HEAD-TO-TOE CUSTOMIZATION ON THE WEB

Byline: Brad Barth

NEW YORK — GetCustom.com has developed proprietary software that enables cybershoppers to designate all the components that make up merchandise they’d like to purchase, from fashion goods like apparel and shoes, to bicycles, gift baskets, and Barbie dolls.
The new technology enables users to select various product specifications, such as fabric, type of shirt collar and cuff and other detailing, including buttons, and accent designs.
GetCustom.com’s merchandise for women includes shoes, cosmetics, handbags, watches, pashmina shawls and scarves.The line is slowly being expanded: The company will eventually offer women’s shirts that shoppers can customize in anywhere from five steps, to about two dozen.
Customized treatments of men’s shirts are already available on the site, located at GetCUSTOM.com.
A critical objective in developing the customization package was to make the software capable of arranging hundreds of thousands of product-specification combinations in a manner so quick and efficient that customers would not lose patience during the process, and abandon their effort.
Wristwatches alone, for example, can be configured in more than 500,000 ways, with multiple consumer options for case and face design, straps, numerals and minute and second-hand styles. Cybershoppers seeking handbags choose the material, color or pattern, and handle color, while those in search of shoes select base color, top design and shoe size.
According to Jeffrey Roth, GetCustom’s founder and chairman, shoppers too often are “victims of standard products made for the masses.” With that in mind, the company, based here, hopes to capitalize on consumers who are frustrated by not getting exactly what they want.
“We view ourselves as a concept store, [built] around the notion of customization, interactivity and expression of self,” Roth added.
In developing the site’s customization technology, the company was looking to construct a single software program powerful enough to configure all of the variables of the products offered, rather than having multiple programs. The tricky part, Roth said, was developing the technology in such a way that the site’s visitors would find it easy and fun to customize their apparel.
To do that, the two-month-old site needed to understand consumers’ preferences — how much time they would spend configuring an item, how many customization steps they would want to use, and how best to visually display the merchandise.
In addition to customization, the site provides a crew of “virtual” shopping assistants, five fictional characters, each with a different personality and expertise, who offer purchasing tips to customers. The advice they dispense is based on the choices customers make as they customize their apparel and accessories.
GetCustom.com, which earns a commission on products sold through its site, features merchandise from mostly small to medium-size retailers, as most major chains do not offer customized product lines. Merchandise customized at the GetCustom site is subsequently delivered by the merchant providing the product.
Although most big chains do not currently offer customized product lines, Roth said this pattern is slowly changing. “A lot of the major brands are now considering it,” he noted, “not because they want to go into this, but because they’re afraid what might happen if they don’t.”

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