Mass customization has become a dominant global trend in sales, KPMG and IFH Cologne’s Consumer Barometer shows. Three in 10 consumers say they have already ordered a custom-made product and half who have not say they could see themselves doing so in the near future.
Three in five consumers who have bought a customized product expect there will be more personalized products available in the future. Over half of consumers who have bought customized products say they are willing to pay more for them.
Meeting consumer demand for personalized products is made possible by technological innovations that have transformed the nature of sales in recent years. Here’s a look at three technological trends that are helping make mass customization the future of sales.
One of the key technologies enabling mass customization is 3-D printing. Because 3-D printing relies on digital blueprint designs, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to make alterations to designs to fit customer preferences.
You don’t need to make tool or mold changes between production runs as you would with a traditional production process. Three-dimensional printers can also use different materials and colors for the same design. These properties make 3-D printing more cost-efficient for mass customization than standard production methods.
A good illustration of the customization capability of 3-D printing is o-rings. O-rings are used as seals for an enormous range of products and functions, requiring highly precise custom fits as well as highly specialized custom materials.
Manufacturers who use 3-D printing are able to offer o-rings in as many as 8,000 different sizes. Clients can also request products to made out of a widely diverse range of substances, including fluorocarbon, nitrile, and ethylene-propylene. Three-dimensional printing allows manufacturers to offer this wide selection of materials and sizes on demand.
3-D Scanning and Modeling
Three-dimensional printing depends on accurate 3-D models of desired products. One way to create such models is through 3-D scanning and modeling, another key technology underpinning mass customization.
Three-dimensional scanners can capture the image of a physical object and transform into a digital model, which can then be manipulated into a blueprint suitable for 3-D printing.
Three-dimensional scanning is particularly important in the medical industry, where it can be used to create 3-D scans of body parts. For instance, engineers have used scans of legs in order to create 3-D models for 3-D printing prosthetic limbs. Dentists use 3-D scanning to help prepare dental implants.
Other technologies support mass customization by empowering companies to offer customers online previews of customized options. One of the most important technologies in this category is online configurators.
Online configurators are software programs that allow website visitors to see a 2-D or 3-D model of a product, apply customized options to the model and generate a quote based on the selected specifications. Some configurators support virtual reality simulations of products.
Configurators may come bundled with recommendation engines, which help suggest products based on customer profiles and preferences. Configurators can be operated by a trained sales representative or by customers themselves.
One industry that has invested heavily in online configurators is the automotive industry. Automotive manufacturers use online configurators to allow buyers to preview car features such as colors, bumpers, tires and trim levels.
Clothing and cosmetics manufacturers have also been early adopters of online configurators. Online configurators effectively make consumers co-designers of the products they create and buy, boosting customer engagement and satisfaction.
Mass customization depends on 3-D printing and 3-D scanning and modeling in order to cost-efficiently produce products tailored to consumer specifications.
Online configurators allow customers to participate in the design process, boosting consumer enthusiasm for mass-customized products. Together these technologies help make mass customization one of the most successful and important sales trends today.