Mass Self Customization

For a long time futurist have been predicting the transition from Mass Production to Mass Custom Production. And if one looks over the past 50 year or so products have gone well beyond Henry Ford’s “any color you want so long as it is black”. Now many products have an array of add-on features.  And of course, these same features have become  the dread of car and appliance customers  because Marketing has taken over. The wisdom of Marketers is to make the purchase choices a)often price vexing and plain  difficult adding to the uncertainty that the customer “is getting what they paid for” and b)disappointing because the combination of features you really want is either not on hand or simply not available.

The idea of Mass Self Customization is to let your customers “customize” your product in great detail themselves. The vendor along with hundreds of third parties offer add-ons/extensions that can be easily bought and easily installed into the product…
However, a recent story here about the Apple iPhone and its Palm Pre competitor brought out the idea of a  new option being offered customers in a number of markets – Mass Self Customization. The idea is to let your customers “customize” your product in great detail themselves. The vendor along with hundreds of third parties offer add-ons/extensions that can be easily bought and easily installed into the product by the customer themselves. In the case of the smartphones, most of this self customization is done through an online App Store and involves new programmed features. But don’t be fooled – take a look at all the physical add-on products/hardware  available for both the Apple’s iPhone and the iPod from Apple itself  and hundreds of third parties.

Yes, many of these features are tied into the increasing use of cheap microprocesors to make ever many more products and appliances “smart”; but Bosch’s Tassimo shows that computing smarts is not the essential ingredient to mass self customization. In fact easy of  finding, buying and then installing/using the customizations are critical. And as Apple has shown in its iPod/ iTunes and iPhone/App Store there is money to be made in creating that mass self customization market.

Finally there is proof that Brand loyalty can be associated with provision of  Mass Self Customization. I have been following the reviews of the new Chrome browser versus the upstart leader, Firefox. Despite the prestige of the Google name and the superior JavaScript speed of Chrome, Firefox has managed to a)continue to take share from Microsoft still inept IE8 and b)stave off incursions from Safari and Chrome. Now that the Firefox 3.5 release further widens the performance advantage of Firefox 3.5 over IE8 – so expect Firefox to take even greater market share because Firefox 3.5 is now within the speed range of Chrome and Google for many functions. See here one of many reviewers assessment for the role of Firefox’s many extensions for securing Firefox brand loyalty.  In sum, expect to see many more customizations as the Apple ‘Self Customizing Marketing Advantage’  is applied by a much wider range of  companies.

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