When it comes to product customization, think outside the box

Marketers typically struggle to satisfy consumers’ desire for product customization. Many consumers today expect that they can design “their own” perfect sneaker or dream car. Stores and inventories cannot possibly carry all designs, which is why many premium brands offer online customization tools. Using these online interfaces, consumers can drill deep into the different options on offer, but they can’t escape the basic limitations of online environments: Their imagination is trapped within the confines of their computer screens.

Many marketers might believe there is no middle ground between these two limiting retail options.

Yet, there is.

In this article, Arinee Rahman and Suhu Saya explain why augmented reality (AR) is one of the best ways to let consumers customize your products. The key for successfully using AR as a product customization tools is to realize the technology’s unique potential to display products within consumers own physical world.

We discuss how to create AR campaign that empower customers to personalize their products right in the context of their own lives, and long before they walk into your store. For best results, your own product customization tool should of course cover the basics by allowing consumers to customize all aspects of the product. Yet, to be really successful, you should do three more things: The AR app should  provide extra features that gamify users’ experiences. Second, it should enable consumers to see the customized product in real-life size. And third, it should encourage users to share their creations with their friends.

If brands use AR correctly, it can craft a customization experience unlike any other


How Vespa drove consumers in the right direction

The ability to reflect one’s own personality is an important aspect of customizing identity-relevant products such as cars and fashion. Vespa has known this for decades and has made product customization a centerpiece of its brand story. In 1977, for example, Vespa showcased its individuality — and the individuality of its customers — by decorating their scooters with graffiti.

Vespa is no stranger to product customization

To renew this brand heritage, Vespa launched an AR campaign in 2014 that enabled users to customize, “test-drive”, purchase, and share their very own Vespa.

You should develop similar AR experiences for your own identity-driven products. Such a tool would not only help your customers create their dream product but would also increase your  bottom line.

So, what are some best practices to keep in mind for designing your own augmented reality product customization tool? Vespa’s AR app can show you the way.

Cover the basics

Your app must provide customers with all of the options they can customize. Vespa, for example, allows customers to pick their seat and color options in a “virtual showroom”.

This virtual showroom allows customers to visualize their ideal Vespa, which reduces insecurity and firms up the decision to buy a Vespa. Many times, this occurs before the consumer has set foot into the actual showroom.

Augmented Reality allows for new modes of product customization

Unlike the product customization tools offered on your corporate webpage, augmented reality does not trap the final product in a two-dimensional model.

AR allows the consumer to visualize the customized product in physical context of their own world

Seeing a customized Vespa on a webpage is interesting, but seeing it standing in your own driveway is an entirely different experience altogether. AR can help your customers imagine how the product will look in their own lives so that they can focus on the creative act of product customization.

Take a joyride through gamification

Once you’ve covered the basics, it’s time to think about some extra features that can engage and entertain your customers.

Vespa, for example, made a game out of the process of choosing a color or design.

Vespa prompts users to customize their motor scooter so that they can test drive it after. This test drive feature does a great job of intertwining the physical world with the AR dimension. Remember, to keep users entertained, you need to merge the fantasy world and the real world together in a user-friendly, interactive manner. Vespa championed this idea.

Augmented Reality merges product customization with gamification

According to Scholz and Smith, integrating AR content with the physical world is the key to providing value to customers. This is the most unique part of Vespa’s campaign. Not only are customers allowed to create, customize and personalize their very own Vespa, but they’re allowed to see how it will actually drive.

The product is no longer a part of a campaign; instead, the campaign becomes a fun game that allows users to interact with the brand in a unique way

Use AR as a way for your customers to interact with your brand. AR is a great customization tool, so when you take it one step further and allow your customers to be a part of the content, you create the ultimate unique experience.

Offer life-sized product customization

If there is one thing wrong with Vespa’s AR campaign, it is that its creators didn’t dare to think big.

The Vespa envisioned through the AR app is a significantly smaller version of the actual Vespa customers would be purchasing. This is a missed opportunity, because AR is most successful when it entangles digital content in the physical environment in ways that seem true to life.

To effectively entangle the Vespa in the consumer’s life, the Vespa should go beyond test-driving it around a small table — the Vespa should be life size.

Marketers, take note: Think big in your AR experience. If your campaign doesn’t allow consumers to visualize their customized product to its full potential, you aren’t taking full advantage of AR.

Take the carpool lane and create artifacts

Finally, when creating your AR product customization tool, allow the AR app to facilitate word-of-mouth marketing.  To trigger word-of-mouth marketing, allow your users to tell your brand story to their network through the sharing of artifacts.

An artifact provides a clear snapshot of the user’s experience with the AR app. Since AR can be used as a customization tool, not everyone will have the same experience. When consumers share their unique artifact with their own networks, they contribute to word-of-mouth marketing.

Allow consumers to share their AR experience through artifacts

Vespa makes the most out of their AR campaign by using social media, enabling consumers to share the Vespa they created within their networks.

Artifacts allow for greater exposure and reach to more users. Take advantage of AR’s excitement and allow others to become aware of your brand.

AR product customization is a vehicle to success

An effective AR campaign can easily empower your customers to imagine a product in the context of their own life before they walk into your store.

Augmented reality gives endless opportunities for marketers to create personalized experiences for their consumers. Vespa allows consumers to create their dream vehicle. You too can use AR in your next campaign to personalize and tailor a dream product for your customers.

To keep up to date with emerging marketing techniques, subscribe to MarketingSquad.net for upcoming articles on the latest and greatest AR campaigns.

This post was written by Arinee Rahman and Suhu Saya. The authors thank Dr. Joachim Scholz for his guidance while writing this article and Sonya Bengali for her help in editing this article. Please follow the authors on Twitter for more information on this topic.
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