Thursday, September 23, 2010

On Customization

In the world of consumer products and services, new trends are emerging all the time – almost every second it seems. And after 15 seconds, it’s already old.

On Monday, everything is “better, more enhanced,” and by Friday, consumers are gravitating (back) towards something smaller, sleeker and shinier.

Of course, it’s a given that anything high-tech or “smart” like cars and phones is where we are headed, but what are other emerging trends? A recent article in the Wall Street Journal says that now, it’s all about customization.

According to Sarah Needleman @ WSJ, business experts are claiming that more consumers are buying more custom-made products. One 27-year-old New Yorker paid $1,250 for a custom mattress that he designed and purchased on

And it doesn’t stop there. Customizable products are popping up all over the place. Check out a company called Rickshaw Bagworks – I just customized a cover for my iPad (and no, I did not get paid to write that!)

If you can buy it, it seems you can customize it.

But let’s think about it…. Customizable products are more laborious and expensive to build, right? So, how does this model work given today’s economic climate? “Experts” believe that it is the economy that is the contributing factor to the growth of this trend. That and companies like TreeHouse Logic who are developing the back-end technology so that you and I can beddazle our toasters. And while customized products may seem a little more expensive than off-the-shelf, they still don’t compare with spending big bucks on luxury items (jewelry, cars, and lavish vacations). We still gotta have a little luxury in our lives, and customization is filling that spot.

What about the business model, is it sustainable, profitable? Startup costs are reduced as most of these businesses operate solely online, with limited inventory and a JIT mindset. Quoting from the WSJ, Dace Venture Finances stated that the number of custom businesses they finance has gone from just one or two to thousands in a very short time. also stated they currently have 1,000 listings, up from just 300 in 2009.

Maybe I’m on to something.

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