by: Matt Rhodes

Mass customisation is at one end of the co-creation spectrum - each product is customised for the particular customer who is purchasing it. Unlike what we often think of as co-creation, the individual customer does not influence the product for others. But they co-create their own product with the brand to deliver a customised version.

There has often been an element of mass customisation in higher-value products (such as cars or houses). But the internet has allowed mass customisation on a broader scale and for a wider-range of products. Brands can work with customers to co-create certain elements of their product or sometimes more fundamental aspects of the product itself.

Dell allows customers to customise every single product it sells. This is co-creation on a very individual stage - each customer choosing from a set of options to customise and create their own perfect machine. Whilst this approach doesn’t mean that every computer is different it does dramatically increase the options and configurations open to the consumer. And it allows the consumer to work with the brand on the final design and assembly stage of the product to create something that is right for them. Levis on the other hand does allow a customisation process by which, in theory, no two pairs of jeans need ever be the same.

Mass customisation has only become a viable means of co-creating with consumers once the process can essentially become self-serve. The design of the manufacturing process is such that the customer can guide and control the final assembly stages and influence what their product looks like. They can work with the suggestions and process that the brand has laid out to achieve this.

Of course, this is really ‘co-creation lite’. Whilst it allows for customers to work with brands to tailor and refine their own product it does not input into product design of the brand experience of others. Whatever great combinations and suggestions that people have to customise their own product there is usually no overt and direct mechanism for this design to be replicated across the brand and made available to others.

There are examples of organisations that do this. Allow people to customise their own product but then work with others to decide which are appropriate for a wider production and a wider audience. This is stronger co-creation and will be the focus of our next installment in the Co-Creation Series.

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