The term “mass customization” was coined in 1987 in Stanley M. Davis’ book “Future Perfect.” Fifteen years later, “Metropolis” magazine called mass customization the number one design idea for the 21st century.
Today, there are numerous examples of mass customization, that is, offering customized products to the masses, but the concept has gone way beyond LL Bean’s monogramming. A good example is Levi Strauss. The company’s new $20 million Original Levi’s Store in San Francisco is part theater, part art gallery, part museum, part cinema, and part rave. With 70,000 watts of digital audio, a biometrics recognition system, a 3D body scanner, and a ton of video screens, shoppers are in for an interactive, memorable experience and unequalled opportunities to take those old 501s to a new level.
Levi’s Original Spin™ Program enables customers to create their own pair of jeans with a choice of cuts and styles, and then have them custom tailored based on their measurements and preferences. The 3D Body Scanner captures 48 image-slices of a subject’s body surface in less than two seconds and then processes the images to extract key body measurements and produce a 3D representation. Video screens inside each of the store’s fitting rooms display a visitor’s 3D body image as they are trying on clothes. Visitors can also create their own “shrink-to-fit” jeans by putting on a pair of Levi’s jeans and immersing themselves in a special bath, and then entering a special human drying area. Then they can proceed to The Factory Area where they can have custom designs, images, or photographs embedded in their jeans.
Another example of an American classic that’s utilizing mass customization is M&M’s. Their “Custom Printed M&M’s” service lets you choose colors, messages, packaging and even flavors. Prince reportedly partakes of this service and has his home address (3121) printed on yellow M&Ms to serve at late-night parties.
In terms of PR, customizing communicates to your customers that you care enough about each one of them that you’re willing to serve them individually. This influences them to have an emotional attachment to the shopping experience and the product they’ve purchased. Notably, customization elicits feelings of exclusivity that your consumer often values much more than the actual product they purchased. All of these results encourage increased name recognition and patronage as well as solidify your brand. So the next time you look into upgrading your offerings, consider customizing, like Levi’s. It may be just the right fit.