8 07, 2013

Amoonic Continues to Excell in Custom Jewellery, Pulled In Huge Investment

By | 2018-06-14T06:46:54+00:00 Juli 8th, 2013|Cases-Industrial, Design, MC/OI on the Web, Personalization|

AmoonicLast year at pretty much this time we published an interview with Sabine Linz of Amoonic, a company offering customized jewellery from all price ranges online. Fortunately, Amoonic has not suffered the same fate that many startups do, making critical mistakes and disappearing after a short period of existance. In fact, Amoonic just announced that Business Angel Marlon Ikels, the man behind galleryy.net, has invested a six-digit amount into the future expansion of the company. You can download the official press release here (in German).

Sabine_linzThis gave us the opportunity to interview Sabine once again, asking about the development of the past year and the future of mass customized jewellery.

FTP: Sabine, it has been about a year since our last
interview about Amoonic. How have things developed since then?

SL: In the
meantime we broadened our designer product range by a huge variety of jewellery
pieces. In addition to that, the technology in the background was enhanced a
lot. For example an open configurator was added to simplify the customization process
for our customers. Another example is the new 3D product preview. We developed
some great cooperations within the jewellery online market. Besides we tested a
lot on our website and developed a new system for producing jewellery in a
digital way.

FTP: How do you see the market for mass customized
goods today?

SL: I think,
today mass customized goods are not simply a trend anymore, you can find them
everywhere and people love them. Customization is now a well-established
approach and customized goods have become more or less mainstream. People nowadays
expect to be able to customize their products.

FTP: Can you go into a bit of detail on what you
want to do with the huge investment you got? What are your plans?

SL: Since a lot
of work on the technology side was done over the last year we are in the lucky
position to be able to invest most of the money in Marketing. We like to see
Amoonìc expand more and more to be internationally known as soon as possible.

FTP: You mentioned that Amoonic now offers
individually crafted jewellery on request. Can you tell us which diamond dreams
you can make a reality?

SL: In
principle, everything is possible. Our motto is: “If you can dream it, you can
do it”. But of course, any technical details have to be considered J . Our customers enjoy the freedom to
make their dreams come true and our designers are ready to assist them in case
of questions. More and more people use this opportunity and also the B2B sector
is highly interested in purchasing customized goods for their clients.

FTP: Any tips you can give entrepreneurs who want to
venture into any niche of mass customized products or services?

SL: Keep
smiling, be smart and exhaustless. Honestly, it is important not only to focus
on a configurator. Show all products on your web presence, give examples and
don´t let the user think. Furthermore, in my opinion, an extraordinary customer
support is more than a requirement today!

FTP: Are you looking for any specialists to expand
your team within the next time?

SL: We are
always looking for specialists. Good people are hard to find. Our new partner
and Business Angel, Marlon Ikels, is an ecommerce expert and we are more than
happy to have him in our team. Among others, he is founder of www.galleryy.net. He´s great and it is always good to get more
knowledge. We love to work with him.

 More about Amoonic on www.amoonic.de

1 04, 2013

[Market Watch] Citizen Made: Customize Your Configurator Out of the Box

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:05+00:00 April 1st, 2013|Customization Trends, Interview, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers|

Citizenmade-logoWhat do mass customized products have in common? In a vast majority of cases, vendors will use a configurator of one sort or another to sell their products in all their customizable varieties.

Making and selling a great mass customized product is no easy task. Setting up and maintaining a well-working configurator is usually not a matter of hours either (and if it is, you can usually instantly tell). The need for technical and design knowledge lacking with many entrepreneurs layed grounds for an industry that can be summed up as "configurators as a (web) service".

One player in this field is Citizen Made. The company does offer designers, entrepreneurs, craftsmen or anybody else the opportunity to use a well-designed, professional configuration tool without having to develop one themselves.

Biopic-fullWe recently met Citizen Made's CEO Rachel Brooks at MIT who gave us an insight into the company, what makes her offerings special and how she sees the future of mass customized products.

FTP: Rachel, you have founded
"Citizen Made". Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your


RB: Prior to starting Citizen Made, I worked in several business and
operational aspects of industrial design, fashion, and retail with small
startups and major retail companies alike. Most recently, I ran operations for
a menswear accessories company that created custom ties, bow ties 
and pocket squares. This is where I set up a supply chain that supports
customization, worked with manufacturers, and worked through the challenges of
offering customization as a core part of business. 

In looking for ways to extend the in-person experience of ordering custom
products, I wanted to incorporate a light-weight configurator on the brand's
site. Citizen Made was created from the difficulty my brand and other peer
designers face in finding an affordable and accessible way to leverage
eCommerce as a sales channel.

FTP: Citizen Made is a service best described as
"configuration as a web service", correct? What exactly do you offer
to your clients?


RB: We provide brands and manufacturers access to a quality configuration
tool in an affordable and accessible way. With our configuration tool
subscription, users get access to a dashboard where they are able to upload
their product variables, images, and define product rules. With this
information, a configurator is dynamically and instantly created, and
becomes available to install onto any site to sell and accept orders for custom

FTP: Customization configurators as an online
service are not an all new idea. What does make Citizen Made special?

RB: Citizen Made was created so that
brands that sell custom products are able to accurately and effectively do so
online, regardless of their access to development professionals, large amounts
of capital, or knowledge of advanced image processing. In creating a standard
configuration tool as a service, our proprietary dashboard makes it simple for
product managers to articulate their product offering in a simple and beautiful
way to the rest of the world, so that they can focus on managing and making
products, instead of software and configurators.

Citizen Made - Canvas screen

FTP: How scalable are your services,
especially with large, demanding clients?

RB: Our standard tool was designed for small and medium sized companies that
require configuration, lightweight inventory management,  sharing
capabilities, and analytics on product components performance. This was
designed for the purpose of data-driven forecasting and purchasing

This level of configuration management as a standard offering today is
world-class, however for enterprise clients that we speak with today, we have
created ways to integrate with select ERP systems and tooling that is specific
to these clients. From a configuration standpoint, a front-end experience where
purchases can be dynamically designed and purchased is very straight forward.
The Citizen Made dashboard today makes it simple for product managers inside of
enterprise settings to update and experiment in real time with their products.

The advanced part, from our perspective, is enterprise supply chain
support, where our team and network works directly with manufacturers to
support the needs of large companies and leverage the benefits of lean

FTP: Do you think that configurators as a
rentable service are superior to inhouse solutions? If so, why? And: for which
target groups?

RB: Software services are a great solution for brands whose core competency
lies outside of software development and management. For the vast majority of
brands, developing and managing software that is advanced enough to painlessly
sell and receive custom orders is understandably outside of their
in-house skill set  By providing affordable sales tools for brands
that sell custom products, we allow them to focus on what they are best at,
while leaving the technical challenges to us. 

Just as most product companies don't engineer their own eCommerce CMS
in-house, we offer a solution to a growing segment of companies that don't
currently have a solution to sell products online.

While our tools are understandably not the perfect solution to all product
categories, we best serve products that are built to order and designed in a
modular way. Products that require web-to-print software are currently served
by other companies; we look to serve those who create beyond the 2D printer.

FTP: How do you think the market for mass
customized goods will evolve over the next years?

RB: With the growing access to configuration tools,
the evolution of local/small batch production, distributed
manufacturing, and even the increasingly availability of commercial 3D print
technology, I believe that we are at a critical point in expansion of mass
customization. The initial goal in creating Citizen Made was to provide a simple
and accessible tool for a company of any size to be able to sell what they are
capable of making, while allowing potential customers to have what they truly
want. I believe that our approach to configuration and access will help
accelerate the prevalence of mass customization.

FTP: In case any of our readers is looking for a
job opportunity, are you hiring?

RB: We currently have opportunities in Community Development and Business

FTP: What are your plans for the next 5 years?

RB: Over the next 5 years, we are
working toward creating tools and infrastructure that makes mass customization
viable across many product categories, regardless of company size or location.
We believe in the benefits of lean manufacturing and innovating supply chains
for the future. We look forward to evolving our tools to reach further into the
supply chain, with the goal of serving and digitizing the supply chain from
front end to fulfillment.

Thank you very much for your answers! It will be interesting to follow the development of Citizen Made and see the business evolve!

And last but not least, hear is an overview video outlining Citizen Made's services in a more visual fashion.


Citizen Made: Customization software for makers from citizenmade on Vimeo.

11 02, 2013

Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 23): Caseable: Protect Your Device Your Way

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:22+00:00 Februar 11th, 2013|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: Individual cases for your favorite electronic device

There is no shortage of cases and bags for all sorts of electronic mobile devices. Electronics stores offer a vide variety of both colorful or elegant protection for your cellphone, tablet or laptop, but in case the given designs are just not individual enough, German vendor caseable might come to your rescue just in time.

On their website you can order cases and bags for a vide collection of different phones, ipads, kindles, laptops and more. These can be turned into the unique of your dreams by chosing colors, adding graphics and/or text. The configurator appears to be user friendly yet powerful enough to ensure that, after you have ordered and received your device's new best friend, you will most likely never confuse it with that of the person on the seat next to you.

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

5 02, 2013

Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 22): Allmytea: Custom Tea for Individual Relaxiation

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:26+00:00 Februar 5th, 2013|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: What mymuesli is to cereals, this is to tea

Sometimes, relaxing just works best with a cup of hot quality tea. Unfortunately, mixtures avalible in local supermarkets may not always be just exactly what one is looking for in terms of taste or effect. For all these cases (or just the experimenters amongst you) German online shop Allmytea might be worth a visit.

Utilizing an efficiently designed configurator the website guides you through the process of picking a base sort of tea and enriching it by adding all kinds of herbs. The end product will be sent to you in a package with an individual name (chosen by yourself) printed upon it. If you are into good tea this could be a nice replacement for or addition to your local grocery store. 


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

29 01, 2013

MC2012 Tagungsband erschienen: Profitieren von Kundenintegration

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:29+00:00 Januar 29th, 2013|Books, Customization Trends, Events, Personalization|

Product_thumbnail(Sorry, German posting on German book) Die MC2012 war die größte Konferenz zu den Themen Mass Customization (individuelle Massenfertiung) und Kundenintegration im vergangenen Jahr. Wir berichteten an dieser Stelle ausführlich sowie via Twitter live aus dem Konferenzzentrum.

Nach dem großen Erfolg der Veranstalung in Salzburg und der angeschlossenen Fachbesucherausstellung ist nun der offizielle Tagungsband erschienen. Auf 139 Seiten werden neben den Originalpräsentationen aus der Konferenz die zentralen Themen von Prof. Frank T. Piller (RWTH Aachen), Prof. Dominik Walcher (FH Salzburg) und Dr. Paul Blazek (cyLEDGE Media) zusammenfassend besprochen, die mit der MC-Konferenz 2012 bereits zum zehnten Mal ein Forum für internationale Fachteilnehmer aus Wirtschaft, Industrie und Forschung präsentierten.

Der Tagungsband "MC2012 – Profitieren von Kundenintegration" ist ab sofort als Downloadedition über Lulu sowie in Kürze über Amazon verfügbar.

 Aber hier schon ein paar Photoimpressionen der Veranstaltung …



21 01, 2013

Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 21): Choiceshirts: Individual Upper Bodies

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:35+00:00 Januar 21st, 2013|Clothing, MC500, Personalization, T-Shirts|

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: Known concept, nice execution

Customized T-Shirts are nothing new to the mass customization enthusiast, indeed, there are more than 100 online vendors in this category. But at the same time, tshirst are one of the most well-known individualized products and certainly one of those that will always have their fans and buyers. Customized shirts are usually affordable and useful in a variety of situations.

One competitior on this crowded market is Choice Shirts. Their slogan "wear what you think" is pretty much program for them as they give you the tools to create a shirt with more or less any motive you could want to wear.

A simple yet solid configurator lets you chose from either a large variety of cliparts, a custom text or your own uploaded image – or a combination thereof. Whatever print you choose will be applied on the shirt you selct from different models of shirts and shipped to your doorstep. Alternatively, if your creativity does not serve you just today, the company also has a huge variety of pre-configured shirts for many different themes.

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

17 01, 2013

Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 20): Photobox: Gifts and Decorations From Your Images

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:40+00:00 Januar 17th, 2013|Cases-Consumer, 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: Make something special from all these holiday photos

The holidays are over and many of you will have put your new digital camera or 20-megapixle-smartphone to good use by documenting all the joy and pleasure of the christmas and new years celebrations.

Images are conserved memories and hence best shared with those who shared the documented moments, too. And while just uploading your pictures to facebook would probably do, why not take it one step further and surprise your friends and loved ones with some personalized books, cards, decorations and other kinds of gifts, individualized with the best photos from your celebrations (or last holiday).

German company photobox offers a wide range of individualizable products, from classical photo books, cups, puzzles and stickers to cellphone and tablet covers, calendars, magnets, the unavoidable mousepad and a lot of others. This is one of the most crowded and largest categories in BtoC mass customization on the web in general.

Their website and configurator appears pretty modern and seems to work fine so if you are looking for something to thank your holiday party host for a wonderful evening, this might be for you.

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

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!

21 12, 2012

Conference Report: Observations and Conclusions from the MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:57+00:00 Dezember 21st, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers, Wrap Up|

Over the past months we have reported a lot on the latest preparations of one of the most important meetings of the customization community in 2012: Smart Customization Seminar, hosted by Smart Customization Group, MIT. Now that the event has taken place and we got some time to breath again we want to take a look back and share some of our experiences with you. 

WorkAtSCGWith the general topic being Micro | Macro | Customization it has been a really broad range of experts giving insight and views on customization from the point of view of their respective field of profession or research. From internationally renown scholars like Joseph Pine, Eric von Hippel or Alex Pentland to experts for (custom) architecture, food individualization or top-notch sports cars: This years lineup of speakers brought some centuries of combined experience into one room. 

Overall there was a great agreement that customization will continue to and play an even more major role in implicit and explicit design of our all's common living space, especially in large cities, and the way we interact, produce, buy and consume. 

FerrariOne highlight of the seminar was when Marco Mattiacci, CEO of Ferrari North America, presented what could be called the glass ceiling of automotive individualization: A Ferrari 599XX EVO, in red, of course. Unfortunately we could not take the 1.500.000 USD car for a short test drive around Boston highways, but at least many auto enthusiasts got the chance to get photographed with this little gem of the four-wheeled world. 

Of course, the car did not just serve as a background for nice souvenir photos. In fact it did underline one very important message: the desire for individualization is an important part of human psychology. While a car for
10.000 USD would get you from A to B just fine, one for over a million Dollar will still leave room for individual desires. And to fulfill these, be it in regards to admittedly exclusive sports cars or "just" individually produced nutrition bars, is not only a big step towards a new age of consumerism but also a business opportunity that could revolutionize many branches. 

MattiacciAs Mattiacci explained in his keynote speech, implementing (the right kind of) customization in an established company is not necessarily an easy undertaking. But once you have overcome potential barriers and worked out a system that fits your product and corporate philosophy, you can majorly benefit from your entrepreneurism: Ferrari managed to increase orders of individualized elements on their cars from a few thousand to about 80.000 USD per new car that is being bought, "just" by tweaking the way they offer customers to personalize their car in Farrari showrooms. That is rather impressive. 

Another great example of how the future of both retail and urban planning could potentially look like was outlined by Prof. Alex Pentland of MIT. He demonstrated how data mining can be employed to optimize shopping experience for customers, making it more convenient to find what you (likely) want to buy, making the process less tiresome and more efficient at the same time. 

As Alex Pentland showed, using a large enough database of location data from cell phones, one can make actually rather precise predictions of the buying behavior of customers, what they are interested in, individually, and which product offer might be benefitial to them. 

Of course, this is a really double-edged sword. Not everybody is comfortable with his location data being used for marketing purposes (or even stored). And while privacy concerns are very much understandable, this technology still has a lot of potential, certainly not against the will of customers but, with their agreement, advertising could see a real revolution. Imagine only seeing product ads about things you really care about on television. No more generalized campaigning but specific offers for every individual, fitting his or her interest and needs. This kind of customization will need a lot of further development until it will become as universally accepted as today's broad-range advertising, but it at least has the potential to play a big part in tomorrows retail world. 

Also very interesting was a finding presented by MIT's Ryan Chin: Employing modern RFID technology his group could prove in a research scenario that mass customized dress shirts are being worn more often or used over a longer period of time as compared to non-customized shirts. This is certainly explainable with not only a better fit but most importantly the customer's increased affection to a product he individualized himself. 


This, and other presentations, deliver a clear message: customization is far more than a trend for those with a special interest in personalized products. It will be one of the most important aspects of living and conducting business in the coming decades. And while we are still far from a fully customized world, this is an excellent time for innovative entrepreneurs to get into the market and secure themselves market shares, like Anthony Flynn did with his venture YouBars, producing custom nutrition bars. And sometimes, its just a small idea that sparks something large

But customization is not only a matter of business opportunities. At least evenly important, it will be part of our future society. More individualism will change the face of urban living, personal traffic, media consumption and many more fields of life forever. And while this development will be driven by consumers and supported by industry, it is also academia and administration who is asked to get a custom world into their focus of attention and do their part to make the future fit the nature of humans better by creating an enviroment that allows individuals to do what makes them individual: Taking and living their choice. 

19 12, 2012

[Interview] Anthony Flynn & Emily Flynn Vencat, Authors of „Custom Nation“

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:01+00:00 Dezember 19th, 2012|Books, Customization Trends, General, Interview, Personalization|

Anthony_FlynnAs promissed in our recent book review of Custom Nation, authors Anthony Flynn and Emily Flynn Vencat, participated in our interview series with MC&OI entrepreneurs to share their experiences in the customization market, their book and who could profit most from reading it.

 FTP: Can you tell a little bit about yourself? What do you do and where did/do you get your experiences with mass customization from?

ANTHONY: I’m the founder and owner of YouBar, the world’s first customized nutrition bar company. I started the company in 2006 after feeling frustrated by my inability to find an off-the-shelf nutrition bar that met my – admittedly very specific – health and taste needs. So, I started custom-making bars for myself, and I thought there would be a huge market for bars made to meet individual consumers’ own unique needs and, out of that, YouBar was born.

Since then, I’m extremely proud to say that I’ve grown the company to seven-digit annual sales, and now employ 30 people in an 8,000 square foot facility in downtown Los Angeles. Thanks to my success with mass customizing, several years ago I started being invited to give talks on customizing to universities around the country (from UCLA to MIT), and have become a consultant to companies looking to add an element of customization to their existing mass-production based business models.

There has been so much interest – and this extended to the press too: I’ve given interviews to hundreds of news organizations, including the New York Times, Good Morning America and NPR – that I saw that there was a real need for a book to be written about how customization is changing the way we do business in the 21st century. But I’m not a writer, and that’s where Emily came in…

EMILY:  That’s right. Several years ago, Anthony – who in addition to being my co-author is also my brother – came to me with the idea for this book. At the time, I was working as a business journalist in London – I was Newsweek’s London-based business writer and, after that, was a business writer at the Associated Press — and Anthony told me he wanted me to write this book with him. At first, I was extremely sceptical (and also very busy!), but the idea was so compelling that it didn’t take long before I was convinced and we signed with our publisher last year.

FTP: On the early pages of your book you tell us that "outline exactly how you too can use customization to launch a successful new business, or exponentially increase sales in your existing business". That sounds like a pretty ambitious promise. Have you found the holy grail of retail?

ANTHONY: I don’t think we’ve “found” the holy grail of retail. I think it’s been there all along. If you think about the way that the very rich have always consumed goods, you’ll see this. The wealthy have never really bought into the idea of consuming mass-produced stuff en masse – they’ve always had everything important custom made-to-order – from their furniture to their homes to their suits.

What’s new, and what I think we’ve “found” in our book is that – thanks to new technologies, like the internet’s ability to connect producers directly to retailers, the advent of online configurators and new production methods – high quality custom goods are now affordable to the average person (and not just the super-rich) for the first time in history. Because this shift is so new, however, many companies haven’t yet embraced it or figured out how to do it right. Our point in the book is to provide a guide for how to do exactly this.

FTP: You also write about a shift from DIY (Do It Yourself) to CIY (Create It Yourself). What exactly do you mean by that?

EMILY: Before the Industrial Revolution, custom goods were actually the norm – even for the very poor — because Americans did everything themselves, like cook their own dinners, make their own furniture and sew their own clothing. What’s new about today’s customization is that it isn’t Do-It-Yourself (DIY); it’s Create-It-Yourself, or what we like to call CIY. Create-It-Yourself is when you get to do all the fun parts related to making something new, like designing the flames emblazoned on the side of your Mustang or choosing the exact ingredients in your gluten-free nutrition bars, without having to do the hard work of stencil painting or wheatless cooking yourself. Using online configurators, consumers can now participate in the high-level design of their products without having to get their hands dirty.

FTP: Without revealing too much from your book: Where do you see the most critical failures companies make when implementing or maintaining an MC strategy?

ANTHONY: The number one problem that I see and hear about again and again when companies begin customizing is that they start off giving their customers too many choices. Just because you run a customizing company, and want to give your customers choices to match their exact needs, doesn’t mean that you need to offer a million different colors or sizes or whatever. Earlier this week, I spoke to an executive at Nike who told me that it’s actually Nike’s goal right now not to add more customization to its excellent custom sneakers platform, NikeID, but actually, rather, to make it “simpler.” When you give your customers too many choices, they can find it overwhelming and difficult to engage with. What’s more, from a business perspective, if you offer too many choices you can end up painting yourself into a corner financially.

FTP: And how do you think these shortcomings could be prevented?

ANTHONY: In Chapter Nine of the book, we outline the “Seven Lessons” for how to get customization right, which we derived from our interviews with the CEOs and founders of many of the world’s most successful customizing companies, including Vistaprint’s Robert Keane and Shutterfly’s Jeff Housenbold. I think all of these lessons are absolutely crucial, but – as implied by my previous answer – one of these lessons is that, even in the customizing model, a business should never give consumers too many choices. We give concrete details, examples and advice in this chapter about what exactly that means. Here’s just one basic example of limited choices in action: on the Ford Mustang Customizer website, consumers can choose from dozens of hood designs and paint jobs, but they don’t pick the materials used in the engine.

FTP: In your book you talk about the "automated expert". What do you mean by that?

EMILY: One of the most important technological developments that has made mass customization possible is the advent of online design tools – also known as “configurators” – which allow customers to go on websites and create their own products without needing the help of a human expert.

In the 20th century, one of the main reasons that customization was the preserve of the ultra-wealthy was that if you wanted to custom design something, you needed an expert at your elbow to help you turn your idea into real image. If, for example, you wanted to design a suit, you needed a tailor. If you wanted to design a ring, you needed a jeweller… and so on. Imagine, for example, trying to sketch your perfect suit or ring without expert help. For the vast majority of us, our basic drawing skills and lack of knowledge about how materials work would make this utterly impossible.

And human experts are expensive. But now, configurators allow even the non-expert consumer to go online and use automated tools to create-their-own suit or dress or jewelry or interior design – this list goes on and on – without needing an expert on hand. The configurator is, in essence, the affordable automated expert.

FTP: Can companies save themselves from some painful experiences if they read your book before acting? 

ANTHONY: Absolutely. Our lessons for how to customize identify pitfalls, like the problem with too much choice or the potential difficulty with choosing a price-point for your custom good, that are extremely easy to navigate once you know they’re there, but almost impossible to avoid if you don’t know about them. Honestly, I wish that someone had written this book seven years ago so that I could have read it before starting YouBar and avoided making so many of these costly mistakes myself in the first year of my business.

FTP: Where do you think mass customization is going? And what does still need to be done to make it an even more successful movement?

EMILY: In the next ten years, we are going to see a shift in what’s considered ‘normal’ in retail. In dozens of important industries, the ‘normal’ thing we buy is going to go from being a mass-produced item to being a made-to-order customized item.

The shift is actually already heavily underway in the auto industry, and its quickly coming in apparel, accessories and entertainment. For proof of this, you only have to look at the way young consumers – those under the age of 30 or so – are already buying things. Young consumers no longer see customization as a luxury in many parts of their lives, they just expect it. Instead of listening to entire mass-produced CDs, they tune into completely customized playlists care of iTunes or the popular custom radio station Pandora.

Instead of watching pre-set television channel line-ups, they watch on-demand digital recordings on Netflix and YouTube. Instead of driving identical cars — like the Baby Boomers once did with their one-size-fits-all 1960s VW Beetles – they purchase custom, built-to-order Scions on the company’s customizing website. In fact, Scion isthe most popular car brand in America with buyers aged 18 to 27, and I’m sure this is because of its great, and affordable, customizing platform. If you look closely, there isn’t a single aspect of young consumerism that isn’t starting to be customized.

The Millennial generation gets custom dating recommendations from matchmaking websites, like Match.com, they have custom sneakers on our feet (from brands like Nike and Converse), custom sweatshirts on their backs, custom cases for their iPhones and custom newsfeeds from social networking sites like Facebook.

FTP: Is mass customization for everybody?

ANTHONY: Yes. There isn’t a single industry that won’t be transformed by the shift to customization within the next decade. Already, we’re seeing every major company – even the most classic mass-producers — target their advertisements in customized, individualized ways online. This is the first large and important step towards thinking about consumers as unique individuals and not a single mass with homogenous tastes and values, as was the 20th century norm. 

FTP: Thank you both for this really insightful interview! 

19 12, 2012

[Book Review] Custom Nation: Why Customization Is the Future of Business and How to Profit From It

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:06+00:00 Dezember 19th, 2012|Books, Customization Trends, Personalization, Service Customization|

Banner"Customization of products is one of the most important business trends of this decade!" We hear this a lot when asking business folks about their opinon on the mass customization market. And we wholeheartedly agree.

"Offering customized goods is mainly a technical question, your product is either suited or not, and if it is suited, there is not too much more to it than having the right production processes!" We hear that a lot, too. And, probably not much to your surprise, we have a really hard time agreeing here.

Starting a successful customization business or expanding an existing business onto the customization market is nothing to take lightly (unless you want to join the 20+% of mass customization businesses that vanished from the market relatively fast, as we found in our MC500 study). Having the right product is only one of several important aspects, amongst which some are really suited to ruin your business plan if you do not consider them beforehand. 

Thank god there are some good books about customization to help you get up to speed and avoid all the little (or big) obstacles on the path between your ideas and a successful MC venture. And another pretty good one has just joined their ranks!

BookcoverCustom Nation: Why Customization Is the Future of Business and How to Profit From It

Anthony Flynn, Emily Flynn Vencat

Availible via Amazon Paperback or Amazon Kindle

 Coming from Youbars founder Anthony Flynn and business journalist Emily Flynn Vencat, "Custom Nation: Why Customization Is the Future of Business and How to Profit From It" brings some high quality information and expert insights in the form of a well-written, convenient to read book. 

Split into two parts the authors go in depth on the history and quirks of the customization market, their prediction for its future development and a lot of practical advise about how to start a successful customization venture, or roll out an expansion onto the customization market with your existing company. 

In my opinion this book is really worth reading if you are (planning to go) in the customization market. It is full of interesting insight with actual relevance and is easy and fun to read even for non-experts. My conclusion: Finally a kind of field-book and "how to do" approach that perfectly supplements the existing conceptual and academic texts.

Anthony Flynn and Emily Flynn Vencat also kindly agreed to participate in our series of MC&OI entrepreneurs! Please find the whole interview here!

A lot more information about the authors, their book and research can be found on their official website.

18 12, 2012

[Market Watch] CowCrowd: Wear Your Friends On Customizable Wooden Tags

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:15+00:00 Dezember 18th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, MC/OI on the Web, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers|

CowCrowd_3In conjunction with the MC2012 conference on mass customization in June we reported on CowCrowd,  a customization project by Viennese media agency cyLEDGE. Since our posting back then was in German only (as was the conference), here is what CowCrowd does. 

CowCrowd.com is an online configurator where users can create small wooden pendants with individual messages. These messages contain text or symbols and even photos, which can be uploaded an placed on the „cow tags“. As a special feature, users can directly connect to Facebook to engrave the profile pictures of their friends and family onto the tags.

cyLEDGE, being an innovative media agency, also does its best to make the project as customer-interactive as possible.  Users are invited to share their designs and use cases on Facebook to inspire others and spark new ideas. Via social networks the company stays in close contact with its fans and posts regularly on new infos and funny internet memes, most of them cow themed.

Now, part of being a customer-centric venture is to closely listen to customer wishes and to adapt one's own processes and portfolio to make the one individual happy that really counts: your client. Hence, for the holiday season CowCrowd created two new shapes to give the users more alternatives for their individual pendant. The new shapes are a Christmas tree for last minute presents and a simple round tag to meet the user's demands for more neutral forms than the classic „cow tags“.


Provided, when we first heard about CowCrowd, we were a bit hasitant about wearing a tag formed like a cow's head. However, when we got a chance to see and feel them live on the MC2012 conference, we were all charmed by their cuteness and surface quality. They certainly make a nice gift and there is no real risk in giving it a try yourself since the customizable pendants are available for under 5 EUR.

More about CowCrowd on the official project website

26 11, 2012

Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Updated Agenda

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:22+00:00 November 26th, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01 Over the past weeks we have given a lot of updates on agenda and  speakers of this year's MIT Smart Customization Seminar. In case you just found out about our seminar and dont feel like reading through all these posts, here is a convenient update on what expects you on SCG 2012!

The MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012 is a unique opportunity for a deep dive into one of the most intriguing trends shaping our economy today: the move towards personalization and the customization of products, services, health care, mobility, and urban infrastructure. The seminar's foremost idea is to connect CEOs, new business developers, consultants, corpo-rate entrepreneurs, innovators, the investment community, and researchers from MIT and other leading institutions in peer-to-peer interactions to foster intense discussions and to co-create an agenda for the Personal Economy. This year’s event will kick off with keynote presentations by world-renowned representatives from consulting, academia and industry, followed by a number of sessions, each dealing with a specific field of customization, held by some of the most experienced experts. 

You can download this year's Smart Customization Seminar's updated agenda here for information on all keynotes and sessions!

Some changes have taken place over the past weeks so if you have not checked for a while, consult the updated agenda above for all new content like Joe Pine's updated keynote speech on "The Multiverse: Finding the Next Opportunities in Mass Customization" or Marco Mattiacci agreeing to be our third keynote speaker!

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

23 11, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Meet the Speakers: Fabrizio Salvador

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:25+00:00 November 23rd, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01 Continuing our little mini series on speakers of this year's MIT Smart Customization Seminar, here is some more information on who will be there on stage to share his expert knowledge with you.


Fabrizio Salvador

Professor of Operations Management, Inst. de Empresa, Business School
Adjunct Professor, MIT-Zaragoza Logistics Program

Personal Website

Fabrizio Salvador is Professor of
Operations Management at Instituto de Empresa Business School and an Adjunct
Professor at the MIT-Zaragoza Logistics Program.

Fabrizio received a Ph.D in
Operations Management from the University of Padova, where he also graduated in
Industrial Engineering. His research focuses on how operation strategy and
organizational design can support the simultaneous achievement of efficiency
and flexibility. 

He has been investigating
such topics as mass customization, concurrent product-process supply chain
design and organization design to cope with input uncertainty. His research has
been published in leading journals and he co-authored the book “Information
Management for Mass Customization: connecting customer, front-end and back-end
for fast and efficient personalization.”

Besides his academic appointments, he
has worked with numerous companies, such as John Deere, Electrolux, DHL, IBM,
etc. in addressing operational problems associated with customization and
product proliferation.

You can download this year's Smart Customization Seminar's agenda here!

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

21 11, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Meet the Speakers: Kent Larson

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:28+00:00 November 21st, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01 Continuing our little mini series on speakers of this year's MIT Smart Customization Seminar, here is some more information on who will be there on stage to share his expert knowledge with you.


Kent Larson

Director of Changing Places Research Group, MIT Media Lab
Head of House_n Research Consortium, MIT Dept. of Architecture

Personal Website

Kent Larson is the director of the Changing Places research group at the
MIT Media Lab. He also runs the MIT House_n Research Consortium at the MIT
Department of Architecture.

His current research focuses on strategies for
creating responsive places of living using new design/fabrication strategies, defining
system level standards for an open source approach to building design, new
urban vehicles, and developing ubiquitous sensing/computation technologies that
do useful things for people related to proactive health, energy conservation,
personal mobility, and learning.

Larson practiced architecture for nineteen
years in New York City with work published in Architectural Record, Progressive
Architecture, Global Architecture, A+U, and Architectural Digest.  His book, Louis I. Kahn: Unbuilt Masterworks
was selected as one of the Ten Best Books in Architecture 2000 by the New York
Times Review of Books.

You can download this year's Smart Customization Seminar's agenda here!

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!