Entering The Age of Mass Customization

When the Millennium was still baby fresh and the Internet was nascent to the majority of its users, there was a quiet revolution taking place in the wide, wide, world of e-commerce. While mass retail enjoyed its rightful place on top of the digital pyramid, entrepreneurs were quietly causing the equivalent of what the Cluetrain Manifesto considered “marketing arson”.

How so?

By giving consumers not just a vast array of shopping choices – walmart.com, amazon.com offered that level of scale.

I’m talking about customization. Variety that isn’t displayed in anything but a palate of colors, fabrics and other details. Yes, preceding even NikeiD were companies such as 99dogs.com, whose mass configurator for shoe apparel was well ahead of its time. Who knows, they may have been one broadband connection away from mainstream success.

Now we have NikeiD arguably the kings of customization (and in full transparency, Niketown is a client of my company’s), giving the masses the opportunity to give the swoosh a bit of “built in my own image” appeal. Additionally, other shoe apparel companies have jumped on the bandwagon – Puma with their Mongolian Shoe BBQ, Adidas with MiAdidas as well. The latest to join the fray is Champion, whose Hoodie Remix seems to be gaining popularity.

While mass customization empowers brands to sell more goods, it’s also a bridge to collecting the critical insights necessary to know what your products may look like in the future.

I’m of the belief we’ve just hit the tip of the customization iceberg. Apparel is the low hanging fruit, but I could see a day where the fusion of direct and mass customization extend to verticals such as automotive.

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