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Guest Comment: Customised product – when merchandising meets social media

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By Phillip Rooke

An increasing number of customers are now shopping online and are prepared to pay more for a customised product, something they have made their own. We’re seeing this trend growing as print-on-demand technology eases the transition to online retailing, making it more cost effective for retailers, as well as marketing teams.

Tying in your social media marketing campaigns with personalised or customised apparel is an effective way of engaging with brand advocates and rewarding them with something they want to keep and wear, something they’ve had a hand in creating. New technologies make it easy to offer customisation possibilities. For brands, this is a new and great opportunity to have customers express their ideas and for them to develop a two-way communication process with their customers. Customer engagement is now all about online interaction.

Angry Birds, one of the games of the moment with over 100, 000 users a day offers an example of a successful online customer interaction experience, with a growing number of its fans choosing to engage with the brand in the form of personalised t-shirts ( Combining the content created through social media tools with clothing can offer an engaging online experience with tangibles that can continue to impress your customer even when they’re no longer logged on.

Personalised clothing gets social

Retailers can reward brand advocates, get their ideas out there and encourage customer participation with customisable apparel by, for example, asking for design or slogan ideas on their Facebook page, which can then be quickly converted into apparel for sale. The straight-forward process makes it easy to offer innovative merchandising that brand advocates will want to wear. The ability to print-on-demand has reduced the risk for both the retailer and marketer, and the online design technology allows customers to create something they will keep long after the social media marketing campaign is over.

Brands can have a seamless shop created on their own website, where customers can connect the content with apparel, personalise or customise items from t-shirts to bags and chose the exact style, colour and size to suit them. Retailers no longer have to decide on a bulk order from the outset, which also means that the apparel offering can develop as the campaign goes on at limited risk to themselves.

Print-on-demand also enables customers to view a much wider selection of products which may not be necessarily available or possible to accommodate at a local store. The retailer doesn’t have to pay anything until they have sold a piece of clothing. This means that being able to offer greater choice and availability is no longer the preserve of the large retailers. And since customer services, including delivery times, transactions and returns, are handled by the apparel company, smaller brands and retailers don’t have the steep ecommerce learning curve or the administrative hassles, and can be assured their brand advocates will have a customer-friendly experience. So good quality, engaging apparel is now something that any retailer, brand or marketing campaign can afford to effectively include.

Customers become advocates

With the risk taken out and a seamless shop offering available, success then comes down to a good social marketing campaign idea. For example, a recent launch for a British bottled beer in the USA, had thousands of consumers customise branded t-shirts with their own one-liners and has so far sold over 3,000 shirts, created by advocates; an effective way of keeping the beer top of mind with the consumer even when they are not at a bar. As the brand, you can create a t-shirt which reflects your values but which allows your champions to also show their individuality. It’s about letting customers create a one-of-a-kind, expressive piece of clothing, increasing the likelihood of it being worn more often, and for your brand to be seen in places, traditional marketing campaigns do not reach.

Developments in technology and the internet are changing traditional business models and retailers need to be able to quickly adapt and capitalise on demand for online interactivity and new design ideas. Quality, engaging clothing is increasingly something that retailers and marketing campaigns of any size can afford to effectively include. Print-on-demand technology makes products cost-effective and the customisable element makes them relevant to your customers and brand advocates. In this new online social media world, connecting content with clothing in your online retail marketing strategy has become a winning combination, allowing businesses of all sizes to bond with their brand advocates, even when they are no longer logged on.

Phillip Rooke is CMO of Spreadshirt

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