Is Mass Customization the Future of Retail?
Entrepreneur.com, November 14, 2013.
Last November, 32-year old outdoor gear retailer Wild Things introduced a service on its website that let customers design their own jackets by picking everything from the liner fabric, to the color of the zipper, to the location of the pockets. “If you’re left-handed, you don’t want your chest pocket on the left side, you want it on the right,” says Edward Schmults, chief executive officer of Wild Things, which is based in Newport, R.I. “If you’re a woman, you may not want a chest pocket. So then you don’t click that button. I firmly believe this is the future of selling product to customers.”
Schmults is far from alone. Customization is a huge trend in retail, not only among established brands like Wild Things, but also among startups that are encouraging customers to go online and order up that one fantasy product they always wished they could buy but could never find.
Wild Things’ Schmults says his customers can send their designs to their friends on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, to get feedback before they order. Customization has been good for business: Web sales during the first full month after the custom lines were introduced rose 230 percent over the same period the year before, Schmults says, and the company has brought the cost of manufacturing custom clothing to a level that’s “competitive” with non-customized manufacturing, he says. Next up: backpacks that customers can design themselves, and kiosks in boutique bricks-and-mortar stores, which will allow buyers to see and touch products before they customize them. “There are a whole bunch of ways to take this,” says Schmults of customization. “It opens up tremendous market opportunities.”
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