If you wanted a personalized product in the past, you had to pay a lot of money to get it. Most people had to make do with the mass-produced version, and leave customization options to the ultra-wealthy.
The structure of production, however, is changing significantly. The cost of complexity is falling, and now deep personalization is coming to more and more industries. Eventually, specifying the parameters of the product customers want to buy will become standard procedure.
To be fair, we already see this to a certain degree in traditional industries. Automakers, for instance, let customers choose the colour and wheel options on new cars. And some exclusive brands allow them to inscribe their names on the upholstery or door sills. However, true customization is also coming to the market, allowing clients to specify the precise features that they would like their products to have, all at remarkably low cost.
But why is this happening? What’s going on in the economy that is making this sort of thing a reality?
The Falling Cost Of Complexity
Industrialists developed the concept of mass production at the end of the nineteenth century as a way to keep costs down. Essentially, you set up the tools for making, say, a car. You then drove down the unit costs by creating tens of thousands of vehicles on the same platform, selling them for a profit.
The scheme worked exceptionally well and fundamentally put a stop to scarcity. Practically everyone can now own a car (and many other things besides). However, it came at the cost of standardization. If you wanted something a little different from the norm, it was prohibitively expensive.
New technologies, like 3D printing (and regular printing for that matter), are turning this situation around. Complexity is virtually free on these platforms, meaning that companies can produce bespoke goods a practically zero extra cost. Clients simply upload their plans, and that’s it.
This falling cost is going to have a profound impact on customer choices. At first, it’ll apply to visual embellishments. Over time, though, it could trickle down to the feature level – a truly profound development.
Improvements In Integration Software
At the same time, we’ve seen improvements in integration software linking customers to clients. For instance, you can now hop onto many websites and customize gifts that the host will then send in the post to whoever you like. Many firms now use an order management platform to link their customers to the core of their business. And it is proving to be a highly useful strategy.
Demand From Customers
Finally, there is a demand from customers. People are now so wealthy that they can meet most of their basic needs working just a couple of days a week. As a consequence, they’re not just looking for cheap, affordable products. Instead, they’re after something that reflects their personality and is unique to them. And, even more surprisingly, they’re willing to pay for it.
These factors are all coming together to change the nature of products.