Recently an entrepreneur made a comment to us that made an impression: “Mass customization is trending so hard right now.” Indeed, we’re seeing customization on the forefront of a paradigm shift in retailing. So what, exactly is trending?
We’re seeing a shift towards small, agile manufacturing facilities that don’t carry any inventory. The process of “user manufacturing” is becoming more prevalent as new companies like eMachinshop.com strive to “democratize manufacturing.”
Manufacturing is coming back to the US in a big way, and it’s cropping up in the form of micro-factories. According to DIY blogger TJ McCue of Forbes Magazine “There are approximately 315,000 manufacturers in the USA. Over 30% of them are 1-4 person shops.”
In terms of marketing, we’re seeing a shift toward highly visual, interactive, “curate your own” shopping experiences, rather than conventional search and browse shopping experiences. This means we are seeing dramatic changes in the way people interact and shop for products. More specifically, “pre-shopping” is driving shopping itself because it taps into the power of social interaction, ie social brand engagement.
Curation itself is a merchandising theme. Some sites like Fab.com are in the business of curating good design for their users, and other sites like Pinterest are in the business of providing easy to use, one-click curation experiences so that each user can play the role of curator. Pinterest taps into Facebook actions which extends it’s utility to a truly social experience.
Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has said that any app is an order of magnitude more valuable when it’s social. Curation and design-your-own are marketing themes that are primed for democracy and crowd-sourcing because they are “social by design.”
“Democrotization” is a fantastic made-up term which gets investors excited because it speaks to the rich potential of crowd-sourcing. Many industries like fashion are being disrupted by web-based services that give individuals the power to design, influence, and sell their own products. “Democrotizing fashion”.
Polyvore is a good example because they were one of the first companies to focus on enabling creativity among fashionistas. “Polyvore’s mission is to democratize fashion, “To empower people on the street to think about their sense of style and share it with the world.” says Jess Lee, Polyvore’s vice president of product management.
The site bucks the age old trend of fashion driving the market. In Polyvore’s world, the market is driving fashion. In the past, Vogue has famously been considered a voice on high that says, “Here’s what we think fashion is.” But Polyvore’s user-generated content model is changing the status quo, abandoning the industry’s long-time queenly paradigm.”