July 13, 2006, 12:00 AM

Online custom product buyers are the most desirable, Forrester says

Only 24% of online shoppers have built a custom product online, but they are among the most desirable—affluent opinion leaders who can help guide new product research and development, according to a new Forrester Research Inc. report.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Only 24% of online shoppers have built a custom product online, but they are among the most desirable-affluent opinion leaders who can help guide new product research and development, according to a new Forrester Research Inc. report.

Customers who design and purchase custom consumer products online tend to have more online experience and are tech friendly: 83% of custom purchasers have been online for five or more years, Forrester found. That compares with 66% of all online consumers. In addition, more than half of custom product purchasers have e-commerce tenure of five or more years, twice the rate of all online consumers.

Forrester also found that more than half of custom product buyers have a college degree or higher, compared with just 38% of all online consumers. Purchasers also have higher income levels, with 41% having household incomes of more than $75,000 a year, compared with 23% of all online consumers. Custom product purchasers also are more likely to be male.

Custom product buyers also are more likely to use multiple channels when shopping, according to the report. 42% like to research online and purchase offline, compared with 36% of online shoppers.

In addition, 54% of custom product buyers consider themselves natural leaders, versus 35% of all online consumers, and 18% consider themselves trendsetters, compared to 11% of all shoppers. “These beliefs carry over into action, with buyers more likely to tell others about products that interest them and e-mail products that interest them to others,” Forrester said.

The study also found that the major concern for consumers wanting to buy products they build online is not being able to return a custom-designed product. Only 19% said they are unwilling to pay more for a custom product, and only 8% said they are concerned about credit card security for online purchases. “To make consumers feel comfortable with the process, allow them to return or exchange products they buy and make it clear that they have recourse if they have a change of the heart,” Forrester said.

Greeting cards, jewelry, linens/home décor, apparel, footwear and accessories were the most popular items to customize online, Forrester found.

While offering customized product tools is costly, tracking selections customers make using a “build-your-own” tool can yield valuable information about what the population at large wants, according to the report.

Forrester based the report, “Who Buys Custom Consumer Products,” on its Consumer Technographics Q4 2005 North American Retail, Travel, and Automotive Online Survey.

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