apps

We’ve seen a lot of store owners fiddle around with various product options apps before they realize the app doesn’t do something that is critical to the process. In these cases they will either upgrade to more advanced customizers or go deep into the rabbit hole that is custom coded website development. This work involves modifying the theme and template code of the website’s content management system (CMS). These modifications can be costly, messy, time consuming and a nightmare for maintenance. They’ll require constant upkeep with every core update.

Here’s an example of a merchant who has gone down the custom route which involved taking pictures of every single product selection combination – there were many (see below). When the drop down menus are used, there is code which changes the product image to the correct on from the thumbnail list. This is not dynamic product visualization and requires you need to shoot, edit and upload a lot of pictures. Also the image area dragged a very far way down the page, making the page layout look a bit cluttered.

Custom Fields App

Visual Product Configuration

Showing the customer what the final product will look like can be challenging with customized products. This challenge increases with the complexity of the customization process.

Applications which solve this problem are called ‘visual configurators’ or ‘visual product configuration‘ software. They allow the customer to see an image of the product that changes, dynamically, in real-time. As they select various options, the product image will update to reflect the final product.

They fit broadly into two classes, 2D and 3D.

1 – 2D Product Customizers

This is when 2D elements are layered over the top of a base product image. This is the most popular option and especially suited to familiar, flat profile products like t-shirts or printed posters. However, if the product’s shape is complex, unfamilar, high cost or tactile, this solution will not be as suitable. The final image can look distorted and unappealing, giving off the wrong vibe to the customer.

There will be issues with the text not wrapping around the sides of curved surfaces well or insufficient blending of the layers which gives it an unrealistic look and feel.

2D product customizer

2 – 3D Product Customizers

The most advanced product customization apps are the 3D versions. Customers can configure the product in a live 3D environment and see exactly what the product will look before they buy it. This reduces any perceptions of risk that may exist prior to purchase. See how this works below using a simple aluminum can example.

3 – Contextual 3D Product Configurators

The next step above 3D configurators is the addition of a scene or context around the product. Parts of the customization process can also be animated, which emulates what may happen in real life. This provides a much richer brand experience and exudes a premium quality feel.

This is especially useful when stores may not be able trade in a physical location but wish to broaden their customer base to take advantage of the eCommerce market. Using this technology, bricks and mortar store owners can almost virtualize their entire retail experience and bring it online. Clothing tailors and even beauty retails like Mud and Musk have done this (see video below).

Order Routing, Manufacturing & Fulfillment

One of the biggest barriers to merchants adopting customization and personalization is the ordering, manufacturing and fulfillment side of the equation.

We’ve found this process varies considerably from one merchant to another. Each has their own processes, technology and services providers which they use so there needs to be a lot of flexibility in the back-end of the customization software you choose. Especially if you want to automate and scale.

Some retailers will modify the physical product themselves locally. Others will send a standardized product to another firm which makes the modifications. Others, will outsource the entire manufacturing of the personalized product completely.

When it comes to fulfillment, most providers are not set-up for procedures which fall outside their standard processes. Customization can quickly create a lot of complexity in the fulfillment process because all of the businesses systems (and other businesses they partner with) may not be familiar with anything that falls outside the norm (standardized product fulfillment).

So we’ve ensured our app can integrate seamlessly into downstream production and product fulfillment processes. This might involve 3D printing, 2D printing, labeling, integration into ERP/WMS systems etc. These integrations allow for true, hands-off mass personalisation at scale. In fact, we have partnered with various 3PL fulfillment centers so you could even create a modification/drop-ship arrangement for your customized products.

View a live examples of the Spiff 3D Customizer App in action

It’s best to contact one of our staff and ask for a customer example that’s close to your own niche. If the videos above aren’t enough, here’s a small range of 3D product models you can manipulate as you would on a live store. Visit our Shopify demo site or WordPress demo site.

Read more about different eCommerce platforms

Read more about how Spiff technology applies to your eCommerce platform of choice

Trial the Spiff 3D Customizer App on Shopify

Step 1 – Take advantage of the free 14 day trial. Go to the Shopify App store and download the Product Customizer Shopify app.

Step 2 – Activate the app on your store and follow the installation and on-boarding instructions  Contact us if you need assistance doing this – we service all global time-zones. If you are stuck at any point, or unsure if this app meets your needs, book a live Zoom demo instead. There’s also a convenient list of all product features and API documentation at help.spiff3d.com

Step 3 – If you have a 3D model already, attach that file to your product. Alternatively, upload pictures of your products from all angles and we’ll quickly build a 3D model of your product. This will allow customers to manipulate your product in real-time and activate any personalisation features you wish while in a 3D environment.

Step 4 – We can assist you get the word out there and create some social media buzz like we have done for other customers. We’ll even make a live video recording of the product customisation process and send it to you to use in your content strategy

Step 5 – If you want to spread the word and be rewarded, you can apply to join our partnership program. You can also add your products to our marketplace and allow others to re-sell your products on their sites by joining the Spiff community network.