4 04, 2013

Mass Customization at HannoverMesse – Project KUMAC Featured in #HM13 Science Hall

By | 2018-06-14T06:47:53+00:00 April 4th, 2013|Co-Design Process, Customization Trends, Events, Featured Research, Offline Customization, Research Studies, Service Customization, Technologies & Enablers|

BannerFrom 8th to 12th of April 2013, famous trade show  HannoverMesse will take place in Hannover, Germany. Are you going to be there? Great! So will I.

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will have a large exhibition stand in a prominent spot (hall 2, stand C24) and has invited my research group at RWTH Aachen University to join them. We will present the latest findings from our research project KUMAC which is being funded by the BMBF.

I will be there on Monday, 8th, during the afternoon. Of course, members of our project team will be present throughout the week. So if you are going to visit any the largest industry tradeshow of the world, make sure to stop by! 

The objective of the KUMAC project is to develop new
methods for mass customization providers in the German retail market
These methods support an increase in productivity and value creation
potential of these retailers.

At HannoverMesse we will simulate the prototype of an interactive value-creation process in mass customization, using KUMAC technology to demonstrate its potential to increase both effectiveness and efficiency. In detail we will show and expain:

  • The Live-Help-System connecting online-offline configuration,
  • The Tablet Configuation Software,
  • 3D-Scanner and Softwaretools as well as
  • RFID-Technology for mass customization.


10 01, 2013

Competivation Consulting Founded to Meet Innovation-, Technology- and Strategy Consulting Needs of Industry

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:44+00:00 Januar 10th, 2013|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Deutsch (in German), MC/OI on the Web, Offline Customization, Open/User Innovation, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers|

I frequently receive requests by companies for innovation counseling and consulting on open innovation, mass customizuation, and technology management.  While we do not perform any consulting for individual companies with our RWTH-TIM institute, there are a number of opportunities for consulting.

Competivation Consulting & EducationTo meet the needs of industry, together with an experienced executive consultant, Prof. Hans-Gerd Servatius,  we have founded Competivation Consulting, a dynamic innovation and strategy management consulting company from innovators for innovators. 

Combining decades of innovation research, teaching and consulting, COMPETIVATION's team of experts supports your company with

  • Management consulting in innovation and technologymanagement,
  • Strategy and innovation workshops,
  • Strategic and technology roadmapping,
  • Trend analysis and strategic foresight,
  • Technology, market and benchmarking analysis,
  • Implementation counseling,
  • Networking with intermediaries and IT-partners,
  • Executive education programs and corporate speaking

Special areas of expertise are open innovation, customer co-creation, mass customization, but also the development of comprehensive strategies for innovation and technology managememt.

ServatiusProf. Hans-Gerd Servatius has met our Editor in Chief for a brief interview, outlining the USPs of Competivation Consulting and what can be done especially for the open innovation strategist.

CG: Some of our readers will know you as the author of your latest book, touching a pressing matter of our times, Smart Energy. Can you tell a bit about yourself and your experience in technology and innovation management consulting?

GS: We created the term technology and innovation management in the early 1980s at Arthur D. Little, where I led the German TIM practice. For me this was a great opportunity, to put the concepts, which I had developed in my Ph.D. thesis on strategic management of technology into practical work. During the following decades I tried to anticipate the next TIM waves like corporate venture management (which has a lot in common with open innovation), process and business model innovation, knowledge management as well as sustainability, to mention some examples. Today I think technology and innovation management is more important than ever and looking back to its roots helps to better understand the future.

CG: You have over 30 years of experience as a professional consultant, having been anywhere from an entrance position to partner level and managing director in internationally reknown firms. What sets Competivation apart from the existing competition?

GS: I would like to mention three points. First: Competivation is a young firm with very experienced founders. This helps us to create a unique culture. Second: The founders have an excellent reputation as scientists and management consultants. We have a strong international network. Based on these competencies we can be more innovative in our field than many others. And third: Our combination of executive education with consulting offers possibilities for differentiation that satisfy the needs of many clients, who are looking for more sustainable results.

CG: Our readers are especially interested in open innovation. Do you see OI to be the method of choice to solve many of the (technical) problems that companies usually struggle with solving on their own? Why?

GS: Open innovation has proven that it can generate great ideas and solve many problems. Roughly ten years after the term has been created the experience of leading firms with different OI methods is growing. One of the reasons for this success is the increased connectivity potential of a company, its stakeholders and non-obvious others, who can play a role in the innovation processes. A challenge many companies are still facing today is the integration of open integration into an emerging enterprise 2.0 concept. This means that both internal and external innovation must become more cooperative.

CG: Do you think that corporate culture is key element in (remodeling) innovation management, as part of an integrated approach? If so, can you give some examples from your experience?

GS: Corporate Culture is clearly a key element for innovation. It always was and new forms of innovation require cultural adaptations. The cultural challenge today is to find the right balance between closed and open innovation, individual talents and cooperative success as well as trust in others and securing intellectual property. The answer is not black or white. Success formulas are more complex and need to be tailored to specific situations. In our assignments we help organizations and their managers to improve the specific competencies needed to compete in this new era of innovation. An example is an international automotive company, which we support on its way to become a provider of mobility solutions. This requires new business models combining open and closed innovation as well as improved leadership skills as orchestrators of different partners.

CG: Can you give a little insight into your network? What is Competivation`s special competence mix?

GS:  Our network consists of partners in the academic world, complementary service providers and experienced practitioners, who work together in a trust-based way. One example is the Business Transformation Academy, which is sponsored by SAP. On their international conference in October in Budapest we presented our new study of a changing energy sector based on innovative IT enabled business models. If I have a special competence it perhaps is to put technology and innovation management not only into a strategic, organizational and cultural context but also to translate new findings from complexity theory into practical solution sets. In a volatile world this is what many clients are looking for.


GermanWhile Competivation Consulting´s core market is the DACH region (Germany, Austria, and
Switzerland), we are also open for assignments beyond these ountries. You will find more informationen on Competivation and our service portfolio at www.competivation.de (in German language only!) or contact us directly!

23 07, 2012

Market Watch: Formulor: Professional-grade yet easy and affordable 3D-designing and production

By | 2018-06-14T06:54:53+00:00 Juli 23rd, 2012|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers, User Manufacturing|

Copyright Formulor, www.formulor.de, all rights reserved!If you co-host a large-scale mass customization conference as we did with the Create Your Own (CYO) last year, it is delighting to learn that connections established during the event are resulting in new ventures and products. 

One result of CYO networking has been the cooperation between virtual product presentation specialist Open Experience and Formulor, a Berlin based company offering customized 3D-products. Formulor is one of the German frontend's for Ponoko.


Copyright Fomulor, www.formulor.de, all rights reserved!

The limit is your imagination (and what a laser cutter can do). Example model. Click to enlarge!

Formulor gives its users all the tools necesary to design whatever shape and form they like and to have it laser cut and engraved before shipping it to your doorstep. The really great part of this is the consumer frontend which is about as easy to use as a "conventional" configurator and yet can do so much more.


It enables casual users and professional designers alike to quickly bring any form out of their mind onto a virtual canvas. One can do so by either uploading an existing file (Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, inkscape) or by using the really convenient drawing and writing tools embedded into the configurator. 

Open Experience, a spin-off of the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie KIT and a specialist in 3D configuration,  has done a great job in designing the front end. Even without any knowledge of how to use a 2D-designing software you can easily get a nice-looking 3D object drawn and rendered in no time at all. 

Most of the work, the magic to it, if you will, happens in the background. While you draw and write on the virtual canvas the software translatest your entries into a 3D model which is presented at all times. You will always know how your design will look in "real life" once laser-cut and delivered to you. 

Copyright Formulor, www.formulor.de, all rights reserved!

2D drawing canvas, ready for creative input. Click to Enlarge!

Furthermore the configurator automatically checks whether or not your design is actually technically producable, so you do not have to worry about that aspect at all: As long as it can be manufactured by Formulor's partner company Ponoko's laser cutters, you can design whatever you like.

And because Formulor checks your brainchild against Ponoko's personal factory API, pricing of your design is also constantly updated. 

 The base materials you chose from at the beginning of your configuration process include acrylic glass, cardboard, cork, corrugate card, decoflex veneer, felt, finnboard, leather, MDF, PET, paperboard, plywood, polypropylen, silicon and stamp rubber in a large variety of colors and thicknesses

This platform can really be of great value for all kinds of creatives, be it to visualize an idea, to prototype, to get special parts for your architectural model or just as part of your latest crafting of christmas gifts.

Besides this practical aspect it is a great example of how (conference) networking can help you identifying the right partner to get your business ahead of the competition. Formulor, Open Experience and Ponoko have created a very interesting tool for individual and affordable modeling here that could set standards in this branch.

More about Open Experience, Formulor and Ponoko on their respective websites. And to get an idea of how easy it is to use Formulor's frontend to form your own product, here is a video, too!


19 07, 2012

Interview: Sabine Beck of Amoonic: Custom Jewelry for Every Budget

By | 2018-06-14T06:54:58+00:00 Juli 19th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Co-Design Process, Interview, MC/OI on the Web, Personalization|

Copyright Amoonic, www.amoonic.de, all rights reserved!Amoonic has been a presenter in the startup panel of the MC2012 conference in Salzburg. Founded in 2011, they are striving to give the market something that it does not already have in excess: customized jewelry at an affordable price

"Affordable" is, however, a rather relative criteria, depending on one's own budget, and so Amoonic's products range from 150 to 2.5 million Euro. That being said, the majority of products do, of course, feature a significantly lower price tag than what they ask for their masterpiece, the La Fleur.  Besides rings in all shapes and materials, holding all kinds of gems, Amoonic also offers earrings, brooches, necklaces and, for the male customer, cufflinks.

Custom jewelry has been one of the best funded and prominent applications of MC in the net, with large and successful players like GEMVARA in the US or investments from the German Sammer brothers in the same field.

Copyright Amoonic, www.amoonic.de, all rights reserved!Like their competitors, Amoonic's portfolio is rather large,  with over 6000 rings, about 900 earrings and nacklaces each and 300 cufflinks. All designs are made on-demand and hence do not require any upfront investment with the risk of losing money if they do not get sold. Storage costs are also extremely low, granting better chances to prevail on the tough market for jewelry. 

Amoonic is also constantly trying to optimise customer experience. For example, Amoonic has just adjusted theit website, now making it a lot easier for the (potential) customer to recognize the individualization potential and to get to configure his/her own jewelry.

All rights reserved!We had the chance to talk to Sabine Beck who founded Amoonic together with Olga Dick. In our interview she gave insight into the specifics of the mass custom online jewelry market, how Amoonic overcomes some of the hurdles MC-entprepreneurs are confronted with and gives valuable tips for others who play with the thought to enter the world of individualized online commerce.

FTP: Sabine, you gave a great presentation of your jewelry business Amoonic on this year's MC2012 conference. Being a relatively young venture, how have your experiences on the MC market have been so far and how do they compare to your expectations when you decided to start Amoonic?

SB: Our experience so far shows that individualizing jewelry is definitely a trend in the mass customization market. The demand, to suit jewelry to ones own need is consistent with our expectations. In fact, it was difficult to clearly illustrate or demonstrate at first glance on our website that at Amoonìc jewelry can be customized without losing on design. We had to overcome the gap between a visually elegant and exclusive shop for the premium range and an easy recognizable display site that is about customizable jewelry.

Since last week, you can see at once that this is an exclusive shop in the premium range of mass customization. We have made it clear on our home page as well as on our category pages that you can customize each product. It was important for us that Amoonìc is not to be seen as a standard online shop but as a high-quality "online jeweler".

FTP: Your business model differs from many others insofar as it does require very little storage of raw materials and components, equaling lower fix costs. Does this allow you to compete with other non-MC vendors in terms of price?

SB: We cannot produce as low as companies that manufacture their products abroad. To ensure the highest standard in terms of quality, we produce only in Germany. Nevertheless, our prices are similar to the ones in a traditional jewelry store because we do not have to bear the risk that a collection is not sold. We also don’t provide the usual in store customer service or have expensive store costs so we can maintain prices similar to store prices.

FTP: How do you guarantee timely delivery of products to your customers, seeing how every piece of jewelry has to be produced individually and that the number of orders can fluctuate?

SB: In the background, Amoonìc  has already a very well-functioning supply chain which runs smoothly and partly automated. Thus Amoonìc ensure that even with a higher order volume delivery time can be maintained easily and we have access to flexible resources. Also, we already included a time buffer in our delivery time to avoid delays.

Due to our good contacts to suppliers in the jewelry industry, we can procure our materials in the shortest possible time. Especially in the jewelry industry it is difficult to set up such a flexible supplier network. One advantage is that we are very well networked. We have a flexible price model which allows us to update the prices quickly in frequent intervals.

FTP: Jewelry is typically a product that customers want to see and feel in reality before they buy it. Has this turned out to be an obstacle for your business? How do you (plan) to overcome it?

SB: For Amoonìc the sense of touching jewelry has become a solvable problem. With the possibility to see the jewelry on the own hand by photo-realistic images the customer gets an accurate idea of ​​the piece of jewelry. Being able to return the jewelry within 30 days takes away the inhibition of the customer to buy a gem without having seen it in person.

FTP: Can you tell anything about your sales figures? How well are your offerings received by consumers?

SB: The order volume has exceeded our expectations. We plan and like to reach the break-even-point in the middle of next year.

FTP: At the MC2012 conference you estimated about 40% of your sales to be pre-configured jewelry, 60% customized. How do customized rings differ from their preconfigured pendants? Are all possible combinations of gems and materials already in the preconfigured catalogue?

SB: Customized rings do not differ from the preconfigured pendants. All different combinations are shown in our catalogue on our website so that there is no real need for the customer to customize a ring, if he is not interested in doing so.

FTP: Do you have any plans to broaden your portfolio of products in the foreseeable future? Or to offer new features to your website?

SB: We plan to expand within the next year. In addition to that, we will offer an English version of our website to address a bigger market. In addition, in the next few months there will be a lot of new features available on amoonic.de. Open Innovation is our approach for the future, this means we constantly include our customers and othe experts in the innovation process.

FTP: What do you think where MC in general is heading? Will it just be a trend or the new business model for (most) vendors?

SB: In my opinion, MC address people who don´t want to buy anything from the rack. They would like to emphasize their own personality. I think right now we are still speaking of a trend, but I believe that this trend will develop and establish itself in the next few years. Especially those with middle or higher incomes make a point in buying something unique to distinguish themselves from others and to meet their own needs.

FTP: Which advise would you give entrepreneurs planning to enter the MC market? Can you tell about any mistakes you made that they should avoid?

SB: The most important fact is to consider the size of the targeted market. The main focus should not be only on the configurator. All various possible combinations of the products should also be displayed in the shop. In our opinion the passion to create a product playfully depends heavily on the target group as well as on the gender. In addition, the configurator should be easy to use. Another aspect is that you should create independent content from the SEO point of view besides the configurator, so that you can guarantee a good visibility on Google and other search engines.

FTP: How important do you rate the use of social media not only to promote ones MC-company but also interact with consumers to better position oneself in the market?

SB: Nowadays social media is mandatory and the direct interaction with customers is a real benefit. To us open innovation is the cue. Involving the customer in the idea generation phase is very important and we believe that this is the future. This may reduce intensive costs for market research In the future.

FTP: Sabine, thank you very much for the interview and your interesting views on the mass customization market. I am looking forward to watch Amoonic evolve!

16 07, 2012

Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 11): Fewsome: Affordable Custom Watches

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:03+00:00 Juli 16th, 2012|Co-Design Process, MC/OI on the Web, MC500, Personalization|

MC500_Signet_2012In our series of postings introducing companies that performend very well in our Customization 500 study, we are introducing the next mass customizer. Remember:  The order of these feature postings is more or less randomly!


Today: Watching Time Go By In Style

A watch can be a fairly important piece of jewlery, especially for a man who, in opposite to his female counterpart, can often not wear too many other decorative objects. An individual watch is hence a really nice addition to your individual style and sets your wrist appart from the standard (and is a great converstation starter at a party). This little bit of individualism can easily cost you upwards of a four-digit number of USD or Euro and is usually reserved for a select few.

However, if you do not mind your watch to lack the logo of a high-class premium brand, fewsome might be worth a look for you. On their website, a nice and even animated configurator lets you build your custom wristwatch by picking all the important parts like movement, case, ring, dials, hands and so on. Choice is plentiful and lets you pick both different designs and colors. The result is a pretty unique watch that you can even have engraved on its back cover.

Time will tell how this business model will evolve and it will certainly be interesting to watch it unfold. But as custom papers have been the subject of one of our first good papers on the subject (the 2004 JPIM paper), I truly believe so 🙂


Note: Please see this post for detailed information on how to interpret the above data.

10 07, 2012

Conference Report MC2012: The German Mass Customization Community Meeting

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:16+00:00 Juli 10th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Cases-Industrial, Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Events, MC/OI on the Web, Offline Customization, Open/User Innovation, Personalization, Research Studies, Service Customization, Technologies & Enablers|

Copyright FH Salzburg, http://www.google.de/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=fh%20salzburg&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CFoQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fh-salzburg.ac.at%2F&ei=EoPxT5vBMqqg4gTRqfncDQ&usg=AFQjCNFVR6AyMuGxHyBpGzKbuuuWdY_6jQ&cad=rja, all rights reserved!Unless you started following my blog just now, there is no way you could potentially have missed the announcements, special editions and features about the MC2012. This year's edition of the largest MC conference in German language, hosted by Dominik Walcher, Paul Blazek and myself, took place on 29th of June.

Despite the early time of day, the air already started to flicker from the upcoming heat of what promissed to be a really nice summer day at the marvellously desgined building of the University of Applied Sciences near edge of the Alp mountains in Salzburg, Austria.

About 150 professionals, researchers, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts from all parts of the mass customization landscape in the German experienced a tightly packed day dedicated to the opportunities of customer co-design.

Copyright TIM Lehrstuhl, www.tim.rwth-aachen.de, all rights reserved!

Panoramic audience shot. Click to enlarge!

And what a day it was! A buzzing audience followed the presentations of no less than 24 speakers, ranging from young entrepreneurs, telling the tale of their entrance into the MC market, global players and market leaders, giving insight into proven ways and tactics to profit from customer participation, to leading scholars, showing how latest research proves the concept of the integrated customer to be more than a trend.

To not only preach customer integration but actually live up to our words and integrate our conference participants beyond questions and one-on-one networking, we had a special feature in place. Werner Haring, founder and CEO of wallero.us, had contributed to the event's multi media experience by "installing" a social media wall right next to the stage.

Copyright Profilfoto von CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl, all rights reserved!

Social Media Wall, Courtesy of wallero.us. Click to enlarge!

This application was a real eye-catcher and various running gags were born during the course of the event – and you still can follow the #MCSalzburg hashtag for a report of the conference.

 The day headed off with the introductory panel. After a hearty welcome by co-host Dominik Walcher, my research group's members Dr. Christoph Ihl and Thorsten Harzer outlined results from our research projects and demonstrated some of the numerical "magic" behind Mass Customization and Open Innovation and how it can be utilized to take the right decisions about mission-critical aspects that many companies do not even realize to be of great importance.

As an example: asked about the ideal number of customization options to offer in your configurator (solution space), would your answer have been: "As many as possible, since more choice equals happier customers!"? If your answer to this is "yes" then our latest resarch findings might offer some ways to improve your customer satisfaction.

Following Dominik Walcher's insight into the development and outcome of the MC500, our great study of the most important MC companies from around the world, I had the chance to present on the importance of customer integration and how companies of all sizes can profit from proper employment of the concept, as well as some new MC trends of the future.

Next on the agenda was the market panel in which Franz Blach (IDEO), Franz Hölzl (Kaindl) and Wolfgang Gruel (Daimler) gave really interesting and well-received insight how Open Innovation, individualization and co-creation have changed the way they are conducting their business and the ways they found to profit from it:

  • An interesting attempt at improvement of working culture were IDEO's working ethics, as Franz Blach outlined them. They are meant to be pretty much contrary to what we are used to in most larger companies these days. Instead of perfectionism and pressure, IDEO deems a culture in which close teamwork, prototypical work (things do not have to be perfect in their first iteration, can evolve and develop), error tolerancy and more fun are the key principles. While there is certainly more to a successful innovation company, this is certainly an approach favorable by many employees.
  • Franz Hölzl demonstrated how Kaindl was able to offer a totally new way to produce wooden flooring, printed with individual patterns and colors, in great looking quality. Because of their production technology and business model, they can deliver a much more customized product at a significantly lower price.
  • Wolfgang Gruel finally brought up the question if/why it is necessary that privately owned cars are often used in a really inefficient way, standing in the driveway most of the time and usually being too large for most of the time they are used. Daimler has been working on models to counter this development by employing car sharing, car pooling and affordable renting models. Nothing revolutionary new, you will say, but this time it is being done large-scale, by an international company, and not your small start-up next door. It will be interesting to observe whether Daimler can actually change something about the status quo or if the highly valued status symbol "car" will remain untouched by the means of sheer efficiency.


Original images copyright CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl , collage copyright TIM Group, all rights reserved!

Some captures of our speakers. Click to enlarge!

Next: the social media panel, moderated by Paul Blazek: For all those planning to integrate social media into their PR strategy as well, talks by Martina Partl and Clarissa Streichsbier of cyLEDGE were as insightful as Catharina van Delden's summary of her company innosabi's (unserAller, anybody?) work. Renate Gruber gave the finishing presentation about how her venture CupCakes made its way from a traditional food company onto the MC market:

  • Partl and Streichsbier pointed out that, while social media in regards to mass customization was nothing new anymore, the combination of social media and open innovation are a perfect match. This is certainly true in so far as open innovation per definition relies on participation and hence any media that is suited to increase awareness is potentially supportive for any OI initiative.

    Interestingly they chose Facebook as an example for a customizable information source. The important role of facebook as a customer relationship tool was stressed by all speakers in this panel. Certainly will be interesting to see if/how companies think of now ways to even better employ the platform for their needs. 

During the lunch break, there was time to check the 20+ exhibitors. Some had even set up live demonstrations of their product offers, like Pasterie, supporting us with freshly made pasta or CowCrowd, demoing their lovely wooden pendants, individualized on-location with your own image and/or custom text.

Next: The start-up panel, hosted by MC-blogging colleague Heiko Vogelgesang (egoo.de). Here, Sabine Beck gave an amazing presentation about how her jewlery business Amoonic manages to mix pre-configured and individually customized rings and more in a great portfolio that every manager dreams about: produced entirely on demand, without any significant need for storage space or the risk of wasting materials.

Interestingly, their configurator is not even visible if you enter their website. At first (and actually second) glance you will not notice anything hinting at the possibility to customize a ring. The configuration options do become visible, however, once you have decided upon one of the preconfigured designs. These can then be individualized using a wide variety of options. Possible combinations of gold, silver and gems of all kinds range from 150 to 2.5 million Euro. Certainly something in this for everybody.

However, from my own testing I found it hard to even find out that you can individualize the rings. You have to actually select one before a respective button appears and that could be a serious usability drawback in my opinion as many potential customers might not even recognize the potential of the store. It does, however, explain why about 40% of their sales are actually preconfigured, non-customized rings. Anyways though, with the average customer leaving between 400-500 Euro in their shop, the concept will certainly be profitable – especially since there are very low fix costs.

Next up was Stickvogel, a promissing start-up which specialized in embroiding and etching all kinds of motives into all kinds of goods. Lately they teamed up with major retailer Butlers, offering custom stitching to customers in Butlers' shops. This B2B customization service concept will certainly be exciting to follow over the (hopefully) next years.

Closing presentation of this panel was helt by Carina Schichl and Tanja Sieder, representing their business for unique custom travel guides, Nectar&Pulse, based on insider tips by what they call "soulmates" rather than generalized all-round information. Locals give their best tips for tourists which are then, upon checking, transformed into nicely layouted guides. While this is certainly an interesting idea per se, the issue I see with it is that the product might not be easy to market. As Schichl and Sieder pointed out, their target group originally were younger people. Instead, most of their customers are 30+. While their choice of age clustering is certainly debatable (and lead to one of the mentioned running gags of this conference), this raises the question: do they actually have the right product for the right market? If their average customer's age is above what they expected, they would likely be well advised to adapt to a different kind of information and layout which fits the needs of this target group better.

Next up was the retail panel. Moderator Jochen Krisch (excitingcommerce) did an outstanding job leading through an exciting lineup of big names: Former Bundesliga-athlete Sven Renz showed how his product line of completely customized ski/sports shoes has blessed his company with a yearly growth of 20-50%. However, I expect there to be an even larger potential in this market, seeing how ErtlRenz still "only" sold 2400 pairs of shoe at their peak last year.

Original images copyright CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl, collage copyright TIM Group, all rights reserved!

Some captures of the exhibition. Click to enlarge!

Claudia Kieserling, winner of this year's much-noticed Million-Dollar-Challenge by Zazzle, gave a short overview of individual shoe manufacturer selve, showing off some of the models availible to women around the world and giving some interesting insight upon questions from the audience. She especially stressed the importance of the customer's shopping experience, which should be more than just pushing a button and receiving a cardboard box.

A great final presenation in this block came from Max Kickinger. His soundbranding company is known for its work with some major companies like Porsche, Swarovski and many more. Commenting on a truly excellent video he explained how companies use clever sound branding to gain the consumers attention – often without him realizing to be guided towards the "right" shelve – and the checkout counter!

Following another networking break, the final panel of the day: The configurator panel, presented and moderated by Alexander Felfering of Graz University, had the technical side of customer integration covered.

Copyright CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl, all rights reserved!

Coffee-Break is over, back to the conference room, Alp-Style!

Andreas Falkner (SIEMENS) spoke about the challenges of complex product configuration, especially where multiple dependencies between customizable factors are to be respected (a good example why companies should reffer to an expert instead of just trying to headjump into the MC market).

Marc Herling of Lumo Graphics demonstrated how the use of 3D-configurators can be a blessing for the consumer who can imagine the to-buy product way better than it would be the case with just some images. With more advanced configurators, he says, the concept of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) will more and more be replaced by YGWYW – You

[actually] Get What You Want.

On the other hand, developing a really well working, appealing 3D-configurator takes a lot more than the amount of work it costs to "just" shoot said product images. Hence, as with so many cases of exploiting new technological opportunities, its a balancing act and might often not be profitable for small companies.

HYVE's Volker Bilgram was up next. In his "Toolkits for Gamification" speech he explained how and why the aspect of playing – adding features that make the process of configuring/buying a product more fun than just an annoying act of shopping – can contribute to a retailer's sales figures. Again: If done correctly!

To complete this panel, Klaus Pilsl of IndiValue spoke about web based configurators and their part in the customer's shopping experience. His company is about to launch a major new "configurator as a (web) service" — something that has been tried for many years, but now finally may become true.

Copyright CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl, all rights reserved!My personal conclusions of this year's MC2012:

 (1) MC has great potential to significantly improve a company's sales figures and customer brand loyalty. However, to make it work successfully, more is needed than just to put up a fancy-looking configurator and then wait for clients.

Especially the dialog with the (potential) client is and will be even more important in the future, as more and more companies employ easily accessable social platforms like Facebook to communicate with their crowd. And a lot of both promissing start-ups and established companies could profit immensely from experienced coaching since, as Christoph Ihl had pointed out at the very beginning, even the right choice of customization options (not to be confused with as many options as possible!) can make or break your MC business. 

(2) Mass Customization needs to be less outcome-driven and to be looked upon from a higher, more meta-perspective to develop it further. I believe we know a lot about nice and perhaps even profitable BtoC consumer products. But what about MC services that tackle some of our true global challenges?

(3) Finally, the German MC community really is a nice crowd of great individuals, very eager to collaborate, to share ideas and experiences, and to network!

Looking back on a fantastic conference I truly want to thank everybody who made this possible, may it be as a speaker or a guest, an exhibitor or supportive staff member. Special thanks do go to my dear co-hosts Paul Blazek and of course Dominik Walcher, who did an outstanding job organizing this large event with his team at Salzburg University!

Copyright CoworkingSalzburg Romy Sigl, all rights reserved!

(Most of) our speakers! Click to enlarge!

28 06, 2012

MC2012: These Companies Will Participate at the German MC Community Meeting Today

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:34+00:00 Juni 28th, 2012|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Events, Personalization|

Mc2012banner2Today's expert workshop marks the beginning of the MC2012, largest OI and MC conference in German language. If you have been following my tweets and posts over the past weeks you can tell that we are all really excited about this event, and from the registrations we can tell that we are by far not the only ones. 

This year we will be more than glad to welcome MC/ OI enthusiasts from the most different of branches, all coming together in Salzburg to speak, listen, discuss, learn, teach and network. Amongst our guests this year will be the following companies and institutions (alphabetical order):

  • a misura GmbH
  • Agentur Christoffer
  • Algo Gmbh
  • Amoonic
  • Bayer AG
  • BCCS
  • Beiersdorf AG
  • Berger Feinste Confiserie
  • BioArt AG
  • Boston Consulting Group
  • CAYS
  • Coworking Salzburg
  • CupCakes Wien
  • Customate / Carglam
  • cyLEDGE
  • Daimler AG
  • DEO
  • Drei Gürteltiere
  • egoo
  • ErtlRenz
  • excitingcommerce
  • Fachhochschule Köln
  • FH Salzburg
  • Fish IT
  • Gabriele BCCS
  • Gerd Wiberg
  • Heinemann Retail
  • HHL Leipzig
  • HYVE
  • IDEO
  • ikarusbison
  • IndiValue
  • innosabi GmbH
  • ITG
  • KAAN Veranstaltungen
  • Kaindl Flooring
  • KHK GmbH
  • Kickinger Soundbranding
  • KTM
  • Lingerie Couturier
  • Lumo Graphics
  • Mars GmbH
  • Meiberger Holzbau
  • Mozart Distillerie
  • mysaftbar
  • Nectar & Pulse
  • New Media Marketing
  • Open Experience GmbH
  • P-Hold GmbH
  • PersonalNOVEL
  • phenomene GmbH & Co. KG
  • Pixelution
  • Privatbrauerei Trumer
  • proHolz Salzburg
  • RealNetworks GmbH
  • Reiser + Partner Beratung
  • RHIEM Services
  • RWTH Aachen
  • Salzburg Research
  • SBS Software GmbH
  • Schlosserei Meissl
  • Selve – Shoe Individualizer
  • Seminar Shop
  • senova
  • Shirtinator AG
  • Stickvogel
  • The Grip
  • Therme Erding Familienbad
  • TU Dresden
  • TU Graz
  • Universität für Bodenkultur / Wien
  • W&H Dentalwerk
  • Wunschfutter GmbH

We are looking forward to a really great conference with all of you who will be there. And those who can not attend this time, worry not: I will give an overview over the MC2012 here within the next days. 

25 06, 2012

MC2012: Connect on Facebook, Follow on Twitter!

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:46+00:00 Juni 25th, 2012|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Deutsch (in German), Events, Open/User Innovation, Personalization|


Three day left and counting: June 28th our major event of this month, the MC2012, largest conference on Mass Customization and Open Innovation in German language, will head off with the  – already sold out – business workshop. There are still tickets left for the conference/ exhibition on friday, though! So if you are going to be in (or near) Austria on the 29th of this month, get your reservation here and meet us in Salzburg!

We would also be glad to exchange with you on all topics MC and OI via the official conference Facebook page!

And even if you can not come visit us in person you can still stay in the loop by following @MCSalzburg, the offical conference Twitter account.

Looking forward to see you on the MC2012!

20 06, 2012

Market Watch: mi adidas Team: Adidas Launches Customization Portal for Sports Teams, Lets You Fly Your Colors

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:54+00:00 Juni 20th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Customization Trends, Footwear, MC/OI on the Web, Personalization, Sneaker, T-Shirts|

Copyright adidas, www.adidas.com, all rights reserved.Adidas, major sports gear manufacturer from Herzogenaurach, Germany, is likely known to everybody around the globe.

Since 2000, adidas has been engaging in the market for customized sportswear. Their mi adidas program offers convenient online configuration of your favorite clothing and adds some extra motivation to your sporting efforts. It has been one of my favorite case studies and examples of mass customization in my presentations.

After 12 years of successful mass customization targeting individual athletes, adidas now took the next logical step, enabling not only the individual but also the entire team to design their own individual yet affordable uniforms. Mi adidas Team is the latest addition to the mi-family of adidas customization platforms. And from a business perspective, this may be the trigger to finally scale up MC at adidas.

Copyright adidas, www.adidas.com, all rights reserved!

Configuration process on PC. Click to enlarge!

Amateurs and professionals, youth and adults alike, from schools, universities, leagues and clubs can style a wide variety of footwear, apparel and accessoires. The team's crest, sponsor logo, player number or team name can be applied on the items which are also customizable by picking from 15 base colors.

Sportswear you look and feel great in is one factor adding to your (perceived) victory chances, fan support is another. Well aware of the importance of your supporters, adidas also offers the option to customize a number of off court items for fans, coaches etc.

In the spirit of good sportsmanship, adidas extends the idea of teamwork from the field to the computer: When you have created a design you are happy with, the configurator lets you share your concept with your teammates, management and sponsors via facebook, twitter, email or blog integration.

Once the final look has been decided upon, adidas will ship your order to a dedicated adidas specialist retailer within 45 days.

Mi adidas Team is currently availible for eleven sports categories (running track and field, running cross country, rugby, baseball, football, basketball, handball, volleyball, American football, TECHFIT® training and select Olympic sports) on 16 markets (USA, UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

For those who prefer old fashioned personal collaboration over online social media, mi Team has designed the platform with the use on mobile platforms in mind. It looks especially great on tablet PCs and allows you to design your new major league uniform right on your advancement party.

Copyright adidas, respecitve owners, www.adidas.com, all rights reserved!

Configurator demostration on a tablet PC. Click to enlarge!

It will be interesting to observe how this rather large addition to adidas' customization portfolio will develop and which impact it will have on the market of (semi-)professional team sports goods. More about mi adidas Team on the official website.

Concluding, these are the following three features that make the new mi adidas team customization site really interesting for me:

  • Moving from 1:1 customization to communities of users!  This is still one of the first team customization sites.
  • Building a multi-layered site that takes care of multiple stakeholders – players, equipment managers, coaches, moms, fans, retailers … this is one of the best configuration systems in this regard I have ever seen!  While the online cofiguration toolkit is "just" common good practice, I would say, this multi-stakeholder capability of mi adidas team is terrific!
  • Re-integrating the (independent) retailer back into the MC system. For a long time, MC moved direct, and away from retailers. With mi adidas team, the site also provides great opportunities for individual retailers to customize a sales pitch for a local team, based on a local set of garments.  By making independent retailers part of the system, Adidas may utilize these retailers as "brand ambassodrs" for customization.
10 05, 2012

Participate at Idea Contest: Brining the Walking Frame (Rollator) into the Future

By | 2018-06-14T06:57:20+00:00 Mai 10th, 2012|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Design, Deutsch (in German), Open/User Innovation, Technologies & Enablers|

Our German readers can find a German version of this post here.

Stilsicher_logoMobility is one of the key requirements for maintaining an independent lifestyle up until a high age. Today, most seniors are able to depend on themselves – as more than 90% of all 65-years olds live under their own roof in good health.

But what happens, when leaving home, to go shopping or to meet with friends, is getting increasingly difficult with a higher age? What if somebody’s mobility declines, even though he or she does not depend on help permanently?

A small daily help in such situations can be a walking frame. In Germany, there are almost two million walking frames in use, with a yearly selling rate of another 500.000 pieces.

Unfortunately, not all of these are as fancy and safe as one would wish. Furthermore, the German consumer protection agency Stiftung Warentest found insufficiencies regarding stability and safety of walking frames tested last year.

But what could the superstar of walking frames look like? It has to be handy and safe, yet Stilsicher_teaser also has to incorporate personal desires concerning the design and accessories to overcome it's still somewhat dusty image.

To find answers to these questions, German League of Seniors, in cooperation with partners from both the business and academic world and sponsored by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, has initiated a large-scale idea contest to improve the famous walking aid. 

In the context of the idea contest “Stil:sicher unterwegs, everybody is asked to give their input on how to improve the walking frame.

If you want to be on the team for developing completely new and innovative solutions for the walking frame of the future, here is your chance! May it be a GPS-assisted emergency notification system, an attached reading aid or a built-in minicomputer that helps to identify (individually) tolerable food: the only limit is your imagination. 

On the project homepage you can find more detailed information on the contest and the process of turning in your own ideas. Submissions are open until June 15th, 2012. You can also view and comment on already submitted ideas. Afterwards, a panel of experts will decide on the winning ideas which will be presented to interested companies and institutions and hopefully make it into future products. 

So, what is your idea (incremental or wild) to bring the walker /rollator into the future? Submit it here!

PS: The modern walker, the Rollator, of course itself is a lead user innovation, invented by the Swede Aina Wifalk in 1978, herself a polio sufferer.

18 04, 2012

New Blog Series: Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 2): Converse.com

By | 2018-06-14T07:13:19+00:00 April 18th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Co-Design Process, Customization Trends, Footwear, MC500, Sneaker|

MC500_Signet_2012In our series of postings introducing companies that performend very well in our Customization 500 study, we are introducing the next mass customizer. Remember:  The order of these feature postings is more or less randomly!


Today: Street Style Classic Converse.com


Founded in Massachusetts in 1908 and today a subsidiary of global producer of sport goods Nike, Converse allows consumers to create footwear with an absolutely distinctive style. Originally designed as basketball shoes (and still to day worn by some NBA superstars in their games), the converse sneaker was one of the early products in this category that can be customized by every consumer. 



Note: Please see this post for detailed information on how to interpret the above data. 

12 04, 2012

New Blog Series: Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 1): Mymuesli.com

By | 2018-06-14T07:13:21+00:00 April 12th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Co-Design Process, Customization Trends, MC500|

MC500_Signet_2012The Customization 500 is the world's most comprehensive benchmark study of online configuration and mass customization offerings. In a new series of weekly postings, we will introduce some of companies that our expert evaluators pointed out as best in class. The order of these feature postings is more or less randomly! We will try to introduce different industries among the following weeks.


Today: Custom Food Specialist my muesli.com


Today's featured company is mass customization pioneer mymuesli.com. Established in 2007, the German company offers it's customers to create their very own mix of cereals from 80+ ingredients. There is likely a fitting mixture for everybody in the about 566 quadrillion possible combinations. After a strong growth just from the beginning, company has been developing very well in the last years. Recently, they installed the world's largest automatic muesli mixing machine.



Note: How are these figures to be interpreted?

We used more than 40 parameters to evaluate the state and design features of each toolkit in our study:

Data presented for each Customization 500 company

This objective data was then matched with the performance outcome of the toolkit, i.e. the perception of our trained experts of the configurator.

For this evaluation, we used five criteria to measure the performance of a configuration toolkit in our sample:

  • Visual Realism was measured by means of one question “How realistic do you assess the visualization of the configuration process?”
  • To measure usability, the evaluators were asked to rate: "The configurator is (1) intuitively usable, (2) user-friendly as well as (3) clearly and (4) logically structured".
  • The creativity factor consisted of two items: "(1) The website gave me a lot of freedom", and "(2) I could give my creativity free rein while designing the product".
  • To determine enjoyment, the experts had to rate: "The configuration was (1) fun, (2) delight, (3) pleasure, (4) entertaining and (5) interesting".
  • To assess uniqueness following statements had to be evaluated: "My created product (1) is unique, (2) is different, (3) helps me to differentiate; and (4) no one else has such a product."

Interested in more? Here is more information about the Customization 500 (and the option to order the full study now so that you do not have to wait for 41.6 years to read all profiles).

9 03, 2012

The Market for Mass Customization: Results from the Customization500. Part II: The State of Choice Navigation Toolkits

By | 2018-06-14T07:13:44+00:00 März 9th, 2012|Books, Cases-Consumer, Co-Design Process, Customization Trends, General, Research Studies, Technologies & Enablers|

 (Part 2 in our series with key results from the Customization500 study. Part 1: Some Data on the MC industry structure).

MC 500 cover finalThe Customization500 study (see http://www.mc-500.com) provided us also a very detailed view into the current practice of choice navigation and online configuration. When crunching the numbers, we found a large puzzle:

The reality of toolkits clearly falls behind the broad body of academic research on design parameters of successful toolkits.

You find lots of additional information about the Customization 500 (short: MC500) study in a special section in my blog, www.mc-500.com


How did we evaluate customer satisfaction with a configuration toolkit


We used more than 40 parameters to evaluate the state and design features of each toolkit in our study (Table 3).

Data presented for each Customization 500 company
Table 3: Data collected for each configuration toolkit profile


This objective data was then matched with the performance outcome of the toolkit, i.e. the perception of our trained experts of the configurator.

For this evaluation, we used five criteria to measure the performance of a configuration toolkit in our sample:

(1) visual realism, (2) usability, (3) creativity, (4) enjoyment and (5) uniqueness.

All impressions were measured by our panel of trained expert judges on a 1 to 5 rating scale (1=very low value / 5=very high value).

  • Multiple items: For most of these criteria, we used multiple items to gather the scope of these criteria. Items were grouped and tested with the help of factor and reliability analysis.
  • Inter-rater reliability of these factors was checked with the Intra- Class-Correlation-Coefficient.
  • Performance: Finally, the single factors were combined to one overall performance factor.

In more detail, the five evaluation criteria were constructed as follows:

  • Visual Realism was measured by means of one question “How realistic do you assess the visualization of the configuration process?”
  • To measure usability, the evaluators were asked to rate: "The configurator is (1) intuitively usable, (2) user-friendly as well as (3) clearly and (4) logically structured".
  • The creativity factor consisted of two items: "(1) The website gave me a lot of freedom", and "(2) I could give my creativity free rein while designing the product".
  • To determine enjoyment, the experts had to rate: "The configuration was (1) fun, (2) delight, (3) pleasure, (4) entertaining and (5) interesting".
  • To assess uniqueness following statements had to be evaluated: "My created product (1) is unique, (2) is different, (3) helps me to differentiate; and (4) no one else has such a product."

In addition, we had multiple other scales for performance like the satisfaction with the final product, the willingness to purchase, the likelihood to recommend the vendor to a friend, etc. 

All 500 companies that are included in the Customization500 are presented with a profile picture like the following Figure 4.

Example company profile 2
 Figure 4: Sample profile picture (purchase the full report for all 500 evaluations)


Configuration process experience is driving overall customer satisfaction


Our analysis showed that on the one hand side, “preference fit” and the meeting of a customer’s “need for uniqueness” are strong drivers of satisfaction with a particular mass customization offering.  

However, process satisfaction, resulting from the enjoyment and creative involvement during a user-friendly configuration process, has an even higher impact in many cases, according to our data.

This confirms the early findings of researchers like Nikolaus Franke or Martin Schreier who have stated that in B2C mass customization about 50 percent of the additional willingness to pay can be explained by the process experience and a feeling of achievement and co-design success – and not by the higher functionality of fit of a custom product.

Our study clearly supports this claim. We urge managers to look beyond the sheer technology and back office integration of configuration toolkits and also focus on delivering a great configuration experience.


Meaningful visualization


Academic research often has stressed the importance of realistic visualization as a core element of a good toolkit. But many companies in practice still have very simple visualization features, and sometimes no illustration of the outcome at all.  But there also can be too much of a good thing:

Evaluators often highlighted not those sites with the most advanced 3D visualization as best in class, But those with visualization features that matter and come to the point.

For many products, a realistic, fast, plug-in free and well-described visual of an individual configuration is better than a complicated 3D model wearing, for example, my custom T-shirt – that takes many seconds to load and almost crushed my computer when playing with it. Sounds obvious? Well, it is not. We still see many sites where technology is used as a point of differentiation – but not as a source of customer value!


Providing help and process navigation


When looking at the data which features of a configurator drive most the perceived usability and use experience, we found that navigation- and orientation-help features, such as a progress bar or an activity list, play a key role. Co-design toolkits with a higher level of company- and/or customer-help features, such as design inspirations, deeper product information or recommendations by other consumers, in general performed better in terms of satisfaction.

However, about 50% of the toolkits in the "Customization 500" do not offer any or only a low level of these features. Here, we find many untapped opportunities for practice to enhance the gross utility of customers.

At the other side, we’ve found quite a few offerings without or with only a low level of these features which were performing excellently nonetheless. In some cases, the simple product design (solution space) did not require special help features. In other cases, customer satisfaction with the offerings was excessively influenced by the particular value provided by the customizable product itself.

There is not one best way. Companies should “customize their mass customization strategy” based on the requirements of their customer stock. But having an understanding of the perception of customers or a firm's toolkit is crucial to make such a decision.


Parameter versus need based configurations


The largest gap between practice and recommendations of academic research can be found in the area of parameter- versus need-based toolkits.  We found that in today's mass customization reality, basic parameter (option) based toolkits still rule. Customers have to make their own decisions from a list of predefined options. This often demands a large number of decisions and also knowledge of the user about the product. While this may be perfect in the business-to-business context, it is not always the best option in consumer markets.

Here, need-based configuration has been shown to provide better results. In such a need-based system, users share something about their preferences, requirements, or expected outcomes. This input then is transferred by an algorithm into a product configuration. A need-based configurator hence mimics the behavior of a good sales person who also may recommend you exactly the right product (configuration) after asking just a few but insightful questions. In our study of the best 500 toolkits, less than 3% of companies had such a need-based configurator in place. While we acknowledge that it is more costly to develop a good need-based configurator, these systems seem to offer a great opportunity for differentiation and larger customer satisfaction.




MC 500 signConcluding, we can state that mass customization still is an area in the making. While there has been much progress, and there are some really great toolkits in the market, the majority of systems still are in an early stage. But as our data shows, from the customer perspective it often is just a small step between a good to a great toolkit.

All companies that have been included in the Customization500 received this vignette to illustrate that they are part of the leading companies in the field of mass customization and personalization. So when search for customization on the web the next time, watch out for this sign.

But we expect that the Customization500 is a very dynamic field. Even during the time of our research we found many developments, improvements, and failures. This is why studying the field of mass customization remains a continuous endeavor … but a fun one, too!


Context information


Part 1: of this series:  Data on the MC industry structure

MC 500 cover finalwww.mc-500.com: More information on the Customization500 study and a list of the 500 companies included in the evaluation.


Mcpc2011_proceeding_long_coverhttp://bit.ly/mcpc-proceedingsThe Proceedings of the last MCPC conference cover many dozens of case studies, latest research, 2500+ slides, and 15+ hours of video of the plenary presentations. As part of the proceedings, you also find three detailed PPT presentations using the Customization500 data in larger detail.

MC 2012 banner blockwww.mc2012.org: Speaking German? Then participate at the next meeting of the German-speaking mass customization community (Salzburg, 29 June 2012) – and learn from some of the German champions of the Customization500.


6 03, 2012

The Market for Mass Customization Today: Results from the Customization500. Part I: Company & Industry Structure

By | 2018-06-14T07:13:47+00:00 März 6th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Co-Design Process, Customization Trends, General, Personalization, Research Studies, Service Customization, Technologies & Enablers|

MC 500 cover finalIn his recent report about mass customization, Forrester's J.P. Gownder concluded that "mass customization is finally the future of products".  But how does the future of products look today?

In a joint project, Dominik Walcher and I looked together with our colleagues Thorsten Harzer, Christoph Ihl and Fabrizio Salvador into the practice of mass customization. Our multi-stage study, "The Customization 500", is the first global benchmarking study on mass customization and personalization in consumer e-commerce.

In a series of postings, I want to introduce some of the results from this research. You find all about the Customization 500 (short: MC500) study in a special section in my blog, www.mc-500.com

Sample construction for the Customization500 benchmark study


Given the scope of the mass customization market, we focused our analysis in the Customization500 on companies that sell directly to end consumers (B2C), using an online toolkit for user co-design that is applied to change the physical characteristics of the product in a dedicated manufacturing step (hence excluding products where customization is embedded in the product like a smartphone). In addition, we pragmatically focused on companies which we were able to analyze as they had a website in either English or German language.

In total, we found almost 1000 firms meeting these criteria (refer to www.configurator-database.com, a continuously updated list of mass customization companies). Following an extensive evaluation activity, we identified 500 companies that lead this field from a customer perspective (see here the full list). For each company, we gathered more than 100 data points. Data was collected by a group of trained expert evaluators who spent hours on each website.

  MC 500 Sample construction

 Figure 1: Selecting the data for the Customization 500

Also, each website was at least evaluated independently by three evaluators, and we took care to investigate all cases where the inter-rater reliability was not sufficient. The result of this exercise was a ranking of all companies, and allowed us to identify some of the leading offerings in the field. Figure 2 shows a summary picture of one of the companies included in the study.


Figure 2: A typical illustration of the overall score sheet of a company included in the Customization 500 (to get access to  all 500 profiles included in the Customization500, you have to purchase the full market study).


Which are the dominating industries with mass customization offerings


Table 1 provides an overview of the categories where mass customization in BtoC online today is employed. We find some very crowded categories that dominate the market. As expected, the option to personalize items by applying a user design on a basic product by different forms of digital printing is leading the field (categories 1, 2 and 4). There also always seems to be room for another custom shirt business or personalized sticker / foil to decorate your smart phone. Interestingly, however, there also is a very large (and still growing) field of applications in the food and nutrition industry where mass customization is applied to customize taste and nutrition of food.

  MC 500 Categories Table 1

Table 1: Categories of mass customization application in the Customization500

Using customized products for the gift market is a growing, but still not over-crowded opportunity. Most vendors still see mass customization as a one-to-one business, providing a custom product for the buyer (hence, also the dominance of me, my, mein etc. brand names).

However, some of the most successful mass customizers have realized that mass customization offers a perfect cure of a common problem: „Oh my good,

[Name here]‘s birthday is coming up in a few days — I need to rush to get an „original“ present now – but what?“ Take customized chocolate. Chocri and MyM&Ms, for example, are competing with gift cards and gift books, not with other candy items. They are not to be eaten – even if they taste very good – but to express that I have thought of you and really have spent some effort in getting this present done. For this, I am willing to pay a premium of 1,000 percent or more. As a provider, however, this means that a delivery time of 24 hours is a must, plus advice for easy gifting, wrapping, additional greeting cards etc. Here, we still see many untapped opportunities.

When looking further in the domains of mass customization application, we interestingly only found very few good configuration toolkits (for functional customization) in the field of consumer electronics and computers. Here, apparently the improvements of hardware apparently make it less useful to customize a product via toolkits before purchase, but allow users to customize the product during the usage stage with an embedded toolkit. It may be a sign of the shift in mass customization that the early pioneer, Dell, today almost offers no customization at all at its website. Well, there still is a configurator, but the choice options are very limited.


A closer look into company structures


For 120 of the 500 companies, we also could obtain extensive data by means of a company survey. Figure 3 shows our two-step data gathering approach.

MC 500 Expert and company survey

Figure 3: The expert evaluation of the Customization 500 was followed by an extensive company survey of 120 companies

Descriptive statistics for the responding firms are given in Table 2, providing an enhanced insight into the company structures of the players in the mass customization market today.

  • About 83% of the firms were founded exclusively with the purpose of mass customization, while 17% run their mass customization business in addition to their standard business. In general, most firms are rather young.
  • Only 16% of the mass customization offerings are older than five years, indicating the long time lag from the description of the idea to the broader application of toolkits for co-design.
  • 54% of the firms have less than five employees.
  • Annual sales of the responding firms range from less than $100,000 to over $5 million in the last fiscal year, with the majority having sales of less than $1 million (83.5%).

These observations are consistent with our observation that the current dynamism in mass customization is driven primarily by innovative startups that have built their business models from the ground up and focus entirely on the promises of mass customization.

Table 2 Descriptive Data of Company Survey

Table 2: Descriptive data from the company survey of responding firms

Clones dominate mass customization entrepreneurship

If you have a good idea for a custom product, it will be copied fast. This is one of the major conclusions we can draw from our observations of the market. The barrier to entry for many products is rather low, and once an interesting idea comes on the market, copycats follow quickly. This in general has not to be a bad thing, as also clones help to build the market, generate attention, and signal to press that this is a new category.

However, for the pioneers this means that they have to focus as much attention on branding and differentiating their business as upon building the processes and systems. Patents or other forms of IP do not provide much help here, thus, we conclude: As a pioneer, be fast, smart, and differentiate your business beyond the brand name and your core products.

Despite the many "me-too" offerings, surprisingly often the late followers are doing very well in their segments. We see three reasons here:

(1) Strong growth opportunities in every market: The late comers even in the most crowded categories (like custom men's shirts) enter into a market that still is not matured at all. Overall, there is not one category in consumer B2C where custom products have more than a few percent of the overall category (in most cases, they have a few tenth of a percent!). So there is still enough space for everyone.

(2) Market education: Pioneers in a category often have to spend a lot of attention to educate the market and just let consumers (and journalists) know that this kind of custom product is available. Latecomers can build on this generated market education.

(3) "Best of Breed" solutions: Latecomers often perform as best of class of established players, combining the design elements of pioneers, but also of mass customization sites in other categories.  A recent good example if getwear.com, which came late with another custom jeans offering, but has the best online configurator in its industry.

Mass customization platforms make the third wave of mass customization

But despite many clones, we also found a lot of innovative business models. Some of the best performing companies in the Customization500 are not stand-alone businesses that deal directly with consumers, but are mass customization platforms. These platforms can be regarded as the third stage of mass customization development.

The first wave of mass customization was driven by the early pioneers in the field in the early 1990s, motivated by the opportunities of new flexible manufacturing technology. Levi Strauss is a typical example from this time. Most of these offerings worked offline in a traditional retail environment. Also, first internet offerings coming of in 1995 and 1996, like CyberChocy or Creo Interactive, came up at this time. But in most markets, consumers were not ready yet.

The second wave came with the internet economy, around 1998-2002. Often, startups at that time just opened, as everybody could do it, not as customers needed it. But some great examples of mass customization survived, like NikeID (opening only because former Nike CEO Phil Knight wanted to have „something in the internet“, and so they selected mass customization as this promised to cause little channel conflicts with established retailers). In the following years, the internet-based mass customization offerings matured, and many more followed. It was the broader development of online configurators that made mass customization happening in a larger scale.

But a third wave of mass customization is happening now: It is driven by companies like Ponoko, Zazzle, Spreadshirt, Cafepress, Lulu, Gemvara, and many others, which offer design, manufacturing, and retail capacity to everyone. These platforms allow entrepreneurs to open a dedicated mass customization business at very low investment cost. On these platforms, people are not just customizing to fulfill their own needs, but to create (micro) niche markets for their peers. The platform providers have successfully combined the eBay idea of very easily selling things over the internet with the customization model of robust fulfillment processes. Here, we are just at the beginning and will see many more applications soon.

In an upcoming posting, we look more closer into the state of the practice of choice navigation (configuration) toolkits.

Context information


MC 500 cover finalwww.mc-500.com: More information on the Customization500 study and a list of the 500 companies included in the evaluation. 


Mcpc2011_proceeding_long_coverhttp://bit.ly/mcpc-proceedingsThe Proceedings of the last MCPC conference cover many dozens of case studies, latest research, 2500+ slides, and 15+ hours of video of the plenary presentations. As part of the proceedings, you also find three detailed PPT presentations using the Customization500 data in larger detail.

MC 2012 banner blockwww.mc2012.org: Speaking German? Then participate at the next meeting of the German-speaking mass customization community (Salzburg, 29 June 2012) – and learn from some of the German champions of the Customization500 

14 02, 2012

Getwear: New custom jeans website combines many „best practice“ elements of online co-design toolkits

By | 2018-06-14T07:14:03+00:00 Februar 14th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, Co-Design Process, Technologies & Enablers|

Getwear toolkitCustom jeans have been one of the pioneering offering in mass customization, and I have reported about them several times. Indeed, it has been the Custom Jeans offering of Levi Strauss that got me interested in mass customization at the first place (Seeing it in 1994 in NYC), and so I was quite sad when Levi closed its MC business.

But the market seems to get more mature now, and while there already are quite some companies on the web, there always is room for someone new, especially if they get it better than the rest.

This seems to be the case with GETWEAR.com, a custom jeans site targeting the US market (but they ship to Europe and Asia, too). They just launched last week. While I still cannot judge the product quality, the website seems to be very carefully designed and somehow a "best of breed" of best practices for a good co-design toolkit. And their price point (starting at about $99) is truly MASS customization.

CEO of Getwear is Tatyana Kanzaveli, a well connected woman in the Silicon Valley, but the strategist and concept developer behind the site is Yaakov Karda, who came up with the idea after his studies in Fashion Management in Italy.

I asked him what how is Getwear different to the existing custom jeans companies out there.

YakovYaakov: The main difference is that other projects are (and, as far as I know) about "custom fit" and Getwear is about "custom design". Besides that, none of them is social. It was you (customer) and the company. Basically, it is an analogue of web based "atelier". There's not much fun in buying atelier made clothing for young people; the concept looks and sounds outdated.

Getwear is all about social commerce. From my point of view, mass customization has perfect potential if coupled with community but will not succeed on the large scale if it is not. All other "custom jeans" businesses mostly target people with special requirements (and though an established need for a custom product). It's a very limited market (and with harsh competition).

Unlike them, Getwear targets regular people and most of our clients never (probably) thought of having their jeans custom made. We aim to establish a brand that will compete not with other existing custom jeans projects, but with "big" denim brands such as Diesel, G-Star e.t.c.

Well, this is a bold statement, but there website really is state-of-the art (definitely a best practice candidate for our Customization500 list). The site is very well planned, and really combines many elements both with regard to co-design of an individual item and with regard to sharing and community features.

The co-design tool was developed in collaboration with Artem Gorbunov's Design Bureau, a highly regarded Moscow based studio that specializes in web & interface design. According to Yaakov, they already had two iterations but they are not yet done, so it's a work in progress.

Here are some elements that I liked especially from their site:

  • Great inspiration and catalog to give you orientation and ideas.
  • Senseful visualization balancing between usability and realistic views.
  • Different models and sizes already in the co-design toolkit, not just in the measurement part.
  • Great details. Look at the selection of buttons: Options are shown before selected color, nit just generically.
  • Lot's of social media connections right out of the configurator
  • Option to offer your design to others, earning a $10 bonus every time it is ordered. One of the few sites that put this kind of P2P interaction into practice .

But a great custom product is only as good as the firm's ability to turn the virtual design into a real product. So I asked Yaakov to share a bit more about their production system. Production is in India in a dedicated factory, rum by Nikhil Bafna, who was Yaakov's classmate in Italy and is the VP of Production. They promise delivery times of not more than two weeks (in the US) for a truly custom made jeans, which really sets a strong benchmark!

Yaakov: First of all, we employ unique parametric pattern making system that produces ready for cutting patterns in a matter of seconds. That saves a lot of time. Besides that we have a specially dedicated production unit that doesn't do any other work. Jeans are delivered with UPS and it only adds around 3 days for delivery (within these 14). 

We aim to further reduce delivery timing to one week (or less for basic items) in future. I believe that fast fulfillment is one of the key success factors for any mass customization business.

I totally agree on the last sentence. Looking forward to observe the future developments of this company!