Mass customization is trending so hard right now

Emachineshop: democrotizing manufacturing

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?

1) Manufacturing 

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.”

Curation

2) Marketing

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.”

Jess Lee of Polyvore

3) Democritization

“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.”

 

How important is guidance?

In our recent study on consumer preferences, respondents made it clear that guidance is critical in guiding them to make good decisions.

Simplicity vs complexity

Interestingly, age does differentiate users in terms of their tolerance for complexity.  But, “The customization paradox” applies to users of all ages.   Users are fickle.  They want complete control, but when you give them too much power, they get frustrated.   The key to mitigating “customization fatigue” is guidance.  Use templates with defaults, filter options, reduce steps, and show recommended combinations.    Make your design tool “customer proof.”   The trick is to give them power and to protect them from themselves at the same time.

Why do young users want more complexity? 

Most likely because younger generations are accustomed to digital control, and are therefore more inclined to control hard products as well.

Per Frank Piller, consumers are finally ready for customization:  “I believe it took 10 years of consumer education on the net so that MANY of them feel confident to not just shop standard products from a catalog, but also co-create. Also, today’s 25-35’s – a core group of people buying custom goods – are trained by the interactive solutions of social networking, but also co-creation in computer games. This generation is the natural shopper for custom goods – and getting old enough now to have the discretionary income to buy custom goods online.

Millenials

Design constraints

The reality is that customers are customizing YOUR brand.  They are empowered to customize within the constraints that you define.  Customers are great editors, but are they talented designers / creators?   Most customers don’t want a blank canvas, they want to start with recommended (virtual) products and make adjustments to match their tastes.  This is guidance at its core.   It really depends who your customization customers are, but guidance is appreciated by advanced and novice product designers.   Creativity loves constraint.

Co-creation

Users want to see suggested designs, what other customers are designing, the last 5 products built, product of the week, etc.   Inspire them with creative suggestions rather than asking them to be creative in a vacuum.

From our research, here are a few verbatim suggestions on how product configurators can improve:

  • “More suggestions or creations by others.”
  • “Better to provide a big pool of ‘good designs’ as showcase and customers could use those or work from there.”
  • “I think it can be improved by providing pre-customized products with option to modify the product.”

Whitepaper 2011: What do consumers want from a product customizer?

What do shoppers want from an online customization experience?

Which product configurator features are most important?

  • Visualization
  • Intuitive design
  • Guidance / recommendations

Will shoppers still pay a premium price for customization?

Research objective:  To help the collective mass customization industry to build better customization experiences.

This is the second study we’ve launched on the topic of consumer preferences in the context of product customization.  See last year’s study.   This presentation was presented at the Mass Customization and Personalization, and co-creation 2011 conference, November, 2011.

Treehouse Logic to present at the Mass Customization, Personalization, and co-creation conference

Treehouse Logic is scheduled to present at the upcoming 2011 World Conference on Mass Customization, Personalization, and Co-Creation.

A new generation of shopping tools is driving innovation on the web. Shopping online is becoming increasingly more interactive, social, and fun. Treehouse Logic launched a research study to learn more about consumers’ evolving tastes and preferences in the context of shopping for soft goods, specifically in the context of the design-your-own experience. We set out to shed light on topics like: What do shoppers want and expect from a customization experience? Which top customization features are most important? Visualization? Speed? Intuitive design? Social interaction? Community suggestions? Expert guidance? When customizing, do users want infinite possibilities or simplicity?

Additionally, will shoppers still pay a premium price for customized products?   The answers may surprise you.

The study is a follow-up of the same study that was published in 2010.  This year’s report will highlight some major changes in consumers’ responses from last year.

Details for the talk:

  • Session 4-6: Consumer Behavior and Managing Choice in Mass Customization Co-Design Toolkits
  • Session Chair: Kate Herd, Middlesex University, Great Britain
  • Friday, 18 November 2011, 4:30 – 6:00, Salon Marina del Rey, San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront.  San Francisco, CA USA.

See you there!

Who are mass customization customers?

At TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing, finalist United Styles launched a new “user generated fashion” crowd-sourcing website.  The business model focuses on letting users design their own clothing, open their own stores, and sell their own designs online.  The goal is to democratize the design industry, effectively taking the power away from Madison Avenue and letting users “pull” their own fashion instead of it being “pushed” to them via conventional, predictive mass production business models that depend on the voodoo science of demand forecasting.

After the presentation, United Styles was asked by the panel of judges “who is your target user?”  Their answer was the “the fashion blogosphere.”   Huh?

A cardinal rule of social media

This is an important question for all companies offering custom products.  Who ARE mass customization customers?  Power shoppers?  Fashionistas? Tweens?  The oddly shaped?  Designers?  Hipsters individualists?  Luxury buyers?   Novelty gift buyers?

In his blog, VC Fred Wilson identifies one of the cardinal rules of social media:   “Out of 100 people, 1% will create the content, 10% will curate the content, and the other 90% will simply consume it.”   This customer segmentation framework applies to co-creation marketplaces as well.

Designers

United Styles

Bespokable, for example, provides a platform for a network of tailors to design shirts based on users specifications.  Users themselves don’t touch the visual product configurator.  Instead, customers describe their requirements via a web form.  The tailors review the requirements and self-reported body measurements, and then design a custom shirt via the online design tool.

Lookk and Fabricly also target “real designers.”  Up and coming designers are attracted to these new web platforms because they offer the chance to showcase their collection as an independent designer.   Instead of designing garments within a web browser, these designers use more conventional offline design tools like hand sketching on paper and Adobe Illustrator.  They then upload their designs and even photographs.

These are the 1% – the power users that create the content.   Experts only.

Quasi-designer

Threadless and United Styles target the amateur quasi-designer.    The micro-entrepreneur.  The casual designer engages with browser based design tools and uploads their design to a virtual store.   No special design skills or tools are required.  This is true fashion co-creation:  come to a website site and start designing and selling garments.     The real opportunity here is to encourage an untapped market of untrained designers to start designing, creating a large pool of virtual inventory.

A built-in fashion police feature

The key to success in the co-creation market is balancing user creativity with content curation.  The quasi-designer is a curator of controlled content.  Like a Polyvore user who creates sets, the core fashion is defined and controlled within the constraints of the design tool.

These are the 10% that are curating the content.   Anyone may apply.

What’s important to realize is that these new services open up a larger market of creators / curators by making it increasingly easier to access creation and curation tools.

Consumers

According the cardinal rule, the real opportunity is in serving the 90% of the market, ie the consumers of the (created and curated) content.   It is the mass-market appeal that fuels the business model.   The designers and the quasi-designers create content for a large audience of casual shoppers to purchase.

Who does mass customization serve?  Like social networks, the co-creation network serves a mix of audiences; the creator, the curator, and the consumer.

Brands scramble to create more valuable Facebook Pages content

FB social reader

Facebook plans to disrupt the $12B search advertising market by changing the very landscape of the Internet.  Facebook’s advertising platform, still in its nascent form, encourages brands to let their fans promote their brands on their behalf.   The concept is that a product recommendation from a friend is inherently more valuable than a corporate display advertisement.

The Open Graph – contextual sharing

According to Mashable’s analysis of the strategy, Facebook is not only making their advertising platform better, they are making advertising itself better.

“Facebook is putting pressure on advertisers to create better content for their brand Pages. If they do, those brands will have a better chance of winning over friends of fans either by advertising or by creating something viral. It’s a cycle that has the potential to redefine the way we interact with brands. From now on, brands will be friends or friends of friends rather than spammers trying to bombard your consciousness.”

More than just liking a product, the Open Graph expands brand interaction to any action of any object.

Early examples of Open Graph enabled shareable brand experiences and “frictionless sharing” include listening to music, reading news articles, playing games.

  • Dave is listening to Metallica on Spotify
  • Gabi read an article about Steve Jobs in the Washington Post
  • Jamie just beat BJ 437 to 207 in Words with Friends

Regionally contextual content

Another example of “better pages” is regionally contextual content.  Walmart, for example, just announced My Local Walmart, enabling the retailing giant to share local specials with targeted segments within their 9 million fans nationwide.  The brand content is more engaging and contextual, in this case, because it is regionally targeted.  Facebook knows the location of each of their 800 millions users based on their profile, enabling their servers to display regionally relevant announcements to each user’s news feed.

“A national message is sometimes not relevant,” Walmart’s CMO Stephen Quinn said. “We can now say we have sunscreen in the south and snow boots in the north.”

Encouraging creativity and participation

Brands are scrambling to create better, inspiring content that is an appropriate fit for their product or service. The next wave of ‘better content” will include digital experiences that allow fans to play, engage, create, compete, and participate.   Shareable content.  Social content.   Personalized content.  Viral content.

In the fashion industry, for example, potential engaging campaigns could include examples like:

  • Michael Fox virtually tried on some eyeglasses at Sneaking Duck
  • Jodie designed her own high heel shoes at Shoes of Prey
  • Anita personalized a Canadian Barbie on Barbie.com
  • Mary Lou created a set on Polyvore.com.

Design contests add a much needed increase in brand engagement via gamification and fun interaction.    Product design and personalization are much more compelling than old-fashioned upload-an-image-and-vote campaigns.

“Social design takes word of mouth marketing and puts a bullhorn to it,” said Katie Mitic Facebook’s technology executive at the X.innovate conference in San Francisco.

VP and General Manager of X.commerce Matthew Mengerink said  “What we’re encouraging developers to think about is to try out the more ‘pre-shopping’ social experience”, he said. Meaning that the process of joining friends at an online store, browsing, sharing, and chattering via enhanced social features is a way to encourage brand recognition, organic word-of-mouth familiarity with products — and is integral to making the online shopping experience more resemblant of offline shopping. And to grow online sales.”

Facebook ticker - music sharing

Interview: Customization is becoming more ubiquitous

 Co-creation consulting firm Younomy recently published an interview on the topic of the rising popularity of product configurators and co-creation business models.  You can find it here.   Here is an excerpt.  Thanks, Younomy!
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Dave Sloan is the CEO of Treehouse Logic, which offers a hosted design tool solution that enables customer co-creation. The Treehouse Logic platform enables a user experience that is high performance, guided to aid the decision process, and connected to social networks.

In this interview, Dave shares his views on how product configuration technologies advance the adoption of co-creation concepts in the industry and where the configuration technology is heading. Excerpts:

“Product configurators are becoming mainstream” 

1) Can you please cite few success stories in the configurator-centric co-creation space? 

Oprah endorses design-it-yourself sites

Funny I should get this question today. Just yesterday Oprah recommended Charmedbyingridanne, a jewelry configurator client of ours! Is there any better sign of success than an Oprah endorsement?

Here is another success story that is more measurable; we have found that our product configurator shopping flows can double sales of accessories. The configurator is a great bundling tool. Indeed “guided selling” increases the size of the cart. It’s nice to have proof of what we already knew.

2) What do you think are the key elements/features of a configurator platform/solution that companies should look for?

Well, we asked 200 shoppers that exact question. We had a group of online shoppers use a Treehouse Logic configurator and tell us what features were most important to them.  The answer was

a) Performance – fast and fun
b) Visualization – accurate visual of the custom product
c) Guided and social – Curated selections. Community based feedback from the vendor, experts and other customers

From an implementation perspective, companies should look for speed of development, ROI, ease of maintenance, and ease of integration to common shopping cart solutions. There is no reason to custom code a product configurator anymore.

3) Where do you see the configurator model heading in the near future? What’s next, after configurator, in the process of integrating co-creation in products?

Online product customization used to be very nichey. Only highly specialized products were customizable, and the configurator itself only served technical sales people or a very small power-user customer base. New tools like ours our opening up the market to the mainstream. We’re seeing a few key trends in visual configuration:

a) All shopping sites will include customization

“Customization” is becoming more transparent – it’s just part of a great search and purchase experience. Users expect some level of functional and style customization before they check out. The most common example is a t-shirt. After selecting a t-shirt design, shoppers select size and color. This is the most basic form of customization, and customers expect a level of control that they didn’t used to have. The shopping interface is becoming more visual and more interactive.  Originally, online shopping was all about a database search of static products. The next generation online storefront will include a product visualizer that is driven by attribute selections rather than a soulless search box.

Beyond ratings and recommendations, shoppers will see peer-generated designs that inspire. Customization will be an integral part of an end-to-end marketing strategy.

Vote for your favorite design

Online shopping is much more than just searching and purchasing. Users will engage with their favorite brands by designing products, posting them to a customer wall, and voting on their favorite peer-generated creations.  Product configurators drive creativity which in turn drives brand engagement and word of mouth marketing.  Visual customizers need to be fun, fast, and social.   The next generation of ecommerce will highlight entertainment and gaming.

Bespokeable proposals

c) Designer-facing tools

In the past, product configurator adoption stalled because end-users became overwhelmed with choice. A blank slate can be intimidating. We’re seeing a next generation of designer-facing visual configurators that help designers reach new shoppers.  Examples are the reverse auction business model of Bespokeable, as well as designer portals like Fabricly and Garmz. These sites allow micro-entrepreneurs to create their designs and have access to customers. These design portals enable crowd-sourced design, ala Zazzle, CafePress, and Threadless, that create network effects like eBay and Etsy.

Dell transitions from customization to social co-browsing

Social co-browsing

Dell is famous for flipping the PC industry on its head in the 90’s by taking out the middleman, ie the retail channel.  Instead of selling PCs and laptops through conventional channels like IBM and HP, Dell focused on direct sales through its website.    And, instead of just offering a catalog of standard machines, Dell let users customize their PCs to match their exact specifications.  Each machine was built-to-order.

As recently as March, 2010, dell announced that they were re-focusing their efforts on mass production.   Dell explained their shift in strategy on their corporate blog:

“In the past, we utilized a single direct configure to order model and we gave our customers a cascade of options to choose from when configuring a product specifically for their needs.  This was, and still is, a great model for custom configuration where our customers value and will pay for this service but it has become too complex and costly for significant portions of consumer and some portions of our commercial businesses.”

Why?

1)    Price

Customization is best for customizers that are willing to pay a premium for customization services.  In an increasingly commoditized and competitive PC market, Dell struggled to justify premium prices as the average cost of PCs dropped below $1,000.

2)    Supply chain efficiency

A scalable business must be built on a streamlined supply-chain.  As orders increase, large companies must find ways to employ lean manufacturing techniques and benefit from economies of scale.   The build-to-order model, in the face of decreasing costs of technology, was proving to be unsustainable.  Especially since a growing population of customers are satisfied by standard models.

Dell on Facebook

3)    Customer demand

Dell found that customer demand was shifting towards more commoditized, streamlined products.   Standard, off-the-shelf models from competitors were equipped with top of the line components at low prices.  Dell decided to establish “a segmented supply chain that delivers either lean fixed configuration products or configurable for customization products with slight derivatives of each.”

Dell:  the most social company in the world

Recently, Dell was labeled the world’s most social company.  What does Dell do to deserve this title?  Dell actively uses Twitter to listen to customer feedback, trains employees on social media, turns customers into brand advocates on Twitter and Facebook, and asks their executives to participate in the social media directly.

Dell: Co-creation

The next chapter:  Co-creation

Recently, Dell tapped LiveLook to embed a social co-browsing tool into their ecommerce site.  The idea is to see a friend’s screen while you are both looking at the same page from different locations.  Theoretically, you share screens and shop together.  The goal is to make the shopping experience more social, ie ask your friend’s opinions, compare prices, and validate each other’s choices.

You can also show your screen to a Dell rep to get expert advice while you are making selections.     Better than just phoning a sales person, you can remotely walk through shopping pages together.   Sharing screens with a vendor can add a level of guidance and technical support that increases consumer confidence and increases the chance of a sales conversion.

Unfortunately, several attempts to use the LiveLook service failed, both across Macs and PCs from a variety of browsers.   Still, the concept of peer collaboration is important, and in the future we may see inspiring live examples of co-browsing in action.

3 new design tools for mass customization

In Forrester’s recent research study, “Mass customization is finally the future of products,” author JP Gownder points to digital technologies as the catalyst that will drive consumer adoption of customized products.

“As they have done across consumer markets, digital technologies are the disruptors. Current and emerging digital technologies are turbo-charging mass customization, breathing new life into the product strategy.”

Specifically, Mr. Gownder points to interactive shopping tools as the main instigator.

“Tomorrow’s customer-facing technologies will be revolutionary. Technologies empowering customers to design their own products will become richer and more plentiful. For example, Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect shows the pathway towards the ultra-configurator: a device that can measure the contours of your body and allow you to use gestural inputs to design products.  (I draw pin-stripes on a suit I’m co-designing; I size the steering wheel of a car I’m customizing; etc.) The richer the configuration experience, the more appealing mass customized products will become – and these experiences will indeed be much richer.”

SketchChair

Following the theme of advancing consumer-facing technologies, here are 3 new interactive design tools that may represent a new generation of interactive shopping experiences.    Visual product configurators typically guide users through a modular customization process.  These free-hand design tools differ from configurators in that they literally invite the user to draw their own version of a product from scratch.

SketchChair

SketchChair is an open-source software tool that allows anyone to easily design and build their own digitally fabricated furniture.    The user designs their chair, tests it, then exports the design to an online community of designs.   The design can then be fabricated through Ponoko’s network of garage fabricators, and delivered to the customer.  Is this the future of IKEA-like furniture shopping?

D.Dress by Continuum – “computational coutre”

Continuum

Another Kickstarter project is Continuum.  Users simply draw a little black dress on a virtual mannequin right in a web browser session.   After you are finished designing, you can cut away extra fabric.  The experience is like drafting a dress on a sketchpad, but with the ability to click “add to cart” and buy it.

From Fastcodesign, “Continuum is a promising example of how technology can personalize — and democratize– fashion. “With clothing, there has always been the problem of sizing,” Huang tells us. “It is not just measurements, but that women are taller or shorter, curvier or more boyish. In an ideal world, you would have your clothes made to fit you, instead of figuring out how you fit into clothes.” That, of course, has been the province of the rich more or less since, well, forever. But with 3-D printing, laser-cutting, and apps like Huang’s, things are starting to change. As Huang tells it: “Now it is becoming easier to integrate [customization] into a scalable production system.”

Design for download

From Droog’s site, Design for Download is “the first platform for downloadable design, which will feature curated and open content, easy-to-use parametric design tools and a network of local low- and high-tech manufacturers. The platform will not only include products, but also architecture, home accessories, fashion, food, wearables, inventions and more.”

Design for Download

“Taking design to the digital realm opens many possibilities. Not only does it have consequence on transport and storage efficiencies, it also calls for new design approaches, innovative digital design tools and online shopping experiences, and innovative business models for all actors along the distribution chain,” says co-founder and director of Droog, Renny Ramakers. “With the opening up of the design industry to consumers now empowered with easy-to access and low-cost design and production tools, the role of curation becomes ever more important.”

Mashable: Forrester article on mass customization

Forrester research is about to publish its first annual study on the mass customization market.   This Mashable piece precedes the study, and provides a good snapshot of the customization market.  Thanks, Mashable!

Why Large-Scale Product Customization Is Finally Viable for Business

J. P. Gownder is vice president and research director atForrester Research, where he leads a research team that serves consumer product strategy professionals. You can follow him on Twitter at @jgownder and read his blog or his team’s blog.

Mass customization — where customers can tailor a product’s appearance, features or content to their own specifications -– has been the “next big thing” for for a long time. As far back as 1970, the futurist Alvin Toffler predicted its emergence. Customization expert Joseph Pine published his seminal book in 1992, and the 2000 book Markets of One suggested that customization would change the fundamental structure of the American economy.

Yet for years, mass customization largely failed to take off. Worse yet, big brands have tried and failed with customized offerings. Levi Strauss offered customized jeans from 1993 to 2003 but failed to offer the kinds of choices to consumers -– like color -– that would have made the offering successful. Dell, once the most prominent practitioner of mass customization, flamed out spectacularly, saying that the model had become too complex and costly to continue.

But today, mass customization is enjoying a renaissance among big brands such as KraftHallmarkM&Ms,Wrigley and the longest-running success, Nike. And a number of pure-play international startups selling products such as chocolatejeansmosaic tilejewelry and cereal, are showing the value of mass customization to consumers and product strategists alike.

We’re entering a new era in which mass customization will lead a number of consumer product categories, creating value for buyers and sellers alike. Here’s why.

Digital Technologies Will Turbo-Charge Mass Customization

 

customization image

Consumers’ expectations are being shaped by their lives online. Customization plays a large and growing role in digital experiences, from Facebook to Pandora Internet radio to mobile applications like location-awareGoogle Maps. These rising expectations are being met by three trends that will promote mass customized product offerings:

  • Today’s supply chain technologies enable more efficient production. Supply chain software promotes an efficient flow between customers’ co-design efforts and fulfillment on the production side, as Archetype Solutions demonstrates.
  • Today’s customer-facing technologies are cheaper and easier to deploy than ever. The price (and time requirement) for developing customer-facing configurators has dropped significantly in the past few years. It’s a fraction of the cost even compared to a few years ago (think $50,000, down from $1 million). And new uses –- like embedding configurators within Facebook — make configurators more accessible (and more social).
  • Tomorrow’s customer-facing technologies will be revolutionary. Technologies allowing customers to design their own products will become richer and more plentiful. For example, Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect shows the pathway toward the ultra-configurator: A device that will measure the contours of your body (or home) and allow gestural configuration. A tug on your augmented reality sleeve will lengthen it; pulling on a lapel will widen it. This super-configurator will be used for immersive design experiences across a wide variety of products.

Mass Customization Fits This Age Of Customers

Although mass customized products aren’t yet widespread –- aside from in long-standing categories like eyeglasses — interest in customizable products is mounting. More than 35% of U.S. online consumers are already interested in customizing product features or in purchasing build-to-order products that use their specifications, according to a recent study conducted by my company. The opportunities are much greater than this initial data suggests. Psychologists have determined that an “I Designed It Myself Effect” exists in mass customization, where buyers feel a sense of accomplishment from their co-design efforts. Buyers gain additional value from the certainty that features will be exactly what they want. And they can express themselves with public goods (such as clothing, cars, jewelry, or even PCs) that reflect their unique design. Ultimately, these psychological benefits translate into a higher willingness to pay into loyal, repeat-purchasing customers.

Me-Commerce Anticipates Customers’ Needs

Customer loyalty can only be achieved through unprecedented levels of prediction. Practitioners of mass customization must learn who their buyers are as individuals, forecast the feature combinations that will resonate with them and — eventually — predict what new features these customers will want.

Pandora has shown the way by leveraging direct customer input (ongoing thumbs-up, thumbs-down ratings), sophisticated predictive statistical models (what do other customers like who also like this song?), and product analysis (the famed Music Genome, which analyzes songs) to offer an ever-improving experience to customers. Makers of physical goods will embrace similar methods to sell mass customization products.

Manufacturing Will Return To The U.S. and European Union

Beyond changing the way customers interact with brands and products, mass customization will have an impact on local economies by offering an alternative to the mass-produced, price-is-everything Asian factory model. Mass customized product strategies require local production to reach customers quickly and require highly skilled labor and significant investments in both customer-facing and back-end IT systems. Consequently, these businesses tend to produce locally. Pure-play mass customized companies generally produce their goods in the U.S. (or Germany, a leader in mass customization).

While the U.S. and EU won’t regain their lead in overall manufacturing, mass customization will lead to a small but important reindustrialization for build-to-order production.

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The above Mashable article can be found here.