Can Manufacturers Keep up with Mass Customization?

THE RISE OF MASS CUSTOMIZATION COMPANIES: BECAUSE EVERYONE WANTS TO BE UNIQUE

In today’s world of wide-ranging consumer choice, it’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that between 1914 and 1926 Ford Motor Company painted each and every one of the nearly 14 million Model T Fords rolling off its massive moving assembly lines in the same color: black. In an era when Henry couldn’t make cars fast enough to keep up with demand, he would decide what was best for his customers. And because black paint cost the least and lasted the longest, black is what his customers got.

THE LOOMING BATTLE FOR MARKET SHARE: MASS CUSTOMIZATION COMPANIES VERSUS ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL COMPANIES

Many of today’s original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are taking a hard look at custom manufacturing techniques to evaluate their potential for increasing overall profits by expanding their brand offerings into new adjacent and niche markets.

  1. More than 50% of consumers indicated interest in purchasing custom products or services.
  2. Nearly half of consumers said they would wait longer for delivery of a personalized product or service.
  3. A majority of consumers would be willing to pay more for custom products or services.
  4. Consumers expressed an interest in being actively involved in the process of ordering custom products.

COLLABORATIVE, ADAPTIVE, COSMETIC, AND TRANSPARENT: THE FOUR FACES OF MASS CUSTOMIZATION

Back in 1997, James Gilmore and Joseph Pine wrote a very influential paper published in the Harvard Business Review, called “The Four Faces of Mass Customization.” At the time, Gilmore and Pine set forth four different customization classifications:

  • Manufacturers and consumers work together to design and create custom products
  • Today, this approach is often referred to as “Bespoke” customization
  • Bespoke example: Formaspace furniture that is completely custom made to the customer’s exact specification
  • A self-serve model where consumers can customize products to their liking during the order process or later in the field
  • Today, this approach is often referred to as “Mass Customization”
  • Mass customization example: Formaspace standard office products, which can be customized during the order process using our 3D Configurator as well as modified and accessorized in the field
  • Manufacturers present the products in unique ways through differentiated packaging and sales channels
  • Cosmetic customization examples: monogrammed clothing or repackaged goods sold through monthly subscription sales, such as BarkBox and BirchBox
  • Manufacturers create personalized product offerings based on their observations of individual customer needs
  • Today, this approach is often referred to as “Mass Personalization”
  • Mass personalization example: Websites that track your interests and use a suggestion engine to present you with custom shopping recommendations

PRODUCT CUSTOMIZATION EXAMPLES FROM LEADING MASS CUSTOMIZATION COMPANIES

One of the giants in the world of mass customization is the $2 billion dollar printing company Cimpress, founded by Robert Keane. Haven’t heard of Cimpress? Well, you’ve probably heard of their main consumer-facing brand, VistaPrint, which offers online tools to help its customers order customized business cards, brochures, and other marketing collateral over the internet.

Clothing: Ministry of Supply

Hybrid online and brick-and-mortar retailer Ministry of Supply hopes to produce up to one-third of its knitted merchandise, such as men’s blazers, using a $190,000 Japanese-made 3D knitting machine. The advantage of this manufacturing method is it eliminates the need for cutting and sewing pieces together, e.g. there are no seams and no waste material.

Eye-ware: Warby Parker

Founders Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa have grown this startup eye-ware company into a billion-dollar brand selling millions of pairs of custom glasses in the U.S. via their online channel.

Footwear: Nike’s NikeiD Brand

Nike’s NikeiD brand allows consumers to personalize their shoe orders online. This is a major initiative as part of the company’s transition to direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales, which now represent up to 22% of Nike’s revenue.

Footwear: True Gault

Sandra Gault has taken her experience at Warby Parker and Dollar Shave Club to start a new company focused on making customized high heel shoes for women. This New York-based startup used an iPhone camera app to capture a true size 3D model of women’s feet, allowing for a more natural, custom fit.

Sporting Goods: Atomic Skis

Outdoor sporting goods innovator Atomic allows you to design your own personal pair of skis online, including all colors, textures, and design elements.

FORMASPACE OFFERS EXTENSIVE CUSTOMIZATION OPTIONS FOR STANDARD PRODUCT LINES, PLUS FULLY CUSTOM HAND-MADE PRODUCTS

What is Formaspace’s approach to mass customization?

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