What is 'Mass Customization'

Mass customization is the process of delivering wide-market goods and services that are modified to satisfy a specific customer need. Mass customization is a marketing and manufacturing technique that combines the flexibility and personalization of custom-made products with the low unit costs associated with mass production. Mass customization products may also be referred to as made to order or built to order.

BREAKING DOWN 'Mass Customization'

Mass customization allows a customer to customize certain features of a product while keeping costs closer to that of mass-produced products. In some cases, the components of the product are modular. This allows customers to combine different options to create a semi-custom final product. Many applications of mass customization include software-based product configurations that allow end users to add or change certain functions of a core product.

Mass Customization Offerings

Most products created based on the mass production model start with a base package that customers can add to, subtract from or alter to suit their needs or tastes. Mass-customization products are generally made to order, but they are based on templates to allow production companies to keep costs lower than truly custom pieces.

Examples of Mass Customization Product Lines

Certain furniture companies offer mass customization by offering multiple options for various components or features. This can include different fabrics, furniture legs or sectional pieces that can be combined in a large number of configurations. Modular home builders also use mass-customization models by allowing customers to make changes to base home packages.

Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition

B. Joseph Pine II's 1992 book "Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition" describes four types of mass customization:

• Collaborative customization refers to companies that work in partnership with individual customers to develop precise product offerings to suit each customer's needs.

• Adaptive customization includes companies producing standardized products that the end user can customize.

• Transparent customization refers to companies who provide unique products to individual customers without overtly stating the products are customized.

• Cosmetic customization includes companies that produce standardized products but market the products in different ways to various customers.

Pine focused on the concept of creating a small number of interchangeable pieces that can be brought together in a large number of ways. This aims to produce a cost-efficient production model while allowing customers to pick and choose how the pieces went together. This allows customers to achieve a higher level of satisfaction from the product while simultaneously keeping costs lower for both the production company and the customer purchasing the final product.

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