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Personalization is Everywhere Because Consumers Want It

Personalization is becoming a larger part of the conversation in apparel, but to some degree it’s unclear how, and to what extent.

To find out more about apparel experts’ mindsets on customization, Sourcing Journal surveyed
 308 people across the apparel, accessories and footwear industries on their views. The end result is the 2019 Personalization Report, presented on behalf of Lectra, which sheds some light on exactly how much consumers want personalization—and what it could mean for brands’ bottom line.

In Sourcing Journal’s survey, 68.9 percent of respondents said they think that consumers expect customized apparel and footwear options. That expectation comes in part from a trend of customization and curation in other sectors, like food and media. Consumers see customization options from big brands like Nike and Zara, so it makes sense they would expect it from other companies, especially smaller ones that can provide small-batch productions or hand-detailing.

And retailers have good reason to want to provide customization, too. They believe it can improve their margins: 83.5 percent of decision-makers surveyed said sell-throughs will improve if they offer customization.

Still, while respondents were aware of consumer interest, 42.6 percent said their companies are unlikely to implement mass customization or made-to-measure options. Some industry experts, like J. Kirby Best, chairman of OnPoint Manufacturing, posit that it’s up to apparel companies to drive that demand—in other words, to be proactive in making the technology available to consumers. Otherwise, laggards run the risk of missing out to companies that hop on the bandwagon a lot sooner. “When you get companies like Burberry and Nike dipping their toes into the water, you can be assured it will take off,” Best said.

Best also pointed out a benefit to offering customization that many brands overlook, and that’s profit margins. While 37 percent of survey respondents said their companies won’t pursue customization until they can make it profitable, Best said there’s a good chance that customization can increase revenues more than brands expect. “[With on-demand production,] there’s no warehouse, no shipping from China, no unloading from the dock, and I don’t have to keep six to eight months of inventory,” Best said. “If [brands] re-examine the accounting, it’s not more expensive. You’re going to give value to your customer of exactly what they want. It’s not going to work for tube socks and tees. There are products people are willing to pay for like a suit or blouse.”

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It also presents an opportunity for brands to trim the fat from their design and planning process by leveraging consumer input. “We think consumers today are very excited to share purposeful information on their tastes and trends if they feel that will result in a future shopping experience that is more in line with their expectations and aspirations,” said Matt Field, president and co-founder of MakerSights.

Field said that harnessing data directly from consumers, rather than trying to parse it from sales, returns and other numbers, allows them to be more agile and responsive in adjusting the supply chain to best serve shoppers. “That’s a tall task to create a really effective decision-making engine if you know what consumers want, but if you’re trying to guess at what consumers want, it’s a very difficult process.”

Download the full report now.