ith Netflix and Amazon right on our smartphones, we’re used to (and expect) hyper-personalization every day. That’s why it’s no surprise consumers also want that level of personalization from the brands they do business with, in all aspects of their lives. Decorated apparel’s no different, whether it’s for a high school graduation or a company holiday party. If you’re not providing that level of hyper-personalization in your garment offerings, other shops might leave you in the dust.
At Florida-based Wear Your Spirit Warehouse, the team regularly turns out hyper-personalized apparel and hard goods. “We do team baseball jerseys where every jersey gets a different name and number,” says Alison Banholzer, owner. “Or, we’ll sublimate an order of 80 mugs where each has a different name on the side.”
"If you offer a personalized shirt to a graduating class, almost everyone will buy one because it’s unique to that individual. Hyper-personalization adds dollars to the sale.” - Marshall Atkinson, owner at Atkinson Consulting
And Gina Francis and Amy Francis, who co-own Avery Jane Designs, a home-based shop in Fayetteville, AR, focus on small-batch, hyper-personalized embroidery orders. “Since we don’t get huge orders, we have the unique ability to take those smaller orders some bigger businesses can’t,” Gina says. “We’re that ‘go-to’ shop, and it’s very profitable for us as a smaller business.”
The Francises use their one-head embroidery machines to stitch out hyper-personalized orders at home—and at craft shows. “That’s another draw for our customers, since we can add a name drop right there on the spot when we bring our machine along to an event,” Gina says. “We love how long-lasting embroidery is, and so do our customers.”
Let’s take a look at how you can make hyper-personalization work for your shop. “Decorating is the easy part of hyper-personalization,” says Marshall Atkinson, business consultant at Atkinson Consulting and Shirt Lab Tribe. “The overall process, and the logistics and organizing of each job, is where you need to know what you’re doing.”
What is Hyper-Personalization Really?
In a nutshell, hyper-personalization is decorating a garment made specifically for an individual. For example, you might create a “Class of 2022” shirt for a high school graduating class with “2022” in large lettering and the school mascot. The one variable could be the graduating senior’s photo inside the zero, along with a name drop.
You probably won’t be taking an order for 20 or 30 with the exact same shirt design in a hyper-personalized order (unless the graduate has a lot of excited relatives). However, you’ll probably customize one template to create a few dozen, hundred or even thousand super-custom orders.
Hyper-personalized garments have also gained a lot of steam from the surge of print-on-demand (POD) and online store orders that came about, during the course of 2020. Decorators could easily print or heat transfer one-off garments as the orders came in, and then ship them out. “Our current shop record is 12 minutes from the time we received an order, until the time the order was in our UPS driver’s hands,” Banholzer says. “If you can master quality, price and time, you’ll have a thriving revenue stream.”
It’s a good time to pay attention to this trend, as 70% of consumers say that when a company understands how they use products and services, that’s very important to winning their business. “The beauty of a hyper-personalized shirt is that you can sell it for $35, instead of $25,” Atkinson says. “If you offer a personalized shirt to a graduating class, almost everyone will buy one because it’s unique to that individual. Hyper-personalization adds dollars to the sale.”
Personalization Is Game-Changing
For many decorated-apparel businesses, hyper-personalization allows customers to order a single item at a price point that makes the run cost-effective. It also gives you the opportunity to put those graphic design skills to work.
Atkinson points to providers like YR Stores that offer interactive kiosks at stores, events and trade shows where consumers can order hyper-personalized gear. Companies like Nike, adidas, Kiehl’s, Google, Star Wars, Oreo and Levi’s have used live design tech like this to connect with fans. The apparel is decorated using sublimation, DTG and embroidery, which you’re already offering to customers.
Similarly, instead of just cranking out hundreds of “copies” of a single shirt, you can collaborate with the customer to create a unique product that shows your creativity. This allows you to not only make the sale, but also make a personal connection that leads to future sales. Hyper-personalization is an investment upfront, but the result could pay off big for your business.
At most shops though, it isn’t an immediate “yes” or “no” in terms of profitability and practicality. You can use lots of decorating methods for hyper-personalization, including embroidery, heat transfers, DTG, sublimation, DTF and screen printing. But, that’s only the beginning.
For example, there are many companies that will cut and weed names for you, but do you have the production time built in to wait for them to arrive? If not, do you have the equipment in house that you can do it yourself? “If you’ve answered yes to either of these questions, next you should ask: Have we collected the data on the number of orders that request hyper-personalization, and then looked at the cost of materials and our labor time/cost?” Banholzer says.
Like all decoration processes, you first need to know your actual cost to offer it as a hyper-personalized service, Then, determine what you’d need to charge for it to be worthwhile for your shop to do it. “If the price is reasonable and you can sell it, what’s stopping you?” Banholzer says.
Your Hyper-Profitable Shop Scenario
Atkinson paints a great picture of how profitable hyper-personalization can be for your shop: For example, if you’ve got an online store set up and a way to collect all the order data, your M&R DS-4000 Digital Squeegee can print more than 400 shirts an hour at a much higher markup. Of course, you can also use DTG to print hyper-personalized shirts as they come in, as well.
“You need to understand your numbers, so you can balance your expenses and profits to the degree you’re personalizing each item,” Atkinson says. “For each job, you’ll need to build a template you can customize quickly. You’ll also need a way to organize your garment sizes and designs in a spreadsheet if you’re printing a run of 500 hyper-personalized shirts.”
He explains how you can use this scenario to offer hyper-personalization in a large number of situations:
Event T-shirts with name drops and sponsor logos, from trade shows to 5k runs
Tourist attraction or theme park, where members can get their names and even photos on garments
School events and clubs, where members can get their names and even photos on garments
Musical artist or band, where fans can get their name on a concert tee for a specific date and location
Professional sports teams, where fans can get their name on a concert tee for a specific date and location
Fundraising, where donors can have their names and even amounts donated printed on the shirts
Limited-edition clothing brand (or event) runs, with individual art watermarks
“If you’re new to hyper-personalization, invent some jobs and do test runs of 12,” Atkinson says. “Do the runs from start to finish and then fix where the process breaks down.”
A More Personal Shopping Experience
Stitch Fix is a great example of a brand that provides a truly personalized online clothes shopping experience. If you’re not familiar with how the site works, when you sign up, you provide information about your style preferences. Then, your information goes to one of the brand’s 4,000 stylists who make personalized recommendations for each customer. This is a unique approach, since Stitch Fix doesn’t rely on an algorithm to create winning looks.
Here are some easy ways that you can create a personalized experience for your customers in your print shop, based on consumer wants and needs:
Stat: Millennial brand loyalty increases by 28% if they receive personalized communication. (Further, emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to get opened.) Plus, 91% of consumers say they’re more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations relevant to them. Idea: Spend some time segmenting your email list based on demographics and other buying behaviors, so you can send offers and products customized to specific buyers.
Stat: 56% of online shoppers are more likely to return to a website that recommends products. Idea: Talk with your ecommerce platform provider about the best way to set up a real-time buying experience that recommends products (or related products) based on a buyer’s active searches or previous purchases. Many sites ask customers to create an account so that when they login, the site can access their prior searches and orders to make personalized recommendations.
Stat: 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences. Idea: The sky’s the limit here. Your buyers want to feel special and singled out, whether you decide to send “lumpy mail” with a note and branded products to your buyers around the holidays, or send your top customers a box of the newest products for them to wear and use. At the most basic level, you can email or call your customers to see how they’re doing and how you can help them achieve their branding goals. Brainstorm ideas with your team to see what will resonate most with your particular buyers.
“Can you imagine the excitement and power they will feel when they get to control what goes on the shirt?” Atkinson says. “What if you could deliver that experience? Another shop could be slowly marching towards gathering your customer segment into this new hyper-personalization idea. Start researching and brainstorming,” so you can get ahead of the curve.