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Uniqlo fashions DIY t-shirt app with a social focus

Japanese casual wear retailer Uniqlo is tapping in to mobile users with a new application that enables fans exclusively in Japan to design and purchase their own graphic tee creations for $20.

The UTme! app allows subscribers to design custom tees, giving the user a generous amount of design control. Users can also view all submitted designs, including their ‘like’ ranking.

“Twenty years ago, when I worked at Lands’ End, we recorded monogramming information in our database.  Men who monogrammed shirts, for instance, had better long-term value than did the guy buying a typical shirt,” said Kevin Hillstrom, president of MineThatData.

“From a marketing standpoint, this customer is telling you that he is different, open to personalized merchandise,” he said. “This gives you opportunities to market new products, or newly personalized products to this customer.

“Personalized merchandise is bound to be a trend, we can all see that.  Recording and acting upon personalized merchandise in your database should give you a competitive advantage.”

Dress to impress
The sheer breadth of merchandise available online found through search and compared by shopping engines and retail sites challenges retailers to connect with millions of consumers who are going through the racks of online products.

While a dynamic and personalized storefront may automate certain features of the online merchandising process, the role of the merchandiser is becoming more critical.

Allowing consumers to create their own products via DIY functionalities is beginning to take off, as certain clothiers anticipate future trends instead of reacting to past behaviors and data.

Uniqlo’s UTme! App makes designing a t-shirt easy and interactive.

A user uploads an image or text with the option to crop, rotate, and change color schemes. The app also implements fun movement sensors within smart devices as creators’ shakes up their design with specified effects to add even more personality to already unique designs.

UTme! app interface

But UTme! Isn’t solely a DIY app, it is a social campaign too. Fans can access the native app or Web site to view all the submitted designs, inclusive of username and ‘like’ ranking.

Vested interests
Uniqlo is not the first major clothier to offer personalized merchandise.

Threadless, a Chicago-based e-commerce website, manufactures clothing with user submitted designs and artwork chosen by an online community each week by way of public vote.

Out of near 1,000 designs submitted each week, 10 will eventually be selected and printed on clothing sold worldwide online and locally at their retail outlet.

Last month, Threadless launched a new app which allows users to choose phrases and upload them onto a digital T-shirt. For $22, you can expect your tee within 22-48 hours and even share your design to others who may opt to purchase it as well.

Personalized and DIY items cater to the desire to be a part of the process of making a product.

Uniqlo has created an environment where its products are being used in an organic fashion, instead of just shelves stocked with tees. Giving customers positive memories to tie their purchase to the brand creates an impression from which they know specifically where they purchased the product, and will want to purchase it again.

“We frequently think about the transitional customer as one who uses various channels to purchase merchandise, we don’t always think about the merchandise,” said Mr. Hillstrom.

“Transitional customers are exhibiting behaviors that are not traditional in nature.”

“This little tidbit tells you something about the mindset of the customer.  This customer isn’t settling for what everybody else purchases, this customer wants something unique and interesting.”

“An analyst needs to tabulate this information, then link it to future behavior, much like the analyst would analyze any new marketing channel,” he said.

Final Take:
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York