( Estimated reading time: 4 min )
Customization has been a part of fashion industry since the beginning of haute couture. Due to sociological changes, it is becoming a larger part of production and sales in the fashion industry. Consumers want made to measure and personalized products and customization allows that. This practice has led to mass customization by brands in order to tap this increasing market segment.
What is Mass Customization?
Mass customization combines the personalization and flexibility of custom made products with mass production, and specific target groups. According to Lee and Chen, the fashion industry has mainly focused on dimensional (based on body measurements) and modular (picking separate components to create individualized products) mass customization.
Why Mass Customization is Important?
Mass customization is important because consumers are getting exactly what they want. Many consumers desire products that should meet their exact needs and standards. With consumers willing to pay for the customized products, companies’ profits are skyrocketing. This can be said especially in cases when a large target group demands customized products for them.
Clothing has always been a large platform for self-expression. Instagram nowadays is full of style bloggers. People are spending now more than ever on clothing and accessories and it is quite evident from the fact that the global apparel market is now valued at 3 trillion dollars. Apart from high profits, customization is also creating customer loyalty. Thus companies are able to offer return customers loyalty programs. Let’s say in a gaming event, a Nintendo gaming group gets together every year for a gaming meet, and every year they require some kind of fashion accessories as a memorabilia for that year. If a company offers a loyalty program to the gaming group, then the gaming group is more likely to return back to them for the following year’s accessories.
Challenges to Mass Customization
While mass customization in fashion has its perks, it also has its challenges. Some of the most common challenges are cost, production speed, brand identity loss, and return policies. Some consumers look beyond the challenges while others don’t.
The cost of mass customization is still slightly higher than a plain old everyday mass produced product. This is because the producers are only producing a small number of products rather than millions at one time for distribution. So, rather than absorbing the additional cost of design and producing smaller numbers, producers pass that cost on to the consumer. This raises the overall cost of the product. However, some producers offer a quantity discount based on your order. Hence higher the order number, lower the cost.
Production speed is another challenge in mass customization. While it is not as much of challenge when producing high volume of the same custom product, it is for producing a single item for one customer. Customization also takes time, especially when you have to switch the template or material out for every other product produced. Producers are working on reducing the overall time, but this will come with an increased cost as they will need additional equipment and space.
When people buy products from high-end luxury brands, then they are buying the heritage, and vision of the brand. If the consumers are allowed to customize the products to a large extent, then the luxury brands risk losing their brand identity.
Return policies on customized items is a question that is asked by producers and consumers alike. When consumer orders a product tailored to them or their group, it’s going to be hard to sell that specific product to another individual or group, as everyone has different interests and tastes. This issue causes producers to have a “no returns accepted” policy or they only refund a portion of the cost of the item. When a consumer cannot return an item if it doesn’t fit or if they just don’t like it then, they are less likely to purchase that item.
Mass customization is now being adopted in the fashion industry at a high rate due to lack of innovation in designs and consumer becoming savvy about what they really want. With the growth of desire for individual expression, and the advent of new technologies like AR, 3D scanning, and e-wearables, mass customization is surely going to change how you shop clothes online and at retail stores.
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