From Mass Production to Mass Personalization
Since the earliest artisans offered items for sale, customization and price have been two important product characteristics to the consumer. So it is today, but with a few twists. Toward the end of the 18th century, the French military made the breakthrough of using interchangeable parts for cannons and muskets.
By the middle of the 19th century, many more products were being made from interchangeable parts. This paradigm shift caused consumers to become comfortable with buying standard products that were easier and cheaper to repair. Mass production became king because it allowed complex products like automobiles to be made cheaply enough that average people could afford them. The general trend of standard designs competing on price and customized products being offered for a premium continued until about two decades ago.
The recent shift towards Mass Customization was forecasted in 1987. This ability to deliver products customized to each consumer’s specifications at near mass production prices is the Holy Grail of retailing. Giving customers the opportunity to have a product any time they want it, anywhere they want it, any way they want it resonates extremely well with consumers. The number of mass customized products is steadily growing as are personalized services, and this is what we call Mass Personalization.
By 2025, retailers must be capable of supporting a highly diverse set of order and distribution channels in keeping with mass customized products and delivery methods. Customers will want to order with their phones, mobile devices and computers, as well as through traditional retail outlets, kiosks and perhaps as-yet-unimagined channels. Delivery modes will be just as diverse from time-definite, long-lead-time delivery to next-day delivery, same-day delivery and even same-hour delivery. [Read more…]