“It’s all about becoming Netflix, and not Blockbuster.”

Noah Oken-Berg readily admits it’s no small task for companies today to come up with ways to market products offerings designed to meet the ever-changing needs and wants of customers today. According to the co-founder and chief executive officer of Above The Fray, an AEM member company and end-to-end e-commerce agency, many have grown accustomed to engaging in a certain kind of purchasing experience, one which has become increasingly defined by an expectation of customized, personalized options for a wide range of products.

“For equipment manufacturers, the question becomes how to deliver customization and personalization to this particular industry,” said Oken-Berg. “It’s hard work. Not ‘roll-up-your-sleeves, blood-sweat-and-tears-type work,’ but rather involves deconstructing the mental barriers that exist in embracing customization and personalization, as well as navigating the paradigm shift involved in moving toward it.”

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Embracing Customization and Personalization

The challenge for many manufacturers today – no matter their size or the markets they serve – is to design and develop products uniquely tailored to individual customer needs. The rise of the gig economy has exacerbated this challenge, as entrepreneurs, do-it-yourselfers and hobbyists have helped drive the once-overlooked trends of customization and personalization into the limelight.

According to Oken-Berg, the task of overcoming this challenge can be a bit daunting. But it’s not an impossible one for manufacturers to undertake.

“As an organization, you really have to sit down and do a deep dive into all of your systems and processes to evaluate everything,” said the Above the Fray executive. “There’s a ton of considerations that go into it, and everything continues to change so much that you really have to be on top of things. And you absolutely need to have the right people, agencies and partners to work with, or you’ll find yourself down the wrong path pretty quickly.”

There is no shortage of examples of organizations with track records of success in embracing personalization and customization. Automakers provide existing and prospective customers with opportunities to “build” their own vehicles a feature at a time. Shoe companies give website visitors the power to choose different sneaker colors and varying styles.

From Oken-Berg’s standpoint, product configurators and sales enablement tools are great applications for equipment manufacturers to consider when looking at ways to meet customers’ needs and wants related to customization and personalization.

“From an interest level standpoint, and from the potential to gain efficiencies, it just makes a ton of sense for that industry,” he said. “The customer can come on a website and – no matter what the product is – it can be configurated. Or, it’s also something a dealer can use to configure a product quickly and easily, while also making it look good visually.”

 

 “For equipment manufacturers, the question becomes how to deliver customization and personalization to this particular industry. It’s hard work. Not ‘roll-up-your-sleeves, blood-sweat-and-tears-type work,’ but rather involves deconstructing the mental barriers that exist in embracing customization and personalization, as well as navigating the paradigm shift involved in moving toward it.” -- Noah Oken-Berg, co-founder and CEO at AEM member company Above the Fray.

 

Another cutting-edge technology equipment manufacturers should evaluate, noted Oken-Berg, is Adobe Sensei, an AI personalization engine that Adobe layers over its entire product suite.

“It then gathers data from all those different touchpoints and creates personalized recommendations,” said Oken-Berg, adding that these tools can bring about increased automation and efficiency to those organizations that successfully invest in them, as well as help provide greater customer service.

Barriers to Investment and Adoption

While customization and personalization are certainly trends on the rise (and are becoming more and more prominent in the manufacturing space), many organizations today still find themselves unable – or, perhaps more accurately – unwilling to take advantage.

“So many factors get in the way,” said Oken-Berg. “Bureaucracy, politics, inertia, any and all remain impasses in preventing people from embracing these trends and gaining efficiencies. And while I think the arc is still curving in the positive direction, it’s often ‘three steps forward, two steps back’ in a lot of cases.”

According to Oken-Berg, privacy concerns also remain a prominent hurdle to widespread investment in – and adoption of – customization and personalization solutions.

“If I were to say what’s really going to hold these trends back, it would be that desire to not have that ‘eye in the sky’ watching everything you do,” he continued. “In a positive way, though, if you have people that have chosen to opt in for these things, and you have rules and regulations for how data is collected, how it’s stored, and who has access, then you can create unapparelled brand engagement – and personalized value to your buyers.”

Key Considerations

Because customers today have grown to expect customized and personalized options in a wide range of product offerings and solutions, organizations that have found ways to navigate barriers to entry have found themselves able to survive operational threats, thrive amidst industry uncertainty and – ultimately – achieve sustained success.

Today’s customer has grown to expect customizable options in a wide range of products, and companies that have leaned toward customization and personalization have found new and innovative ways to help meet evolving the needs and wants of the markets they serve. This trend is likely to continue as technologies such as 3D printing and laser-based manufacturing become grow in prominence in the industrial space, and as the manufacturing continues to move toward in a customer-centric direction.

However, said Oken-Berg, as the burgeoning trends of customization and personalization continue to grow and evolve, manufacturers must keep a few key considerations related to investment and adoption front-of-mind:

  • IoT and telematics are important, but prioritize digital marketing as well.
  • Find the lowest barrier to entry and the highest possible return.
  • Plan on it being a long-term investment.
  • Work with people who listen, not just talk.
  • Perhaps most importantly, listen to the people within the organization who are “raising their hands and waving them wildly.”

“But once you get there with customization and personalization, the whole point of it is automation, efficiency and continuing to grow and develop as an organization,” said Oken-Berg. “You’ve done the work to set everything up. Then you can really get after it.”

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