Method 5 customizing the online experience

One of the most efficient and cost-effective ways of providing customized products and services to customers and creating a special relationship in the process is through the web. The internet is a medium that provides endless opportunities in product development, production streamlining and online retailing. It is also an excellent means of tracking consumer preferences and storing information that could be used for the future development of products and services.

The online experience that a customer has with a brand is significantly different from the offline experience mainly as a result of the lack of human E presence and other sensory elements online. The lack of human contact gives o> an impression of a more negative rather than positive experience. However, several tools can be used to compensate for this and enhance the web experi- o ence as well as improve shopping interactivity. The same tools can also be w applied in the online customization of different aspects of the brand's package. o

Online customization can be done in different ways. The first is through providing customers with tools to personalize or customize whole or parts of a product. The example of the Apple iPod shown earlier in this chapter highlights this point. Another method is through providing tools for online consumers to manipulate product components such as pendants and charms of jewellery and straps of wristwatches. Other online customization means could be related to the web experience such as the choice of music type, web page background and web contents according to preferences. Currently, the online customization offerings of luxury brands are limited, mainly because the internet and e-business strategy of the luxury fashion sector is still in the introductory phase.

One of the few luxury brands that exhibit an understanding of experience customization through the internet is Italian luxury fashion brand, Roberto Cavalli. Online visitors to robertocavalli.com are ushered into a virtual space where they can choose the pages that they view according to their mood. Choices are also provided for customizable screen backgrounds and background music. Although the variety is limited to less than five choices for each category, the impact on the total web experience is high. This is a first example of how luxury brands can extend the customization of experiences online.

On the value chain, the online customization of products and services is significantly experienced in the development and retailing levels as shown in Figure 8.11.

Development

Production

Retailing

Delivery

Standardized

Standardized

Customized

Standardized

and

products and

products and

products and

customizable

services to be

services

services

products and

customized

services

Figure 8.11 The changes in the value chain during the online experience customization of products and services

Source: Adapted from B. Joseph Pine II (1997) Mass Customization: The New Frontier for

Business Competition.

Note: Coloured areas indicate changes.

Figure 8.11 The changes in the value chain during the online experience customization of products and services

Source: Adapted from B. Joseph Pine II (1997) Mass Customization: The New Frontier for

Business Competition.

Note: Coloured areas indicate changes.

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