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Success Story: How The Ridge Tripled Sales Forecasts with Made-to-Order Wallets

Success Story is a Sourcing Journal feature highlighting innovative solutions across all areas of the supply chain.

Wallets are arguably the most personal accessory a consumer can carry, so why not cater them to their individual tastes as well?

The Ridge, which sells minimalist, RFID-blocking front-pocket wallets and accessories like phone cases, backpacks and watches, wants to enable wearers to get a true “made-to-order” item by letting them engrave text of their choosing.

In bringing customization into the mix shortly ahead of Father’s Day 2022, the business experienced an “explosion of orders,” tripling its own sales projections for made-to-order wallets, according to Cait Kauffman, director of customization, The Ridge.

Like many pure play e-commerce brands, The Ridge sought ways to improve customer loyalty, increase sales, boost average order value and even mitigate swings in consumer demand that often lead to out of stocks or overstocks. Upon realizing that personalization was an “underleveraged” point in its business that needed improvement, the digitally native brand signed up product customization software and solutions provider JTB Custom to drum up more excitement.

Within just 60 days, the brand was able to fully implement the domestic, on-demand personalization solution, and began sending finished goods inventory to JTB Custom’s Chicago-based facility, where the company could perform services like laser etching and direct UV printing. JTB Custom’s production services range across cut and sew, 3D dye sublimation, direct-to-garment printing, embroidery and screen printing.

In 2021, The Ridge made its foray into wallet customization with a different company, but the trial offered just one font, only placed text in one location and didn’t include a preview system.

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“At the time, we felt like we really needed to expand this. We wanted it to be a key revenue driver in our company now,” Kauffman told Sourcing Journal. “We think we could do more with our wallets. They’re a good canvas, and blank product that you could put anything on. We were very interested in getting a previewer up, and that was the first driving factor—we wanted the experience to be good for the customer. We then wanted to offer different colors and fonts and what else they can pick for themselves.”

JTB Custom’s product customization solution, Silhouette, also offers order management and factory routing capabilities. The platform integrates with all major e-commerce platforms, according to Jud Barr, founder and CEO, JTB Custom.

“Most customer orders are out the door in 24 or 48 hours,” Barr told Sourcing Journal. “We’re taking in 100-plus orders a day. In fact, we had to slow The Ridge down when we started.”

Silhouette is designed to handle the entire product customization order flow, from order capture to shipment, in one platform. The platform captures customized product info from the order, before sending the data back to the brand’s production floor. Silhouette then takes the data to generate written production instructions alongside a visual example which is used to create the customized product.

From there, Silhouette integrates with a brand’s e-commerce systems to provide customers with an order receipt, production status and shipment notification.

“The Ridge’s inventory is in our system in Chicago and communicates to the brand so they know how much product that we’ve got—like canvases of everything,” said Barr. “We fulfill orders every day as they come in. We can take 20 to 40 items at a time and put them in a jig before using either the laser or UV, and etch individual art. Our systems are set up so our operators can handle that quickly before shipping it out the door because speed is the key to the whole thing.”

Backpacks may be next in line for customization

While The Ridge does not currently offer customization options for its backpacks, Kauffman wants to be able to add that feature down the line. But first, the firm will continue to focus on its more popular products.

“We’re barely tapping into what we could be offering,” Kauffman said. “With our customer base, we have a lot of potential for gifting options plus potential for different patterns, logos and designs. And when it comes to licensing, if we get agreements, there’s even more options. I think it opens a lot of different avenues and we’re already seeing the benefit of it. We can sell a multitude of designs to the same customer, and we could do limited runs that push volume during the holidays.”

For Barr, these partnerships represent a larger on-demand ordering environment at play, whether it be for accessories, apparel or footwear. In one example, he noted that users of Silhouette can create a page specifically dedicated to made-to-order designs of curated, virtual products for customers to buy.

“You can use the technology to put new designs up on a page and customers don’t realize that they’re actually buying a made-to-order product,” Barr said. “That reduces inventory risk and boosts the ability to really serve your customer wherever they are, and how they want it.”