Have you ever had that moment shopping online or in a store where you really like an item, but wish it had some extra detail or something that would make it more unique to you? This desire to customize an item and make it your own is becoming a more popular trend and is an untapped market that, if utilized correctly, could be the way for small businesses to compete with big box retailers.
What is Mass Customization?
Amazon has been successful at moving the shopping experience for mass-produced products solely to the Internet and it’s hard for companies to compete with them. However, there is one area that Amazon hasn’t cracked that holds a huge market share – mass customization. Mass customization allows customers to actively participate in the design and outcome of products they will eventually buy. There’s a tipping point for most products where the customer will always elect a custom version from a standard version if the price, quality and delivery times are right.
When you think about it, mass customization has been happening for years — we just didn’t call it that. The Internet has enabled standard custom to be produced in mass through streamlined and scaled manufacturing processes. It started when computer manufacturers allowed customers to build their own PCs and it has expanded to everything from custom cereal and M&Ms to canvas prints and books created with your child as the hero, or even a 3D printed sonogram fetus (weird, but true).
Why the popularity?
The growth of sites like Etsy and Pinterest has increased the interest in customized products. Now more than ever, consumers want to show their unique personalities in everything from products in their home to the clothes they are wearing. A few years ago, customized products in mass were not feasible, but the supply chain technology that we have today helps create a more effective process for companies to work with their customers to co-design the end product.
The ability to work one-on-one with your customer to turn their idea into reality is a huge opportunity for businesses to secure customer loyalty. At BuildASign.com, we’ve seen large volumes of repeat customers due to our ability to take their creation and give them an end product that exceeds their expectations.
Making it happen
Mass customization has remained an elusive strategy for most companies, until now. We are finally at a point where customer demand and production have reached a common ground where items can be created at a more affordable cost. Customization usually requires a designer to be involved and that process is usually specific to the product. This is part of the reason Amazon does not offer customization as it goes against their mass selling business model.
Companies that are looking to take on mass customization need to figure out three things:
- How to scale the manufacturing process to produce low prices
- How to limit features available to allow single source processes for production
- How to design an intuitive creation process for the user to interface with
There are a few companies that have been able to do this extremely well like Shoes of Prey, eThreads, and Nike. It’s only a matter of time before more companies start to move in this direction now that the demand is there. Those of us that have been offering mass customization for a while need to continue to refine our process to make it more streamlined and effective for consumers and our bottom line.