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.

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.
22 03, 2012

The Million Dollar Zazzle Innovation Challenge: And the Winner is … SELVE

By | 2018-06-14T07:13:34+00:00 März 22nd, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, Design, General, MCPC2011, Open/User Innovation, Personalization, T-Shirts, Technologies & Enablers|

Zazzle_bannerToday, the winner of the "One Million-Dollar Zazzle Innovation Challenge" has been announced. The contest was launched during the MCPC 2011 conference and saw an enormous participation with about 1,000 entrants submitting their proposal.

Zazzle_awardDuring the last days, a panel of judges picked the winner, which was presented during a nice ceremony at the Haas School of Business of the UC Berkeley today. At the left, a few impressions of the day:

  • Henry Chesbrough opened the event with a very nice talk about the promise of mass customization;
  • Jeff Beaver from Zazzle addressed the audience and introduced the finalists,
  • Elizabeth Miller, Head of Creative at HASBRO, presented a great talk on the power of personalization and how a large company like Hasbro can benefit from a customization platform like Zazzle.
  • And then the five finalists gave short presentations on their companies and idea — really cool! Just check the videos below to get some ideas.
  • Finally, Dean Richard Lyons of Haas announced the winner!

Five companies have been nominated. Here are their pitches why they should get the 1Mio Zazzle award:

Republic Bike

Everybody loves to ride a bike in the summer. But not everybody loves to ride the same bike. Why not design the bike of your dreams from the convenience of your couch and have it custom-built an shipped to your doorstep? Their pitch: Make bikes as the customers' canvas — and allow then to really create a custom bike.  –> WATCH THE VIDEO


Why do women own so many shoes? Maybe because every one has something special that they like about it. For everybody with limited storing space, Selve offers the opportunity to pack all these special details into one shoe, your shoe.  Their pitch: We did ten years of homework and now have a great product space and manufactuing — and ready for a huge audience.  –> WATCH THE VIDEO


Everybody is different. And every body is different. And if you are a sports enthusiast who wants to give his body exactly the nutrition it needs, YouBar now might have you covered. Their pitch: With YouBars, Zazzle could enter the large growth field of custom food.  –> WATCH THE VIDEO


Do you sometimes wish your fancy iPad, useful as it is, would be a bit more…individual? DODO certainly does and gives you the tools to design your very own, handmade iPad case, that can (but does not have to) look like your favorite book. Their pitch: DODOcase would bring traditional craft to the Zazzle world of mass customization.  –> WATCH THE VIDEO


Few things can personalize a home better than individually designed and crafted pieces of art and assessories. With Designescape's concept including production with modern lasercutters, individually produced home decoration could become an affordable reality soon. Their pitch: Bring laser cutting technologies to the Zazzle platform to do many more amazing things.  –> WATCH THE VIDEO

And the winner is …

SelveIt was really difficult to select a winner, but in the end SELVE was selected as the recipient of the Zazzle Innovation Challenge 2012! Congratulations, and I am sure we soon will learn about the outcomes of this cooperation!  (on the left, Selve founder and CEO Claudia Kieserling who joined by video from Germany)


 Extra:  Amongst the entries that did not make it into the finals, many presented really interesting, funny, creative and/or useful ideas. Honorable mention can especially be given to …

  • Unitedstyles. A plattform for consumer-designers to design fashion, buy their individual pieces and open virtual stores. (Video)
  • Modify Industries, Inc. High-design co-creation of goods with a high grade of interchangable elements.
  • Spek, personal eyewear. Eyeware, personalized in design, fit and shape, using modern 3D printing technologies (Video)
  • Happy Toy Machine. Enables kids and the young at heart to create their own cool, cute, and crazy custom plush toys online. (Video)
  • Easy DIY Nail (Yuan Lu) Individual fingernail design made easy (Video)
  • Fabric on Demand. Affordable custom fabric printing – bring your pictures and designs on fabric (Video)
  • Waggers Pet Products Inc. Give your pet the best you can with individualized pet food.
11 11, 2011

Your Opinion on the Future of Mass Customization: Participate in two short surveys

By | 2018-06-14T07:15:19+00:00 November 11th, 2011|Events, MC & Art, MC Alternatives, MC/OI on the Web, MCPC2011, T-Shirts|

We would like to tap into the joint intelligence of the MCPC community and ask your to participate in two short conference surveys — results will be posted here:

Mc-future Dominik Walcher and Frank Piller want to learn about your opinion on the market development for mass customization. How is the market of mass customization (MC) and personalization growing? What will be the developments in the next years? Please help us to get a better picture of the MC future! Participate here:http://www.tiny.cc/mc-future 


MIT_MCRyan Chin and Daniel Smithwick of the MIT Media Lab, are studying product life-cycle energy use of customized dress shirts to understand how to develop more sustainable products.  Please complete their 6-8 minute survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MCPC2011) on your current dress shirt wardrobe and you'll be entered into a lottery for a FREE custom men's dress shirt worth $100 retail value.  Pretty fancy stuff.  Survey and prizes are open to both men and women!

19 09, 2011

#MCPC2011 Program Highlights – Mass Customization and Open Innovation in the Fashion Industries

By | 2018-06-14T07:16:59+00:00 September 19th, 2011|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, Co-Design Process, Design, Events, Footwear, MCPC2011, Open/User Innovation, Research Studies, Sneaker, T-Shirts, Technologies & Enablers|

MCPC 2011In a series of postings, we present some of the program highligths of the MCPC 2011 conference. The following is just one of more than 50 sessions we will host on Nov 16-19 in San Francisco, CA.

Since the beginning of the MCPC conference series, clothing and footwear products have been has discussed extensily during this event. Also, just by looking onto the numbers, these industries are leading the mass customization movement. At the same time, some of the early pioneers in Crowdsourcing, Threadless, also focused on this industry.

A dedicated track at the MCPC2011 will provide a closer look on this topic.

Sessions 5.2 and 6.2 (Nov 19): A Special Focus on the Fashion Industries

Why Customization of Footwear is Not Fit for Masses

Market facts prove that, despite a certain number of valorous entrepreneurs are there to exploit the advantages of the new business model, the benefits of personalization of products have not yet reached the shoe wearing masses. Sergio Dulio will present the example of a new Italian brand in the field of luxury bespoke men shoes and the presentation of its technical and market expansion plans, it will be discussed why customization and masses, at least in the field of footwear, don’t’ seem to go together as expected and a theory will be formulated to support the idea that, possibly, this is the right approach to a consumer centric shoe world.

Customization in Apparel Design

Advanced customization and 3D visualization are in the core of the latest planned solutions to enhance customer's shopping experience and brand loyalty, and with the help of advanced GPUs the industry is a step closer in creating a better, more precise design and shopping environment. Yoram Burg (Optitex) will present and discuss the latest projects his company is involved in that include deploying the 3D customized solutions in the worlds of movies, home sewing, apparel design, animation and art work, and give a preview on the next level of solutions currently in development by OptiTex.

ErtlRenz Sport Shoes World – Adapted to Improve the Customer's Performance

While many professional athletes are outfitted over long periods of time by their sponsoring sports brand through the same service people, the “normal” customer typically buys his standardized equipment by individual picks from different stores. Dirk Rutschmann (Corpus-e), Sven Renz and Wolfgang Richter (ErtlRenz) will report from the ErtlRenz Sport Shoes World and present how they embrace the customer over his personal sports career providing him individual sport shoes for maximum performance and comfort like a pro.

E-Co-Creation for Fashion

The Web 2.0 revolution is changing perceptions and influencing a younger generation, but can co-creation challenge traditional design methods for fashion and promote sustainability, and can designing together enable the democratization of fashion? Jen Ballie, Philip Delamore (London College of Fashion) will present a mapping of co-creation within a fashion context, using participatory practice methods. A series of case studies will be used to define co-creation communities, the role of the individual and the sustainable benefits of working together. The viewpoint of both the designer and consumer will be used to illustrate their role and relationship, and to define methods and toolkits for how they can work together.

CoReNET – Value Co-Creation of Small Series Customized Healthy, Fashionable Clothing, Footwear and Assessories

In this presentation, Dieter Stellmach (DITF Denkendorf) will give an insight into CoReNET – Customer-ORiented and Eco-friendly NETworks for healthy fashionable goods: A toolset and first practical experiences for value co-creation of small series customised healthy fashionable clothing, footwear and accessories.

The Fitting of Pants

When fitting pants, a garment can have the correct horizontal and vertical dimensions, but not fit properly. This is a particular problem at the crotch, where there is a saddle point on the abstracted 3D form of the body, where the front and back of the body are joined in the crotch area and one leg transitions through the crotch area to the other. Bonny Carmicino has determined that these fit problems are the result of patterns that do not properly fit the crotch curve and are not properly balanced and will present new methods of creating the proper crotch curve and balancing pants, both of which produce excellent results on subjects of all shapes (including “normal” and also atypically- and asymmetrically-shaped subjects).

Configurator for Apparel Manufactoring within the Mass Customization Program

Companies need to acquire and manage a knowledge base of consumers’ needs and preferences in order to meet, even surpass, customer's expectations. In the fashion & clothing industry, mass customization is not generally well understood or implemented due to difficulties related to measurements, pattern adaptation, and inflexible manufacturing processes. Jocelyn Bellemare (Université du Québec à Montréal), Serge Carrier and Pierre Baptiste (Montreal University) will present their identification of the fundamental variables and data necessary to produce custom-made clothing, the development of a configurator based on such data, and how to enable the efficient transmission of configurator generated information to computerized production systems.

— And these are just some of the talks on this industry!! check the full program for more!!

Listen to the full content of these talks at the MCPC 2011, Marriot SFO Airport, San Francisco, Nov 16-19, 2011:

– Conference Website and Registration (reducted rates until Sept 30)

– All info here in one compact MCPC flyer

Conference hotel and travel (rooms fill quickly, book now!)

– All posts about the conference in my blog

23 08, 2010

Spreadshirt: New online-configurator offers better user feeling and more design options

By | 2018-06-14T09:45:53+00:00 August 23rd, 2010|Clothing, Co-Design Process, T-Shirts, Technologies & Enablers|

A guest posting by Stefan Thallmaier and Simon Strassburger

Spreadshirt - Look of the new configurator Leipzig-based company Spreadshirt AG is Europe’s largest producer of customized apparel. As one of the first large-scale MC companies in Europe, the company has risen steadily from its modest beginnings in 2004 to currently around 300 employees and production sites in Germany, Poland and the US. Core of the company is the configuration toolkit. Within the next weeks, Spreadshirt is launching a new edition of this configurator. Two research collaborators of my Aachen group, Stefan Thallmaier and Simon Strassburger (staff researchers at the HHL Center for Leading Innovation and Cooperation  in Leipzig) got the opportunity for a preview. Here is their report:

On August 10, Spreadshirt gave us the opportunity to a first look the beta version of its new configurator, the ‘Confomat’.  The main reasons for designing a new T-shirt configurator are the increasing user expectations and opportunities for performance optimizations.

In their presentation, Developer Frank Alic and Product Manager Robert Schulz stressed that the core element of the online user interaction system has been changed in several instances. “Usability has significantly increased, as we analyzed more than 350 suggestions from community feedback and customer reclamations over the last years and worked closely with selected operators of our partner shops.”

As a result of an improved visibility, the shirt is now centered on screen with required toolkits arranged around it. To reduce complexity of the ‘Confomat’ and to prevent the risk of size or design misinterpretations, users are now able to obtain instant feedback in case of misconfigurations.

Additionally the newly developed configurator offers a wider range of customization options. To name one example: users are now able to change colors from one letter to the other within one word. These customization opportunities are not available in older versions of the online interface. Hence the solution space is increased to a large extent.

The guest authors of this posting get their hands dirty in Spreadshirt's production hall in Leipzig From a research perspective it will be interesting, how users are able to handle the new customization variety. According to spreadshirt the new configurator also affects the systematization of diverse landing pages in the online shop, which support customers to get a first inspiring thought on how to design the shirt.

The new options for customizing the shirt also directly affect the average production time per shirt or accessories. This proofs once more the complexity of the development project for the new configurator, which has been undertaken by spreadshirt. All departments and production steps are directly affected by a comparable small change in the user interface – like the possibility of changing colors in the same word  (from the perspective of the customer).

The new configurator is currently in open beta status, going live within the next weeks. In order to see, feel and test the ‘Confomat’ just follow this link: http://www.spreadshirt.de/-C6221

29 05, 2010

MC Alternatives: Hipstery adds a new twist to t-shirt personalization – and Additik pimps your IKEA furniture

By | 2018-06-14T09:46:20+00:00 Mai 29th, 2010|Customization Trends, Furniture - Home, MC Alternatives, T-Shirts|

I am still finalizing a report about the SCS 2010 (in one word: it was great!), but before, here a posting with some alternatives to mass customization, i.e. business strategies that also build on the fact that people are different, but follow a different model than customizing an item for an individual consumer and fulfilling it with on-demand manufacturing. I recently got notice of two good MC alternatives:

MC Alternative I: Hipstery's match-to-order system

Hipstery_sticker_thumb Long-time readers of my blog will remember Adam Fletcher (and everyone interested in t-shirts will know him anyway). We had a wonderful cooperation when he was still working for Spreadshirt and directed the OpenLogo contest (and before, when he was writing his master's thesis on a very educated comparison of customization of shirts and Threadless' crowdsourcing model).

After some time travelling, Adam came back and opened Hipstery.com, a small venture that is very anti-customization in a way, but also somehow very pro-personalization in another.

His idea: Head to his nice retro-design website, answer a brief questionnaire on the net, and his magic algorithm (his stomach, I suppose) will pick exactly the graphic t-shirt that is right for you. He wants to take away the burden of choice (in a standard t-shirt shop) or the burden of co-creation (on a mass customization site) and to substitute it with a short survey on your needs.

I participated and got a really nice shirt I like. Calling this model "consumerism criticism", as the German weekly DER SPIEGEL did, is probably wrong. On the contrary, it is a very nice business model: Adam get's the overstock from nice t-shirt companies, adds the personalization magic and a very well done, very humorous and nice shopping process, and creates a great customer experience – and sells the shirts at a premium.

A similar (if more technical) personalization system (also called: "match-to-order" or "virtual build-to-order) employs Zafu (jeans). Also in the case of Dell Computers, it has been shown that such a need-based personalization is superior to parameter-based configuration: Instead of picking your hard-disk model and process speed, the system just asks you which software you want to run and what is your price range, and then automatically suggests you the best fitting product.

This kind of recommendation systems is a growing species on the internet, and when well done, it also can provide a great alternative to "hard" mass customization, i.e. mass customization that requires a flexible manufacturing system for fulfillment. In many industries, the existing assortment is large enough to fulfill each individual's need. The problem is just to find the right item – and to know on the first hand what the right item is. Here Adam comes in place!

MC Alternatives (II): Additik tunes your IKEA furniture

Additik-stval02 A long time ago, I wrote about Bemz, a Swedish shop that offers its customers to tune ("pimp") their IKEA standard sofas with customized covers. It is a great idea, using the de-facto standard of IKEA and adding some personal touch. In the meantime, an entire industry of IKEA improvements came to the market.

A new player is Additik from France who offers stickers for IKEA furniture. While the basic idea is good, the design quality (in my subjective opinion) does not matches Bemz' sophisticated Scandinavian design. Another nice alternative to traditional mass customization.More on the business model in my older posting.

So while mass customization in form of "co-creation" and "build to order" still is growing rapidly, we will see more alternative models that also want to profit from heterogeneity in the customer domain.

18 09, 2009

Zazzle Launches in Germany to Continue European Rollout

By | 2018-06-14T11:09:04+00:00 September 18th, 2009|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, Co-creation, Long Tail, Open/User Innovation, Personalization, T-Shirts|

Zazzle offeres local content for German market Yesterday at around midnight, Zazzle.de went online, the Zazzle platform in German language. Being German, I of course were especially appealed (even if the translation at some places still is bumpy, it is difficult to translate the American startup slang in German, I suppose).

In addition to supporting the German market with full German-language translation, www.Zazzle.de will base its transactions in Euros and buyers will not need to pay additional taxes or customs duties beyond the product price. Customers on the www.Zazzle.de website will enjoy fast delivery of their order to any address in Germany at competitive prices. But the zazzle.de website will be a virtual front end, with all information being managed from the US.

But an interesting feature, and one that make's a lot of sense, is the promise of Zazzle to offer localized merchandising featuring German Sellers and content relevant to the German market. In the moment, this is Oktoberfest beerfest stuff.

The also promise a standard delivery across Germany at competitive prices with delivery typically in 5-7 days, with Express delivery in about three days (hence just a bit slower than Spreadshirt or other Germany-based companies).

I am curious to see how zazzle.de will develop and are happy about another strong case close to my home.

In the press release, Zazzle offers some more information about their business development. Zazzle's recent statistics include:

–  Monthly unique visitors to the Zazzle websites now exceed 12 million;
–  140+ percent year-over-year traffic growth;
–  Total number of members is 5 million+;
–  Total items shipped is more than 11 million;
–  Leading on-demand custom products marketplace in terms of traffic
    rank, page views, and other key metrics, according to alexa.com

PS: Zazzle will present at the MCPC 2009 conference in Helsinki about their recent achievements and future plans!

1 08, 2009

Spreadshirt: Quality and NPS are King! Visit at Spreadshirt’s Leipzig Headquarters

By | 2018-06-14T11:09:28+00:00 August 1st, 2009|Clothing, Customization Trends, Personalization, T-Shirts|

The new spreadshirt logo (created in an open logo competition) Last week, just before my departure to HBS where I participate in the 2009 GCPCL, I had the opportunity to spend a full day at Spreadshirt's new German Headquarters and factory in Leipzig. Three colleagues from the Aachen team and I had meetings with Spreadshirt CEO Jana Eggers, Communication Guru Andreas Miles, Company Speaker Eike Sievert and other members of the Spreadshirt team. After a briefing we started our day with a tour through the factory, followed by more than six hours of discussions and talks about the various business aspects. It was great fun and learning.

Spreadshirt went beta in April 2001 as the brainchild of Lukas Gadowski, at this time a student in Leipzig, Germany. Their PR sheet calls "Spreadshirt the "things you wear" answer to the growing desire for personal branding — letting customers quickly create one-of-a-kind, high-quality, expressive apparel." With t-shirts as the company's specialty, customers can create branded merchandise with a range of around 80 printable items, from sweatshirts and jackets to t-shirts and dog-shirts. Spreadshirt also is owner of La Fraise, the European Threadless clone.

Spreadshirt's Leipzig HQs: Shirts, designs, getting it done, finishing, test lab, and a big box of customer satisfactionNext to the idea of mass customization, the possibility for users to open their own online shop to sell their creation to others has been part of the business from the start. Spreadhsirt thus is part of the new generation of mass customization companies that not just let consumers design a custom product but also harvest a niche opportunity for a specific design. It was a nice opportunity to contrast Spreadshirt to my visit at Zazzle earlier this spring. More than 500.000 Spreadshirt-powered shops are open for business today.

A great example of how Spreadshirt enables new kind of business ideas is the CNN Headline shirt, one of Spreadshirt's great successes. Since 2008, CNN one-off headline T-shirts. On their homepage, you can click a little mini T-shirt icon next to a headline, and poof, get a T-shirt made with that headline, time-stamp, and CNN logo on it. The initiative has been nominated as one of the Top-3 marketing ideas in 2008, and until today, thousands of different T-shirts have been created, all one of a kind and on demand in one day. But exactly the same infrastructure is also offered to consumers who want to create their own headline store with headlines from their local school paper.

These are my key takeaways about Spreadshirt from my visit:

1. Quality rules. While at my visit at Zazzle everyone talked about their great online technologies, at Spreadshirt everyone was obsessed with quality. Almost every statement started with "Spreadshirt wants to be the quality leader in our segment" et al. Continuous quality in products and printing is a number one objective for Spreadshirt. They even have a sophisticated testing lab to test all possible fabric / color combinations before a new shirt or fabric goes online. While focus of quality sounds like a great statement, though, I am not sure whether customers really always honor superior quality in this product category. Would be worth while a more detailed study!

2. Self expression is a HUGE market.
When asked what is the particular product they sell, Jana frequently answers "self expression". And this is a very nice way to look on mass customization (bringing it also in live with Joe Pine's recent thinking on authenticity). Expressing ourselves is an inherent demand of every human being. Offering custom goods in a meaningful way is a great way to tap into this market. But not many companies are positioning their MC offering in such a way.

3. It's all about metrics
. Next to quality, the company totally went NPS. The net promoter score is an industry measure to identify customer satisfaction and loyalty. And as enthusiastic customers are the best prerequisite for sustained growth, Spreadshirt has a good reason to confidently look ahead: Spreadshirt's NPS of 42% places it in the top quarter of many famous online firms.

The NPS (http://www.netpromoter.com) is based on the assumption that the customer's willingness to recommend a company to others is directly related to their satisfaction and loyalty. The value of the NPS is determined with the help of one question: "How likely is it that you would recommend company XY to a friend or colleague?" The possible answers range from 0 (unlikely) to 10 (very likely). Enthusiastic customers that decided on 9 or 10 are identified as promoters.  Would be nice to have a study on NPS ov various mass customization companies to compare.

4. Focus on one category. While Zazzle and Cafepress, Spreadshirt's main competitors, have a wide array of products in their assortments, Spreadshirt focuses on apparel (or "things you can wear"). In this category, however, they really have the long tail of products. But talking to their warehouse manager confirmed my old experience: Whenever you give ´plenty of colors to people to choose from, they select while, black, and blue.

5. Mass customization manufacturing is personal
. While we were visiting during a slow time of the year (summer vacation period, no special holidays), the factory was quite busy in processing orders. Most orders are fulfilled in a rather complex – and human labor demanding – way by printing the design patterns on foils, cutting these and applying them by hand on the final shirt (and this in a high-wage country like Germany!). Here I was astonished by a young and motivated workforce that did these labor intensive jobs in an apparently joyful way.

6. Digital printing is on its way. Fast.
While custom digital printing on different fabrics in large scale has been discussed for ages, the technology finally made a great jump and seems to be ready for scalability.

7. Give it a personal touch. I really liked the idea that Spreadshirt's factory workers have been empowered to provide direct feedback to customers which created a shirt an employee really like. She then can put a "love mark", a small note, into the package expressing her appreciation for the design. To not inflate the love, however, the amount of love marks every employee gets is limited. Nice idea!

8. Ba
d IP legislation hurts.
When moving through the factory and following the order taking process, it became obvious that one of the largest cost drivers is IP protection of designs and phrases. Huge boards in the factory showed examples of "no go" designs and words. It is amazing which simple and easy phrases and terms you can protect at the trademark office, allowing no-one else to use it. Another reason why the world should become more "creative commons".

This issue also addresses the fine line a mass customization company has to go when selling self-expression. When I want to express myself, I am not happy when I cannot use easy symbols like a red star (protected!) or any Olympia related stuff (very much verboten). In some blogs, Spreadshirt is called an "IP Nazi" for turning back too many designs. But with some lawyers making a nice business of ordering shirts with "forbidden" items and then sending a cost note and dissuasion, you better be careful and turn back your customers.

Managing this trade-offs is one of the specific trade-offs a mass customization company has to manage.

9. The market for mass customization still is a tiny niche, but growing rapidly. Confirming the research we recently finalized for our SERVIVE project (an EU funded project on mass customization or apparel), the Spreadshirters confirmed our assumption that customized products are still addressing a very small fraction of the market only. The core task today is to educate the market, not so much surprising it with ever new offerings. Most consumers just have never heard about the opportunity that there is something else then ready-made stuff on the shelves. Sounds strange to you when you are reading this blog and this lengthy posting until here, but these people exist. And they are the majority!

10. It is FUN to work for a mass customization T-Shirt company. Almost as much fun as working for a nice university. Young people, no ties or suits, plenty of room for exploration, and producing creative intellectual outcomes.

20 04, 2009

„Niching the niche“: Observations from my visit at Zazzle’s Silicon Valley HQs

By | 2018-06-14T11:09:42+00:00 April 20th, 2009|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Design, Personalization, Sneaker, T-Shirts|

Zazzle-logo How Zazzle is still growing with mass customization despite — or just because of — the economic downturn … and ten other facts that make this platform special

I recently had the opportunity to pay Zazzle an extended visit at their Silicon Valley Headquarters. Here is what I learned during this day:

Zazzle was founded by Bobby and Jeff Beaver as students at Stanford University. The unfulfilled need of a user again was the mother of invention: The two brothers wanted to create a cool t-shirt to advertise a party at their fraternity (in order to "draw in plenty of nice girls"). They realized how difficult it was at that time to get high-quality custom t-shirts without having to order larger quantities at a promotions company or to rely on the low quality of heat-transfer at the local copy store. Well, it didn't work out with the girls at that party, but the rest is history:

Visit at Zazzle HQs April 2009 Since Zazzle's launch in 2003, its focus always has been on technology. It started with unique digital custom printing technologies that allowed the founders to really get high quality products out at a not known quality (at this time). Today, in every presentation Zazzle stresses the fact that being leading edge in technology is what makes them special.

It may be the proximity to the many technology companies in their area that keeps them emphasizing the technology part – but I do not see Zazzle as a technology company – they are a "market maker". In my opinion, their core capability is to create new markets for products that before could not be exploited in any way.

Sheryl Graham called this "Niching the niche". Sheryl is a Zazzle Proseller, making her living by creating products on the Zazzle platform and selling them to others (http://www.zazzle.com/sagart1952) — most of them appealing just to a very small audience that traditional companies neither can recognize nor capture.

Starting from the scratch without any ballast or old knowledge or constraints, Zazzle created a mass customization ecosystem that has a number of unique features. Here are my ten points that make Zazzle special:

1.    Niching the niches: The unique vale proposition of Zazzle comes from utilizing the broadest possible scope of needs. Each day, about 50K new products are being created, most addressing a very tiny demand – but in total, this sums up. This also allows them to operate with almost no clear definition of target groups or target customer segments: While the "soccer mom" is the single largest customer of Zazzle, it is by far not its majority. The platform is build to cater to all different groups and clients.

2.    Event driven Marketing: The broad scope of users at Zazzle drives a lot of event-driven business beyond the traditional seasons. There is not just the wedding-season, but their has been Obama-Season, Client-#9-Season, Tax-Day-Season and so on … The core business driver is to enable (local) users with some very specific domain expertise to create products immediately for/after a special event in this domain.

3.    24-hour turnaround for most orders:
While most mass customizers need weeks to fulfill an order, Zazzle very early realized that being able to process an order in 24 hours opens many more markets (think of the entire last-minute gift market).

4.    Modular manufacturing system:
Their manufacturing system (in San Jose, CA) is build highly automated so that it can balance large spikes in demand without accumulating too high cost. In addition, a highly flexible work force allows to cover different demand cycles.

5.    Real-time rendering and focus on user experience:
Zazzle has some impressive rendering capabilities that allow the website to create any product in any specification in very high quality virtualization in real-time. While many other mass customizers still work with pre-fabricated pictures, here everything is rendered just on the spot.

This also enables another signature feature: Showcasing all products in different settings: Most products can be virtually placed on many different models. Zazzle realized that not all designs fit to same style of mannequin. This also caters to the broad scope of clients that utilize the Zazzle platform.

Or consider the "stitching simulation videos" when you choose custom embroidery. This allows the user to see how detailed the self-created pictures will be produced – also contributing to the user experience and quality perception of pro-users of the site.

6.    Allowing clients to focus:
Strong focus on creating a flexible platform for different kinds of relationships with different vendors. Their theme: "How to allow our clients to specialize on what they are really good at, and still sell an integrated offering at the same time". So, a traditional company like Pittney Bowes (zazzle.pb.com) can create its own custom goods offering on the same platform as a very design-driven initiative like artsprojekt.com. Compare the sites: They look extremely different, but are based on the same platform and fulfillment system.

7.    Relationships with brands:
Zazzle has build some very strong relationships with brands like Disney and the Star Wars Enterprise that allowed these companies to go beyond merchandising and offer real "fan-based content".

8.    Openness and opportunity-driven growth:
Zazzle created a platform that is flexible enough (with the help of their great engineers) so that vendors can come in and get (almost) any product they would like to offer customized.  There is no general restriction for new products. New assortment creation is driven by the clients and users.

9.    Generating customer knowledge:
Zazzle enables brands and established companies to use Zazzle as a platform for experimentation and testing that even makes money. Disney used Zazzle to allow customization of products with the characters of the movie "Cars", and their large retail clients used the popularity of characters selected by Zazzle users to predict the number of merchandises products in large scale. Creating these aggregated customer knowledge became a large benefit for Disney.

10.    Growing strongly despite the present economic downturn:
Although Zazzle realizes the slower economy, they still grow with high double digit figures. Corporate clients use the on-demand opportunities in these times as a more efficient way to create special assortments compared to building
large inventories. And consumers that postpone shopping for high-priced items still use the affordable Zazzle products to get a high-touch emotional products ("if I cannot afford the diamond ring for my girlfriend right now, I still can give her a great custom made t-shirt as an emotional gift").

But Zazzle also has to focus on a number of challenges:

  • Create a site and corporate image that appeals to many different stakeholders, from brand managers at Disney to freelance independent designers in the Gothic Scene, all using the same platform to distribute their products.
  • Manage client conflicts: Zazzle enables its corporate clients to extend their assortment into the custom product line, but at the same time, Zazzle also creates competing assortments by other vendors in the same category. This can lead to channel conflict.
  • Educate their customers: Being ahead in technology and mass-customization-thinking, Zazzle has to educate it different kinds of users what it is able to do – and what they are able to do with Zazzle.
  • To keep technology leadership, continuous investments in the technology platform is required, also including more and more complex integration of new technologies into the current platform.
  • How to grow really big: While Zazzle had remarkable growth in the past, it still has to become the Google of products. What is their strategy to put all the existing amazing technologies and market knowledge together and to create really scalable growth beyond the niches?

So I think we should stay tuned what Zazzle (and their equally strong competitors like Cafepress and Spreadshirt) are turning out in the next months … these are some of the most interesting players in the mass customization market out there in the moment.

Context: Zazzle Blog

2 12, 2008

DemandMade launches YERZIES.com, extending apparel customization beyond screen printing by providing users access to advanced manufacturing methods

By | 2018-06-14T11:11:09+00:00 Dezember 2nd, 2008|Clothing, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Design, T-Shirts, User Manufacturing|

News from DemandMade and Scott Killian.
Scott, together with his business partner Tim Brule, launched Yerzies.com, an online marketplace that "allows anyone to create, purchase or sell their own customized tee shirts, hoodies and other apparel items."  

Sounds familiar? Yes, Zazzle, Spreadshirt, Cafepress, any many more offer the same. But the differences are in the detail.  

Asked how Yerzies is different, Scott answers: "Although other Websites exist that allow you to design a tee shirt, we've dramatically expanded the variety of creative options and developed new approaches to the way users can profit from their creations."

Read an interview with Scott Killian in the next posting in this blog!

Beyond printed tee shirts, Yerzies enables the creation of stitched sweatshirts and mixed-media designs that include many advanced processes to create apparel which more closely resembles the design trends seen at retail. Yerzies' innovative product configurator allows users to access an unprecedented array of creative options including printing on dark garments, metallic foils, flocks, glitters, glow-in-the-dark materials, and stitched processes.

Buyers are also invited to "Make it Yerz", a feature that allows users to mix and match product options and in some cases, even make modifications to the content created by other users. Yerzies has also reengineered the way user-generated content is marketed.

When users are finished, they can purchase as little as one piece or sell their creations to the Yerzies community and keep the profits. All products are produced on-demand.

Yerzies thus combines advanced new manufacturing techniques with an innovative approach to crowd sourcing. It is another example of the developing trend of user manufacturing and my hypothesis that users are getting more and more advanced manufacturing technology in their hands.

In addition to providing a platform for user-generated content, Yerzies has also licensed content from third-parties including typefaces from designers such as Ray Larabie which users can incorporate into their designs.

Scott: "Helvetica and Times Roman might work nicely for writing a novel, but they don't necessarily look great on a hooded sweatshirt. We've licensed trend-right typefaces that will actually look cool on a tee shirt or hoodie."

The story behind Yerzies: An interview with Scott Killian.

2 12, 2008

Interview: Scott Killian, Co-Founder of Yerzies, DemandMade, and FanBuz

By | 2018-06-14T11:11:12+00:00 Dezember 2nd, 2008|Clothing, Co-creation, Interview, T-Shirts|

An interview with US mass customization veteran Scott Killian on what are his objectives with Yerzies (see previous posting) and what he sees next.

Scott Killian
Scott Killian has been advising and operating successful e-commerce companies for 10 years — most notably as Chairman & CEO of FanBuzz, a leading e-commerce outsourcing and fulfillment company. Killian co-founded mass customization site FanBuzz in 1996. In 2000, Killian raised the first of two private equity rounds for the company totaling $10 million. Scott has been a long-time advocate for the use of mass customization to better understand consumer preferences, reduce inventory, improve assortment flexibility, and enhance the overall brand experience for consumer products. His insights have been featured in such national publications as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and CBS Marketwatch.

Frank Piller: What is the idea behind your new venture, Yerzies?

Scott Killian: We began about three years ago with DemandMade, a software platform that helps manufacturers adapt their production processes to support units of one and online retailers to effectively communicate with these factories. As the network of manufacturers using our platform grew, a consumer-facing opportunity of our own began to emerge.

Retailers were taking advantage of the platform, but most of them lacked the expertise in product development they needed to really get the most out of the manufacturing options we made available to them. Yerzies effectively places the capabilities and the limitations of these factories into the hands of ordinary people. We've begun with apparel, but we will be adding more product categories soon.

Not only is Yerzies a platform for user-generated content, we're also entering into licensing relationships with a diverse group of brands that will allow us to offer a "long tail" assortment of designs and intellectual property from movies, television, lifestyle properties and consumer products companies. Customers will have the option to purchase or customize products bearing these trademarks.

Finally, we're also providing many of these same tools to other retailers and content properties who wish to offer products that are made on demand. For example, a major consumer brand is using DemandMade this holiday season to launch an entire apparel program which will be produced on demand in our factories.

FP: But your roots in mass customization are much older. You are a co- founder of FanBuzz, a large provider of customized sports apparel, started in 1996 as one of the first BtoC mass customization operations in the US. Later, you started DemandMade as a BtoB enabler of mass customization. How did you incorporate your experiences from FanBuzz and DemandMade into Yerzies?

SK: After we sold FanBuzz in 2002, I began providing advisory services to online retailers and consumer products companies, including several projects involving mass customization. DemandMade started in early 2005 and is now the parent company to Yerzies. All of these experiences required us to "get our hands dirty" along the entire length of the value chain and I think that was a tremendous advantage for us over somebody just getting into this business. We learned a great deal about licensing, how to connect the manufacturing processes with the end consumer, the danger of burdening users with too many choices, how to scale these programs, etc…

What's really interesting about Yerzies is that the entire business began with a three-year investment in the back office. When it came time for us to develop a consumer-facing application, we were able to do it on a strong foundation. Despite our interest in concepts and processes, we have strong roots in retail so we're really here to create merchandising programs that capture the hearts and minds of end consumers. This is always our first priority.

FP: What are future steps planned for Yerzies?

SK: We're just getting out of the gate right now so our immediate focus is on attracting an initial audience of users. In the coming months we'll be announcing some interesting twists to our business model which will help us draw an even larger mainstream audience, but we're satisfied for the moment to operate in beta mode while we whittle away bugs and garner feedback from early adopters. In the meantime, watch for a huge increase in the number of licensed properties. We've signed many that we haven't announced yet and we're currently in active discussions with many more. We'll also be expanding the array of embellishment options in Q1 of 2009. Despite the launch of Yerzies, DemandMade continues to support other retailers who are launching programs. We will be announcing several of these before the 2008/09 holiday season.

FP: More general, what are recent trends you see with regard to mass customization?

SK: If the first wave of innovation we saw online was about letting users create or configure a customized item, then the second wave is clearly about the intersection of social networking and mass customization. Although Etsy.com isn't a mass customizer, they have proven that users are not content to merely sell the items they've created, they want affirmation and interaction with other users. Since eBay has long dominated the online auction world, conventional wisdom would suggest that a start-up like Etsy would have no chance at success, but they provided a sense of community and a platform that respected the handmade items these folks were creating and that was perhaps more important to these users than the size of the audience.

If I've seen a trend, it's the recognition that these communities will be important to the long-term success Iof many mass customization programs. Ponoko and Red Bubble are two really interesting examples of this at work.

FP: What would be your main advice for a manager who wants to lead a mass customization implementation?

SK: In larger organizations, the development and execution of these programs often requires a diverse group of departments to coordinate their responsibilities. As you can imagine, getting folks from engineering, product development, legal, marketing, creative and operations to huddle around an entirely new concept they may not completely understand (or even believe in) is a major task. My advice to someone trying to develop a program like this within a major company is to make sure they have support at the highest level within the organization – they'll probably need it.

Regardless of the program size, unless the brand has some other strategic objective, most of these programs are still retail businesses at their core. As such, it should always start with the customer. I've been involved in the planning and execution of many mass customization programs, including some for major consumer products brands and I think it's very easy for management to project its own preferences or assumptions onto these projects without first identifying and understanding the customer. People create, modify and personalize products for many different reasons. Although it might be impossible to address all of them, I think it's critically important to understand what customers really want before investing in the idea

29 09, 2008

The Top 20 of Mass Customization: A closer view on the agenda of the MIT Smart Customization Seminar

By | 2018-06-14T12:53:30+00:00 September 29th, 2008|Cases-Consumer, Cases-Industrial, Clothing, Customization Trends, Events, Personalization, Research Studies, Sneaker, T-Shirts|

The upcoming Smart Customization Seminar at MIT will gather a great group of individuals representing some of the most advanced and interesting businesses in mass customization today. The seminar is targeting executives in the mass customization market and companies interested in launching a mass customization business or applying some of its principles to boost an established business.

Here is a more detailed look on the program with some comments. Participate at this unique event and register today!

For the full program, go the the seminar's web site at MIT.

MONDAY, NOV 10, 2008 (starting at 2pm)

Introduction & opening addresses: Frank Piller & B. Joseph Pine II, MIT Smart Customization Group: Joe Pine and I will start the seminar with two short keynotes highlighting key aspects of matters today in mass customization. We also want to provide a framework how to navigate the two days during the seminar.

AdidasMass Customization Leaders: Adidas, Alison Page, Director, Mass Customization: Adidas' mass customization offering mi adidas is the premier example of custom sports wear since 2001, combining customization in all three dimensions: fit, style, and functionality (performance). Alison Page will talk about the learning of establishing the customization business unit within a global corporation.

Mass Customization Leaders: Business-to-Business Leader
We are talking to one of the most advaced examples of BtoB customization. Come back to see who will be speaking in this slot.

Mass Customization Next Generation: Spreadshirt, Inc. Jana Eggers, CEO
Spreadshirt represents a new breed of mass customization, combining personal creativity with the power of the social web. Spreadshirt has recently made it into the Top 5 European Growth list "Europe's 500". CEO Jana Eggers will share her experiences with leading a major customization brand, connecting average consumers, artists and corporations like Samsung, Coca Cola, or Chuck Norris.

Open Space discussion: Defining your mass customization strategy
Meet with a smaller group of peers to discuss your mass customization challenges and experiences. Groups will be facilitated by a leading professor in the field, providing also first-hand insight into the latest research to master your challenges.

Reception and networking dinner in the MIT Faculty Club

Tuesday, NOV 11, 2008

MitchellOpening address: William Mitchell, MIT Smart Customization Group, is a Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences at MIT and directs the Media Lab's Smart Cities research group. Before coming to MIT, he was Professor of Architecture and Director of the Master in Design Studies Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He also taught at Yale, UCLA, Carnegie-Mellon, and Cambridge Universities. He holds a BArch from the University of Melbourne, MED from Yale University, and MA from Cambridge. He is a recipient of honorary doctorates from the University of Melbourne and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. In 1997 he was awarded the annual Appreciation Prize of the Architectural Institute of Japan for his "achievements in the development of architectural design theory in the information age as well as worldwide promotion of CAD education."Mitchell is currently chair of The National Academies Committee on Information Technology and Creativity.

Mass Customization Leaders: Masters in Configuration, Lars Hvam and Niels Henrik Mortensen, DTU and Co-authors of "Product Customization":
Lars Hvam and Niels Henrik Mortensen are co-authors of the 2008 book "Product Customization: Designing Configuration Systems". Configuration is a key capability for mass customization. But setting up a configuration system is a holistic task that demands much more than just dealing with IT. Lars and Niels developed a methodology to implement a configuration system that helped pump manufacturer Grundfos to react on customer orders in 3 minutes instead of 3 days. American Power Conversion (APC), an infrastructure provider for data centers, could reduce its delivery time from 400 to 16 days. Learn from these and other examples how the latest methods for designing modular product architectures and configuration toolkits can improve the efficiency and customer satisfaction in your mass customization business.

Mass Customization Supply Chain Enablers: CustoMax.com, Bas Possen, Founder & CEO:
"In general, too little use is made of the advantage, that all people are different." That's the credo of Bas Possen who manages Europe's largest network of retailers for mass customization, combining multiple vendors of custom goods and retailers on one single platform, both online and offline. Bas Possen brings more than a decade of experience in mass customization to the meeting, having established a number of successful companies in the field.

Mass Customization Entrepreneurs: Meet the next generation of mass customization: Following MIT's entrepreneurial spirit, we proudly present some of the best upcoming new ventures in mass customization. Learn from the founders what motivated them to invest in a mass customization business and get the latest insights from their research and experiences.

Paragon Lake just secured more than $7 million of additional financing, demonstrating ist leadership in the custom jewelry industry. Tikatok is an award-winning idea that empowers children to create their own books and get them produced in large or small quantities. MyFactory and Proper Cloth are start-ups
of resent MIT Sloan School graduates in the field of custom fashion and
apparel. Look for their latest ideas how they want to differentiate
their sites in a crowded market. Sole Envie targets to become the first company in the US selling custom made footwear to women with a high design appeal.

All companies will be presented by their founders and CEOs and will
provide a great opportunity to learn about what's hot in the
mization market today and what market & technology trends are
coming up.

Matt Lauzon, Co-Founder & CEO, Paragon Lake (Jewelry)
Sharon Kan, President & CEO, Tikatok, Inc. (Children books)
Sasha Revankar, Founder, MyFactory (Fashion)
Seph Skerritt, Founder, Proper Cloth (Shirts)
Monika Desai, Founder, Sole Envie (Women's footwear)

Mass Customization Integrators: Zazzle Inside: How Zazzle's infrastructure enabled Keds to offer custom sneakers rapidly, Zazzle, Inc., and Keds Corporation:
Zazzle is the only on-demand retail platform for consumers and major brands, offering billions of one-of-a-kind products shipped within 24hours. Users can instantly create, customize to fit their personal style, purchase, and sell a near infinite array of products online. In an exclusive partnership with sportswear icon Keds, the inventor of the "sneaker", Zazzle created its first line of fully customizable sports shoes. The presentation will share the creation of a new customization assortment for Keds.

Mass Customization Leaders: Swarovski: How a leading international brand co-creates products with their customers, tba, Swarovski, Inc. & Johann Fueller, CEO, Hyve AG: 
Swarovski is the luxury brand name for crystals around the world. With sales of more than $3 billion, the Swarovski group is one of the largest players in its industry. Still, Swarovski's organization is very customer-centric. Recently, the company explored a number of co-creation and customization initiatives which will be presented in this talk. The co-presenter of this talk will be Johann Fueller, who was responsible for the realization and implementation of several customer co-design toolkits at Swarovski.

Desktop factory
Mass Customization Next Generation: Desktop Factory, Inc., Cathy Lewis, CEO:
The goal of Desktop Factory is to make 3D printing as common in offices, factories, schools and homes as laser printers are today. Just as laser printers became ubiquitous in the last decade, so too will new uses for 3D printing emerge as devices become inexpensive and widely available. Customization and personalization is the main driver behind this trend. Started in 2004, Desktop Factory is the leading company to build a manufacturing system for each customer for less than $5000.

Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Mass Customization, Ethan Mollick, MIT Sloan School:
Some of the world's best configuration toolkits today are not being developed to sell automotives or complex machine tools, but videogames. In his presentation, Ethan Mollick will share the latest insights on configuration toolkit development in this industry and what you can learn from this to develop state-of-the-art toolkits for your business. With David Edery, Ethan Mollick is the co-author of "Changing the Game: How Videogames are Transforming the Business World" (2008, Pearson Education/Financial Times Press).

Ifashion Mass Customization Next Generation: i-Fashion: The Future of
Personalization Today. Chang Kyu Park, Director, i-Fashion Technology
Center, Korea and Yongsoo Park, CEO, i-Omni Co. Ltd., Korea
: Virtual representations of products and customers are a key capacity of successful mass customization & personalization. They match customers' preferences to products and configurations. The i-Fashion Consortium in Korea operates one of the world's most advanced set-ups of virtual reality. Using virtual models based on an Intellifit body scan, consumers get personalized recommendations of products they may like. At the same time, vendors' efficiency increases due to the virtual — and not physical — representation of products for most stages of the value chain. Chang Kyu Park will discuss present achievements if i-Fashion and provide recommendations on using virtual models in your organization.

Open Space discussion: Implementing Mass Customization:
Meet with a smaller group of peers to discuss your mass customization challenges and experiences. Groups will be facilitated by a leading professor in the field, providing also first-hand insight into the latest research to master your challenges.

Closing comments by Frank Piller & B. Joseph Pine II, MIT Smart Customization Group

For the full program and registration, go the the seminar's web site at MIT.

24 05, 2008

Threadless – the full story: Inc. Magazine Feature on Threadless

By | 2018-06-14T12:54:35+00:00 Mai 24th, 2008|Clothing, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Design, MC Alternatives, MC/OI on the Web, Open/User Innovation, T-Shirts|

Max Chafkin,
a staff writer the US Entrepreneurship journal Inc. Magazine, has written a great report on Threadless  for the June 2008 issue of the magazine. It is available in a free online pre-press version now.

Max tells the entire story of Threadless, starting with the episode of a meeting at MIT where the Threadless guys gave one of their first public presentations. I had the privilege to be part of this meeting, and it is fun to read about it in paper (especially as I am at MIT in the moment, writing these lines from the same building where we had the initial meeting with Threadless).

Max did a great job in documenting the history and genesis of Threadless, but also reflecting on its future. Here are some quotes of Max' analysis of the case, but head to the website to read the entire article:

On Threadless' Size and Development

This rapid engagement propelled the company through four years of phenomenal growth, beginning around 2004. The user base grew tenfold, from 70,000 members at the end of 2004 to more than 700,000 today. Sales in 2006 hit $18 million — with profits of roughly $6 million. In 2007, growth continued at more than 200 percent, with similar margins. Though Nickell refuses to disclose the exact revenue number — perhaps because he now counts Insight Venture Partners, a New York venture capital firm, as a minority shareholder — it seems fair to assume that Threadless sold more than $30 million in T-shirts last year.

Ask Nickell what he makes of his company's whirlwind success, and he will respond rather sheepishly. "I think of it as common sense," he says. "Why wouldn't you want to make the products that people want you to make?" Indeed, the idea that the users of products are often best equipped to innovate is something many entrepreneurs know intuitively.

And it is supported by a growing body of research. A study published last year in the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal suggested that the vast majority of companies are founded by "user-entrepreneurs" — people who went into business to improve a product they used. Meanwhile, studies by von Hippel and others show that in industries as diverse as scientific instruments and snowboard equipment, more than half the innovations generally come from users, not from research labs.

On user innovation and the resistance of traditional companies to adopt it

Some companies actually punish these people by cracking down on unauthorized innovations. Apple has famously "bricked" — that is, electronically disabled — iPhones that have been enhanced by their owners. Other companies pay lip service to user innovation but have trouble following through on the concept. "Companies are very good at creating platforms for external input, but they're very bad at using this input," says Frank Piller …

Threadless is an exception to this. "You could say that what Threadless does is trivial, but it's not," says Harvard's Lakhani. In fact, the very triviality of Threadless's product — something as low tech and as commoditized as a T-shirt — proves that vibrant online communities can drive all sorts of nontechnical businesses. This should be encouraging news to entrepreneurs. Customer communities have become exceedingly inexpensive to build and manage; blogging software and social network platforms, for example, are now available for free from a handful of start-ups. "We thought that open source could only work in software, and now it's being successfully applied to a product as mundane as a T-shirt," Lakhani says.

On Threadless' Corporate Culture and Work Style

[Today], the company is suspiciously companylike. The go-carts generally stay parked, the buck stays mute, and the Ping-Pong table serves as a gathering place for impromptu meetings. "When I started, we spent half the day playing," says Lance Curran, a bearded 29-year-old wearing a beanie, jeans, and a flannel shirt. "That doesn't happen anymore." This is not to say Curran doesn't like his job. On the contrary, he nearly glows when he talks about his rise from a temporary warehouse worker in 2005 to the warehouse manager in charge of a staff of 18 today. …

Like Curran, most of Threadless's employees come with no obvious qualifications for their jobs. The oldest staff member is 33, and many are under 25. The employees do, however, arrive with a deep and abiding love of Threadless, having joined the community long before they entered the work force.

Joe Van Wetering, a 21-year-old illustrator who works in the production department, was a frequent visitor to Threadless's offices as a teenager before taking a job in the warehouse in 2006. Ross Zietz had won seven competitions while studying art at Louisiana State University before he took a job as the company's janitor in 2004. He has since been promoted to art director, charged with helping the winning designers get their entries ready for printing. In fact, 75 percent of the company's 50 employees were community members before they were hired.

On other product categories Threadless is exploring

Now, Nickell is set to let his club loose on other businesses. In addition to expanding to children's clothing and retail, Threadless will begin selling prints and posters online. And later this year, the company will add a range of products, including handbags, wallets, and dinnerware, under the brand Naked & Angry. Each item will be adorned with patterns submitted by users, with a new product launched each month. "I think Naked & Angry, if handled properly, has the potential to be way bigger than Threadless, because we have the flexibility to do everything," says Kalmikoff, who envisions moving into high-end clothing as well as housewares. Jeff Lieberman, managing director of Insight Venture Partners and a board member, is even more bullish. "To say it's just a T-shirt company is absurd," he says. "I look at it as a community company that happens to use T-shirts as a canvas."

And Max' final evaluation of Threadless' Business Model: A fundamental economic shift

The way Eric von Hippel sees it, Threadless has tapped into a fundamental economic shift, a movement away from passive consumerism. One day in the not-too-distant future, he says, citizen inventors using computer design programs and three-dimensional printers will exchange physical prototypes in much the same way Nickell and cohorts played Photoshop tennis.

Eventually, Threadless-like communities could form around industries as diverse as semiconductors, auto parts, and toys. "Threadless is one of the first firms to systematically mine a community for designs, but everything is moving in this direction," says von Hippel. He foresees research labs and product-design divisions at manufacturing companies being outstripped by an "innovation commons" made up of tinkerers, hackers, and other devout customers freely sharing their ideas. The companies that win will be the ones that listen.

This may or may not come to pass, but the lesson of Threadless is more basic. Its success demonstrates what happens when you allow your company to become what your customers want it to be, when you make something as basic and quaint as "trust" a core competency. Threadless succeeds by asking more than any modern retail company has ever asked of its customers — to design the products, to serve as the sales force, to become the employees. Nick
ell has pioneered a new kind of innovation. It doesn't require huge research budgets or creative brilliance — just a willingness to keep looking outward.

– My earlier reports on Threadless are here and here.
– The full Inc. Magazin article

Read More
22 05, 2008

Spreadshirt Reveals New Crowdsourced Logo

By | 2018-06-14T12:54:38+00:00 Mai 22nd, 2008|Clothing, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Design, Open/User Innovation, T-Shirts|

Remember the Spreadshirt Crowdsourcing contest to get a new logo from its community, the Open Logo Project 1.6 (OLP) ? I was part of the judging panel, and it was a fun activity to do. "We wanted to take this to the community who use, create and live our product, rather than to an agency", Jana Eggers, Spreadshirt CEO, is quoted in a press release.

The results were in at the end of the year, and now finally the winning logo has been placed on the site and all CI materials. Kim Larsen’s ‘Love Tab’ was the winning design, chosen from 2,800 submissions (from 45 countries). Kim is a 23 year old graphic and interactive media designer from Sweden.

"I wanted to make personal branding visually simple and to embed a symbol everyone can relate to.", he says, "The heart resonates with the feeling of love you have for something you’ve created and the stitching with the hand-crafted nature of the product."

– My previous report about the contest.
– The official contest site
Press release at Spreadshirt (and I do not know whether being a web 2.0 guru is a good thing or not today).