Mass customization is dead. Long live mass customization.

Mass customization is dead.   Why?  MC is not a quality, or a feature, or personality, or even a brand-defining differenatiator.    MC is a business acronym.  MC is an operations strategy.  Customers shouldn’t need to know about it or hear about it.  Customization will be transparent and embedded in the brand identity and experience.

What do customers want?

Customers want brands that they trust.  They want personality, they want reputation, and they want quality.  And, increasingly, they want made to order, they want locally made, they want hand crafted.    As Joe Pine put it “Customers don’t want customer products, they want what they want.”

Give your product a personality

In a must-read Giant Robot Dinosaur post on building a brand personality, Grimlock emphasizes that customers want to be friends with a brand.   Avoid mediocrity.  (In all-caps on purpose:)

“PERSONALITY MAKE MEANING

CAN PET ROCK. PET DOG BETTER. PET DOG HAVE MEANING.

BORING PRODUCT IS ROCK. NO HAVE MEANING. INTERACT WITH PERSONALITY DIFFERENT. HAVE MEANING.

INTERESTING PRODUCT THAT GIVE FRIENDS MEANING = MOST WIN OF ALL.”

Customization is a means to an end.  Interactive, visual customization is a brand engagement tool that exposes the customer to a brand’s personality and meaning.  Don’t just ask your customers to search for a shoe – let them BUILD and SHARE a shoe.  Creative engagement is an order of magnitude more valuable than simple search and buy.

Focus on consumer benefits

Mass customization is a market strategy.   Marketing is the art of engineering customer relationships.  MC products are built-to-order, they are “have it your way” products.   They can be locally made, sustainable, personalized products made by a craftsman.   They are the opposite of mass produced, soulless high volume products that come out of factories on the other side of the world.

Remember, you are not offering customization as THE attribute per se, you are offering fantastic products that are a sum or your brand’s attributes.  Custom is one of them.  Customers will love your product because it is a great product, and because it solves a problem.   Speak to that problem.

Mass customization is an operations strategy and a business model 

From a recent British posting on the mass customization revolution:

“While it’s true to say mass customised products are in their relative infancy, the years to come will certainly open the way for more interactive ordering services with tablet applications and 3D printing.

But as Will Findlater, the editor of Stuff Magazine adds, it seems the logical next step for the generations to come, who won’t be interested in ‘one-size-fits-all’ gizmos to fit their customised lives.

“It makes perfect sense,” he said. “Consumer tech has become hugely popular and design-conscious, so in the same way that consumers have a desire for individuality in the look of their clothes and homes, there’s a corresponding desire to have unique-looking gadgets that work with their personal palette or decor.

“Now it’s over to the manufacturers to deliver.””

From a MIT Sloan research piece on “Cracking the code of mass customization,” “The key is to view (mass customization) basically as a process for aligning an organization with its customers’ needs.”

What’s new and exciting is that customization does not have to correlate with specialty, expensive, and hard-to-get.   Customization will weave itself into the digital shopping experience (and fulfillment strategy) and will broaden its reach to mass market consumer behavior.

Mass customization is dead.  Long live mass customization.

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3 Responses

  1. We are starting to see more and more applications plug into the Shapeways API to make it easier for people with no CAD skills to customize products to be 3D printed. Mainly they are WebGL based at the moment but there are a few iPad and Android apps being tested that are looking like really interesting easy entry points for deep customization.

    PS. Currently wearing a bespoke, Blank Label shirt 🙂

  2. Thanks, Duann.

    Yes, making customization FRICTIONLESS is the key to making it mainstream. Users love being able to “play” with products, tweak them, color them, style them. The key is to design shopping experiences that are simple, intuitive, fast, and don’t require any extra steps.

    Enabling a Shapeways API is a great example. Gracefully plugging in to powerful APIs via other platforms is a logical next step.

  3. […] Mass customization is dead. Long live mass customization. […]

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