When Andy Mooney decided that he wanted a new guitar, he didnt go to a store to choose one. That’s not because he’s the CEO of Fender Musical Instruments, which build some of the world’s most iconic guitars. No one would have had what he was looking for: a vintage blonde Telecaster with gold hardware, rosewood fingerboard, and locking tuners. Fender carries 125 signature electric guitars, but none of them fits that description. SoMooney turned to Mod Shop, Fenders new online digital design studio, to createa custom axe.
TheMod Shop is like aNike iD store for customizing guitars instead of shoes. Users choose from the companies most popular models–the Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars and the Jazz and Precision basses–and customize the color, fingerboard, pickups, tuners, bridges, and hardware colouring. Anything you construct will cost $1,650 to $1,800.
This isn’t Fender’s first shotat a digital customization studio. Two years ago, it launched the” American Design Experience .” It was … comprehensive. Customers could select everything from the shape and material of the guitar’s neck to the string action to the fit and finish of the case. All told, the site offered 1.3 million combinings. Customers procured it overwhelming. The clunky interface didn’t help: Each customizable option had its own page, if you chose a pickguard that attained you reconsider the body color you’d already selected, you had to navigate all the way back to that page to change it.
What Fender required was a friendlier tool with fewer options–and that entailed being selective in determiningwhich options to offer people.
As it turned out, American Design Experience was a terrible user experience but a great source of data. Fender mined it to decide the more popular selections in every and eliminate the rest. The alternatives thatremain arethe white paint of what we do, tells Finlay Robb, who oversees the direct-to-consumer business. But even these offer 70,000 guitar permutations. Big, yes, but far fewer than 1.3 million. It’s far less intimidating for consumers, and much easier for manufacturing. Fender uses standard components to build Mod Shop rigs, which lets it deliver the axe to your door within 30 days. The old system could take months.
Fender alsoimproved the interface. Youcustomize every component from the same page without navigating forward or backwards. Clicking through the menu on the right lets you tweak components in whatever order you like. Users see in real timehow tweaking one feature changes the seem of the guitar. In a clever move, Fender created a snapshot feature so you can save and compare iterations.The goal, tells Robb, was to give people thefreedom to play with their creationwhile usheringthem through the build process.
And Fender wants people toplay with their guitars.Mooney tells Mod Shop differs from most mass customization platforms by encouraging users to visit their local store andwork on their mods with a trader. The online platform offers tip-off explaining how certain components run, but its not the same as get the info in person. Fender is attemptingto bridge the gap between online and in-store retail. It’s a smart notion given that buying a guitar, especially one you’ve designed yourself, is as much about the experience as it is getting a new instrument.