Is mass customization the future of retail? Maybe.
Technology definitely makes the idea a lot closer to reality. Mass customization isn’t something new, but it’s something that has been recently reinvented by creative startup ventures. Custom clothes in have always been the ideal choice for trendsetters and forward thinkers. The concept breeds a whole new idea of individuality that startups most definitely understand.
When walking into the Normal retail space in NYC, it’s sort of like walking into the future. There are 3D printers, bright lights and colorful imagery taking up every corner of the space. But what makes Normal a thing of the future is not only its retail space and brand design but their idea of customization. Normal produces custom, high-end earphones through 3D printing right out of their storefront. It’s sound made perfectly for your own ears and quality that puts standardization to shame.
“We’re built to be some much larger than just headphones. There’s a lot of other products like jackets and footwear and clothing that can fit the customer. I think that the idea of custom products built for your body is something that we’re just starting with headphones. There are more headphones, there’s different versions of headphones to design and there are more custom products to design,” said Nikki Kaufman. Kaufman, Co-Founder of Normal, introduced the company to attendees of a Decoded Fashion‘s Supercharged Retail event.
Normal is definitely on to something in the 2015 retail and product ecosystem. In the midst of technological advances, there are topics we’re used to hearing about including wearables, mobile apps, virtual wallets and more. What we don’t put on our radar is the power technology puts into customization.
The idea of customization will always be celebrated in the marketplace. Everyone loves the idea of having something made specifically for them with no chance of replication. But customization isn’t necessarily a differentiator in my opinion. Some people like to be told what to do, what to wear and what to buy. Retailers providing customization must also think about execution. Offering it is tricky in markets that don’t have high demand for the products and open-minded buyers.
For example of customizable products, check out Shoes of Prey, a way to digitally design a custom pair of women’s shoes. Shoes of Prey uses a 3D design tool for women to choose the shape, color and height of your shoes. They custom make your design and ship to anywhere in the world in a five-week span. Sounds like a good idea right? I mean, what woman doesn’t want a pair of custom shoes made exactly to their liking?
Another win for the world of customization.
Startups like Normal and Shoes Of Prey are definitely willing and are investing in a new direction of consumerism and retail. Yet, the real topic being discussed by almost every fashion brand is, “How do we integrate new technologies into our brand?”
Conversations about innovation in fashion seem to be never ending and it almost always includes the topic of technology and retail experiences. As consumers, we will always love to shop but, unfortunately for fashion brands, we will always challenge how.
Image credit: CC by Andrea Rinaldi.