The mass customisation movement represents a long-overdue evolution of manufacturing and product marketing process. It has significant benefits when implemented alongside flow manufacturing methods on the factory floor, but for brands themselves, there is a wealth of opportunity offered by mass customisation technology.
As any good marketer knows, being the first to offer a new and innovative product or service can set a brand at the forefront of its sector. It’s not without risks, but with decent marketing and a good enough product/service on offer, taking that risk can pay off hugely.
Big brands have a bit of an unfair advantage when it comes to innovation. With mass customisation, one of the breakthrough moments was Nike’s launch of its NIKEiD line. Offering customers the opportunity to choose from a few different variations to customise their own pair of Nike trainers was a great move for the brand. With a concrete global customer base at their command, it was pretty much inevitable that people would jump on board.
For smaller brands, however, Nike’s success is great news. The NIKEiD phenomenon represented one of the most defining moments in the breakthrough of mass customisation technology in retail. Other brands that are ready to ride Nike’s coattails and join the early adopter bandwagon will get a headstart over their competition.
What Nike did was to identify the desire in consumers for more personalised purchasing. Identity and self-expression are a cultural zeitgeist, heated to boiling point by social media and individualist politics.
The key evidence that this was their motivation? Well, it’s in the name itself: NIKEiD. The name implies the personal touch, and - despite an admittedly small selection of options - this is what the consumer was sold: a product that they played a part in designing themselves.
A brand that can offer a more dynamic array of options than Nike’s NIKEiD line has the potential to significantly increase ROI, brand exposure, and customer value.
This isn’t to say that hundreds of options need to be factored in. This would make the project unmanageable. But as an additional product line to the main pre-fabricated products, a mass customisation aspect can help build a strong brand.
As mentioned above, adding mass customisation to your brand’s product offering should be a gradual process.
It would be costly and risky to overhaul your current production system entirely in favour of a mass customisation model in one fell swoop.
It’s important to gauge interest before ploughing ahead with such a large change, so adding a mass customisation option to your brand offering is the best way to begin. Equally, devoting a subsection of your product line to mass customisation technology, rather than going the whole way, is going to bear more fruit in the short term than expecting customers to absorb the shock outright.
Start by marketing your customised line of products as an exclusive or limited-edition range. Create a landing page from your brand website featuring 3D rendering software for the customer to use for their product creation. Most importantly, implement a strong brand marketing campaign showcasing your new offering across social media, email, press, and web.
Offering the opportunity to try your customisation service for free to social media influencers in exchange for exposure will be a key aspect of this marketing campaign. Just as the brand itself seeks early adopter status, so does the social media influencer. And, of course, being a social media influencer makes one influential to others, thus broadening the reach and exposure of your customised product range.
If you’re a marketer reading this, then we’re probably teaching you to suck eggs here. You already know the importance of influencer targeting, and can therefore also see the benefits of mass customisation technology itself.
The mass customisation model offers a lot of low-hanging fruit for marketers, showcasing some of the most favoured combinations from the line, beating the drum for self-expression, and celebrating the brand’s innovation.
The mass customisation model is still fairly new on the market. Nike carved a path for us to follow, and starting now while the concept is still fresh in people’s minds will see good results.
When combined with a good marketing campaign, you can expect to see a spike in website visits, as people seek to satisfy their curiosity by trying out your 3D rendering software and playing with customising their own products. This will not always convert to a purchase, but the click-throughs themselves, and the time spent on the website, will drive SEO for your brand.
For those unfamiliar with SEO, or search engine optimisation, this is a digital marketing discipline associated with driving your brand to the top of search engine results for certain keywords. When a web user enters a specific search term into Google (or Bing, Yahoo, etc) the results that come up will be the sites that not only are most relevant to that keyword, but have the largest number of website visitors, strong social media presence, and good on site content.
All of these SEO aspects can be vastly improved with the integration of mass customisation technology. As more people click through to see your customisation offering, so the search engines will be alerted to your growing brand authority.
The brand exposure generated through your marketing campaign, through social media, and through high website visit figures, will all aid in driving your brand website higher in search engine rankings. This means that more people will be exposed to your website, your brand, and your products.
As momentum grows, so too will your conversion rates, demonstrating a strong ROI for the integration of mass customised technology.
A powerful brand relies not only on its products themselves, but on the way that the brand presents itself visually and through its tone of voice. A good-looking, modern website that performs well will receive far more conversions than one which is outdated, slow, or where the branding is unprofessional.
No matter how small your company, powerful branding is what will help your business to grow and thrive. The bells and whistles of mass customisation will be lost on a website that fails to deliver the user experience itself.
With that in mind, your branding extends to the customised options you offer. The designs and options should reflect your brand values: the quality and style that your existing customers know you for. Unless your customised product line demonstrates the same dynamic brand offering that you put into the rest of your range, it will fail. Ensuring you use the right software, created and managed expertly and efficiently, is key.
Even with the best product offering, if you are not able to deliver a high quality product in good time, your mass customisation project will fail. Ensure that communication between all aspects of the design and manufacturing process, from the E Commerce department down to the factory floor, is optimal.
With mass customisation, you are effectively building to order, so the turnaround time from order to delivery should be hastened. Having a full strategy in place for optimal order fulfillment will determine the success of the mass customised range, and the image of your brand as a whole.
There are many benefits to brands from the implementation of the mass customisation model.
We anticipate that, in upcoming years, this model will gradually begin to replace existing mass production processes, as the cost-saving and efficiency benefits of producing made-to-order items on a flow production line become increasingly apparent.
For now, giving over a subsection of manufacturing to such a model, whilst offering the consumer a more targeted, personal service, will set brands up for this more productive future.
Taking an active role in positioning a brand at the forefront of this new movement, delivering products and services that meet with customer demand, will inevitably mean the difference between survival and obscurity.
As times change, so must brands, to make the necessary changes to production in order to meet evolving consumer expectations, if they are to succeed as brands in the coming new era.