With the increasing demand of customers to be able to customize, companies are analyzing what customers really want by ‘capturing the voice of the customer’. According to Carulli et al. (2013), this is one of the strategies that can be used to have an effective product development process. By capturing the voice of the customer, it is possible to incorporate customer needs into features of a product. This can be enabled by using the method of virtual reality technologies.
Although 3D printing is not completely adopted by companies yet, it provides the opportunity to let consumers customize products to their needs. This is due to the fact that this way of producing provides flexibility (D’Aveni, 2015). Therefore, new business initiatives emerge that make use of 3D printing for ‘mass’ customization. An example is a company called Digital Forming. Within the company’s app, customers are able to adjust product parameters such as shape, color, size and materials. There is a professional design that serves as a basis for the design process. Therefore, the company also refers to it as ‘co-design’. Examples of products that can be customized and 3D printed by Digital Forming are jewelry, iPhone cases and coffee cups. After the customer has designed its product, it is produced in a 3D printing manufacturing facility of Digital Forming.
Have you ever wanted to have a unique fragrance? Do you think this will be a perfect gift for someone? Well, now you have the possibility to make your own fragrance! The company called Scentcrafters is an online retailer which offers producing a customized perfume according to your own preferences. So, here it how it works. You are able to mix up to five different scents. These can be already existing perfumes like for instance Guilty by Gucci or Tommy Girl, or you can pick an aroma like vanilla or lavender. If you are not sure which scents you would like to mix, then you can just describe the smell you would like to have, for instance “I want it to be fresh with some flower or fruit tones”. Following that, you can choose the recipe, which will be used to produce the scent, or you can create your own one. Apart from customizing your own scent, customers of the successful online company have the possibility to give a special name to their newly created perfume. What is more, the bottle can feature a whole personalized message as well, in order to make it even more special and unique. If you would like to have your own logo or picture printed on the bottle – this is no problem, Scentcrafters can do that, while resizing and adjusting your image in order for it to fit perfectly on the bottle. Furthermore, the company offers a great diversity of bottle designs available from which you can choose the one which you like the most, or the one which fits best with the idea behind the scent you are creating. Also there exists the possibility to change the colour of the liquid inside the bottle. This means that your perfume can be clear, pink, light blue or light yellow. The last step of the customization process is filling in your postal address and payment details so that your uniquely created scent can be shipped to your home.
This type of customer empowerment to create new products is one of the most effective ways in which companies can achieve positive effects with respect to customer satisfaction and the image, which companies have created for themselves. The article called “Customer Empowerment in New Product Development” by Fuchs and Schreier (2011) says that customer empowerment can lead to positive effects in three main factors. Firstly, it leads to increase in the levels of customer orientation, perceived by customers. Secondly, customer empowerment in product development results in more favourable corporate attitudes. And finally, it leads to stronger behavioural intentions.
In the case of Scentcrafers, the customer empowerment in new product development is in the core of the business model, therefore, all of its positive effects and risks should be carefully considered. The great opportunity for personalization and creating unique products are a good way to attract the customers who value and want customization. However, sometimes the making of scents requires some expertise since customers do not necessarily know which combinations will be successful and which will not. Moreover, the use of already known brand names as a component of the new mixtures can lead to some problems with patents and rights to use the brand name.
All in all, the idea behind Scentcrafters is very innovative and offers a great opportunity for customization. So, how will your new perfume be called?
Fuchs, C. and Schreier, M. (2011), Customer Empowerment in New Product Development. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 28: 17–32. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5885.2010.00778.x
Do you recognize the feeling that finding your bike in the city depots is like finding a needle in a haystack? Or do you feel like traditional black or grey bikes are just not that cool anymore and you feel the urge that you want to express yourself in any way possible? If the answer is yes, BEICK is maybe the ideal solution for your problem!
Beick is a Dutch company who offers their (potential) customers the possibility to create their own unique bike. From a large offer of different ‘standard bikes’ BIECKS makes is possible to customize your bike to match your own preferences and needs. They want to approach the customer segment that feels that riding a bike is more than a functional activity and/or people who wants to express and share their creativity in every activity they during the day.
How does it work? Beick offers the customers the possibility to customize their bikes by using an online toolkit (based on DPI) on their website which guides the customer through a process to build his own ‘unique’ bike, step-by-step. You start from scratch by choosing the ‘basics’ as the type of gear used in the bike, the colour and size of the tires, the type of seat and so on until you reach a fully operational bike. Assuming that there will be questions raised how changing these functionalities can lead to an assurance that your bike is YOUR bike and that it is unique, Beick has developed step two. This step will be done by deciding which colours are used on the different parts of your bike. After choosing and customizing ‘your’ bike it is possible to finalize your bike by offering a large variety of accessories that will be attached to your bike. Think of different type of bells, baskets or lock that is used on your bike. At the end it should lead to a unique bike, which is according to Beick affordable, durable and delivered with a high quality service. The service on the bike is five years, on the accessories two years and any possible reparations or modifications is done at your home by a qualified bicycle repairer.
The customer input is used actively and they function as co-creators for mass customization of the bikes of Beick. Although the customers mainly benefit themselves from being a co-creator, Beick also shows the last sold customized bikes and the ten most popular ‘standard’ bikes which is also beneficiary for others. They can gather inspiration or even purchase the same bikes as others did before them. Beick has done a good job to minimize process complexity by offering a clear and easy step-by-step method to finalize your bike and not offering too many variations in design. Although this has a positive outcome on the perceived ease-of-use of the online toolkit I think it also hinders the product utility of the bikes of BIECK. It is not possible to choose any possible colour, but only some standard colours. Also the accessories could be more refreshing in terms of creativity. For example they could work together with a company as Veloretti which offers unique accessories to really let your bike stand out a biking country such as the Netherlands.
In my opinion Beick has a big potential in a country as the Netherlands, where 34% of the daily trips shorter than 7.5km is done by making use of a bicycle. Combine this with the current trend of being different and potential high revenues and high premiums. However, the current concept of Beick has some flaws that hinders to reach his full potential. The website is only offered in Dutch, which already cuts a share of the population in the Netherlands, which do not understand the language sufficiently to order a bike at Beick. Assuming that their potential customers mainly live in the bigger cities in the Netherlands such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, where extrovertness is more accepted and present, translating the website in different languages will be highly advised for increasing revenue. Furthermore, the customization is not that intensive enough to fully exploit the creativity of the user and warrant the uniqueness of the bike, something that is promised by Beick and is their main value proposition.
Concluding,Beick is a creative way of involving customers in the creation process and offering them mass customization of bikes. However, at the moment the base for selling a unique bike is implemented well, but they should innovate themselves to protectBeick from competition and devaluation of the bikes. When the amount of bikes increases and customers will notice a lot of similarities among bikes, will probably makes them feel less ‘unique’, which is a high risk forBeick and should be handled immediately.
The customer as a co-creator is becoming more important. Self-design is a new trend. Nowadays customers can customize anything; from self-designed skis (e.g. Edelwiser), to suggesting preferable food flavours (e.g. Lays). Many companies offer their customers a so-called Mass Customization (MC) toolkit to design their own products online. But isn’t it extremely inefficient and difficult to create all these self-designs separately? Isn’t it extremely costly in terms of time and money, for company and customer, to make use of this isolated, dyadic interaction process between an individual customer and the Mass Customization toolkit?
When you are less experienced in designing your own product, you will cope with a lot of difficulties. If you lack experience and/or creativity, you have to create ideas by brainstorming with other people and get inspiration from existing designs on the Internet. If someone asks an inexperienced person to design its own product, and they have to start from scratch they would definitely have a hard time figuring out where to start and what their actual preferences are. This is mainly because there are a lot of possibilities. Many people would start with designing different alternatives but this trial-and-error method is really time-consuming and not effective.
Above-mentioned statements and arguments are reasons for Franke, Keinz and Schreier (2008) to do some research about the Mass Customization toolkit. They thought about how to improve these toolkits, and they did some research whether it would be useful to include user communities.
They found out that peer-generated design solutions and peer-based feedback should be included in the existing MC toolkits because it would influence self-designs positively. More customers are able to design their own products by either adapting or getting inspired by other designs. Other users’ designs can be a great starting point for the less experienced designer. Think about the customized shoes from Nike or Vans. Before you create your own design, you will see a few designs that already have been created. There is an option to adapt these models or adapt a professional design. In other words, Nike/Vans creates a starting point for the less experienced designers and this will help customers to get a better outcome.
The peer-input can also be used as an external feedback channel. Through this way customers are able to show their preliminary product to others, who can help to improve the product. An example is SoundCloud. Anyone can upload their sounds and music and at the same time people are able to criticize and comment each other’s music. One of the community guidelines of SoundCloud is ‘Criticize, but do it constructively’. Because of the user community feedback, anyone can improve their songs. Figure 1. ‘Write your comment on SoundCloud’ (SoundCloud, 2015) https://soundcloud.com/claptone/gregory-porter-liquid-spirit-claptone-remix-preview
By integrating user communities in the MC toolkit, it is proved that customers are better able to create a more systematic problem-solving behaviour and it leads to self-designed products that meet the preferences of the customer more effectively.
Finally, there is one perfect example of a company that is making use of the integration of a user community: Threadless. When a potential customer starts to create their self-design, he has access to all the designs that have been created in the past. He is allowed to use and adapt other designs. After that the self-designer can ask the ‘Threadless community’ for help: ‘Do they like your design?’ and ‘Do they have any tips for improvements?’ Threadless is integrating both existing solution chunks and external feedback in the problem-solving behaviour. In the end this will lead to a more satisfied customer and the customer will value the product higher based on the perceived preference fit, purchase intention, and willingness to pay.
- Franke, N., Keinz, P., Schreier, M. (2008) Complementing Mass Customization Toolkits with User Communities: How Peer Input Improves Customer Self-Design. Product Innovation Management: 546-559.
- NIKEid (2015). http://www.nike.com/nl/nl_nl/c/nikeid?ref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.nl%2F
- SoundCloud Community Guidelines (2015). https://soundcloud.com/community-guidelines
- Vans, custom shoes (2015). http://www.vans.com/custom-shoes.html
Watch out, Generation X, Y and Z – a powerful new force in culture and commerce is emerging: Generation C. User generated “Content”, “Community”, “Creation”, “Connection” and “Curation” are its defining features. Spanning the generations its members are digital natives and exceptionally tech-adept, using the web to search for and create new content across all platforms – everywhere, everyday.
Within Generation C everyone is a blogger, everyone is an artist and everyone can be a designer. This phenomenon leads to an increasing dilution of the distinction between audience and speaker, consumer and creator. Therefore the desire for personalized products and services has never been greater. Tapping into this trend companies like M&M or Nike provide their customers with the opportunity to adjust designs and colors to their individual needs and thereby create their own personalized product versions within a given framework. Meanwhile mass customization is commonplace.
The need to express individuality particularly applies to high-involvement products like art or design. Many trends, such as the DIY (“Do-It-Yourself”) movement, also build on this phenomenon. DIY communities provide inspirations, guidelines and advice to create individual items, without any commercial intermediaries involved. But even if the creativity of Generation C members seems to be endless, their skills and also their time are finite. Productivity is restricted by the technical skills of the creator.
The business landscape is gradually adjusting to these developments. Continue reading CustomMade – Objectifying creative ideas