Trending Toward Custom

Driving door sales margins by offering personalization
By Brad Loveless
May 22, 2017
FEATURE ARTICLE | Design & Performance
As one of the home’s most important curb appeal features, personalized front entry doors are growing in popularity. (Images courtesy of Simpson Door Co.)

“You can have any color, as long as it’s black,” Henry Ford is quoted as saying about his revolutionary Model T automobile. Although his narrow product focus brought affordable cars to the masses a century ago, that philosophy flies in the face of consumer preferences for personalized products today.

Visualization:
MAKING PERSONAL POSSIBLE

While many consumers demand personalized products, as Bain & Company explains, it is crucial to make the process simple: “If the online design process is too complicated, difficult or unattractive, many potential shoppers will be turned off,” the company stated in its findings.

To make the personalization experience enjoyable, building product manufacturers offer a host of fun, free and easy-to-use online design tools accessible at home or in a showroom. This “visualization software” offered by a number of manufacturers brings dealers the technology to allow consumers to explore exterior and interior options and to see what their personalized door will look like before they order it.

About one-third of consumers are interested in personalized products or services, according to market researchers at both Deloitte and Bain & Company. From Coca-Cola offering customers the ability to add any name to one of their soft drink cans to Trek enabling cyclists to fully specify their own bicycle, personalization is hot. Even the Ford Motor Company now offers a personalization program for certain vehicle models.

Product personalization also translates into higher sales and margins. In a recent study, Bain found that people who customized a product online increased their purchase frequency and average purchase price. They were also more loyal to the brand.

All of this translates into higher margins. Deloitte research recently found that 71 percent of consumers interested in personalized products are prepared to pay a premium. Ken Seiff, executive vice president of clothier Brooks Brothers—which offers its customers personalized products—sums it up: “Customers who buy customized products are more satisfied and more valuable.”

But what does Brooks Brothers have to do with the window and door business? While the trend is more prevalent in retail, research indicates that people are also personalizing higher-value, longer lasting goods in their homes, not just quick consumables.

Some door manufacturers now offer a range of mass customization options to empower product personalization, such as the entry doors in this high-end home.

The door to personalization

To deliver the benefits of product personalization to their dealers, some leading door and building product manufacturers are adopting a “mass customization” approach. Business experts James Gilmore and Joe Pine explain in The Harvard Business Review how this works: “Readily available information technology and flexible work processes permit [manufacturers] to customize goods or services for individual customers in high volumes and at a relatively low cost.”

Many manufacturers undertaking this approach provide consumers and dealers the ability to get a door in virtually any size and shape, and to choose from dozens of materials, wood species and decorative glass designs. More adventurous consumers can even design their own door style from scratch.

Such personalization results in tangible business results for door dealers: “Our sales have doubled in the last six months—and not only our sales, but also our profit margin,” notes Don Byers, manager of Door Outlet, dooroutlet.biz, in Austin, Texas. “Customers love to add their own personal options, and when they can do that and have a CAD drawing in a matter of minutes, they don’t even question the pricing.”

A key benefit of mass customization in fenestration and other building products is that dealers can offer customers nearly limitless choices, without having to stock numerous SKUs. The key is to partner with manufacturers that provide fast and simple price quoting and easily accessed, detailed product information that drive sales leads to you. Combine that with fun and interactive tools to help homeowners and builders design their doors, and you have the formula to provide doors that exceed your customers’ expectations, all while boosting your sales margins.

Brad Loveless is the marketing and product development manager for Simpson Door Company. He leads Simpson’s marketing efforts with distributors, dealers and homeowners, and is responsible for overseeing new product designs and performance enhancements. Contact him at Brad.Loveless@simpson.com.