Also today’s small businesses can benefit from online customization in ways other than higher prices and the competitive advantage of offering unique products. By having an integral role in the design process customers identify themselves more strongly with both the product and the brand, provide valuable insights into upcoming trends and even act as brand ambassadors, spreading the word effectively via social media.
While corporate giants, such as Nike, are often mentioned as the pioneers of online customization, nowadays manufacturing companies that excel at offering innovative online customization most often belong to the group of small and medium-sized enterprises. They are, in many ways, much better suited for this sales model and, with approximately 80% of all U.S. manufacturing companies having less than 50 employees, there are lots of potential new candidates out there.
Small businesses, due to the size of their workforce, typically employ (local) manual or small batch production, which is more suitable for individual customization than the offshore mass production facilities of multinationals. Thus with the right range of products, a small business can offer a higher degree of customization and quickly adapt to changes in demand.
Overcoming Personalization Obstacles
Since online customization means selling directly to customers via the Internet the savings on retail and agent costs can be used to offer unique products at a very competitive price. The downside to this is, that a small business with no prior e-commerce experience needs to overcome some obstacles.
The amount of work required to devise and program an interactive online user interface is often underestimated, as are its costs. When developing such online configuration interfaces, the customer’s wish for personalization will have to be balanced against usability concerns and production issues. Online marketing and distribution logistics are other crucial aspects when trying to run a successful online shop.
While offering online customization requires significantly more than just a simple online shop, for innovative small businesses with prior experience as producers of personalized items this latest e-commerce trend might be well worth the risks.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Dominik Thor is CEO and Founder of Company of Glovers, an online customization startup that lets customers design their own gloves and is regarded as one of the most innovative new names to enter the e-commerce fashion industry. Dominik Thor holds a PHD in social and economic sciences and shares his experience in online customization as a speaker at startup events and as an university lecturer. Connect with @gloverscompany on Twitter.
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