November 25, 2015 • Sam Ujvary
The Individual Insignia
Customization adds distinction and desirability to any item
In an age where mass-produced goods are the norm, personalized gifts and stationery hold special appeal as a way of making a product truly one’s own. “When all products and brands are widely accessible, this reduces the uniqueness one used to find shopping a special store or while on vacation. Personalization allows the customer to create a special product that their neighbor likely doesn’t have,” observed Jane Geller of The Boatman Group, “Putting your name on a product brings the special back.”
A Special Touch
That “special” can be applied to nearly any conceivable product in the gift and stationery category — cards, notepads, correspondence sets, placemats favors, trays, flip flops, pillows, jewelry. Years ago it used to be that just a few items such as stationery could be personalized. But improvements in manufacturing processes, coupled with a booming consumer interest in personalization, have led to an explosion in the types of products that can be personalized.
At one of her stores, Rock Paper Scissors in Ann Arbor, Mich., Lisa Roberts offers not just personalized wedding invitations and stationery but other paper products such as table napkins. “There’s a whole arsenal of personalized everything these days,” Roberts pointed out. “We see personalized jewelry as really popular and an assortment of wedding favors including personalized koozies.”
“Lucite in all shapes and forms can have a design-driven personalized insert or etched personalization,” Jane Geller explained. “All types of notepads from sticky memo cubes, clip and loose sheets in acrylic holders are great gift items with wide price points.”
Trendy and timeless
When it comes to wedding stationery and related gifts, timeless pieces usually rule but millennials are increasingly putting their own touch in the category, noted Claudia Smith of Fig. 2 Design Studio. “We see brides who don’t want to fit in the usual molds. They want to try something a little different, a touch of neon or a little different typography. It’s a more modern approach to stationery.”
Smith emphasized that colors for personalized stationery are pretty timeless and customers often choose different methods of deviating from the norm. A hint of neon in an envelope liner, for example, can work wonders in making a statement.
Monogrammed stationery and other gift products are not just timeless, they’re also trendy now, Jane Geller described. Smith agreed that customers are increasingly asking for personalized stationery for kids, either monogrammed or featuring their full names laid out in fun typography. “Kids know how to use an iPad, but getting them their own stationery makes them also appreciate writing, whether it’s a thank-you note or sending and receiving letters in the mail,” Smith underlined.
At Rock Paper Scissors, Roberts has seen an increase in moms-to-be getting stationery personalized with the baby’s name. “When they get all those baby gifts for a shower or birth, they then send out the thank-you cards using the kiddo’s name. It’s a cute new mode of personalization.”
Message in a Bauble
Honey Kim of Deidreamers Jewelry observed that most women probably have had a friendship bracelet or signet ring with memorable initials. The idea of personalization, Kim commented, is not new but the designs are evolving with the sentiments.
“There are more creative personalized designs to choose from and creative ways to make personalized jewelry nowadays. People put their children’s initials, special dates to remember, Instagram username, even trending hashtags on their jewelry.”
“Even if the trend changes, people just can’t throw away their personalized jewelry because it has so much meaning and memory to them. When they wear it, it’s a constant reminder of their loved ones and special memories,” Kim continued.
It is this value proposition — that personalized stationery and gift products add a special touch, that retailers should capitalize on, advise industry professionals. It helps to think outside the box and use your imagination, added Smith. “One of our retailers (really) knows how to envision the designs as something else. She doesn’t just box the invites into wedding or some other categories. She works with customers and her imagination to go beyond what the album’s designs are.”
Roberts suggests retailers display “tons of examples” on the shop floor. “The quickest way to have a customer’s head explode is to show them an album,” she laughed. “More often than not we have had customers pick the sample up directly from the shop floor whether it’s plates or personalized trucks. You have to read the customer and know when to pull out the book. You can make the right sales with the right products displayed.”
Since more intensive personalization involves wait times and customers are usually impatient, Roberts recommended giving yourself a cushion when giving delivery due dates. “You can’t tell customers to be patient, just give them a more realistic time frame with some cushion built in.”
If mistakes happen, imagine what you would think is the best solution and go beyond, Roberts emphasized. Like many retailers, she is frustrated when customers don’t spell-check proofs properly before going to press. “If Sara doesn’t have an ‘h’at the end, you have to tell us. It’s a tough conversation to have but remind the customer that part of the final product is their responsibility too.”
The element of personalization extends all the way from the product to the customer service you extend. It’s the best way to distinguish your venue online as well, Roberts described.
The appeal of personalized products is timeless and enduring, a perfect — and often inexpensive way — of adding a truly individualized touch, Smith finished. “It makes it unique to the person who’s using it and that is truly priceless.”
— Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor with a specialty in the retail and book publishing industries. Learn more at wordcumulus.wordpress.com.