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Mass customisation

Over the Christmas break I listened to one of the always excellent Peter Day Global Business podcasts*. He was discussing ‘mass customisation’, the idea of producing items at scale but that are personal to the customer, with the chap that coined the phrase, Joe Pine.

I hadn’t heard it before, but the Dell example explained it perfectly; Dell are a great example of mass customisation – you visit their site, decide exactly what type of PC you want using a wide number of options. You then pay for your machine, Dell build it, and you receive it. Simple, and obviously an idea that has made Dell a large amount of money.

Peter Day and Joe Pine went on to have all sorts of interesting discussion about how this turns products into services, but what really blew me away was the role that digital could play in mass customisation.

Smart campaigns like the Old Spice Man and the various Orange The Feed examples are all perfect evidence of how digital can take a large brand but make it special and bespoke for individual people. Those are mega cool examples, and make me excited about what the big advertisers will achieve in 2012 now that they seem to getting to grips with digital.

Then my brain jumped to social business, something that we’re excited about at NixonMcInnes. As people, customer, employees and supporters come to expect more from the business in their lives, how can mass customisation, fuelled by digital, play a part?

For one, the idea that large employers could relinquish draconian IT policies and allow smart, educated employees to choose their own work technology. Why get lumbered with a creaky old laptop when your best work is done on a smart phone? Or why pretend you need a Blackberry when you’re most productive sat at a desktop surrounded by smart colleagues? What if major banks, retailers, pharmas etc allowed ten of thousands of employees to mass customise the IT set up?

And then of course there is the onward march of cool technologies like 3D printers and real-world internetz. The immediate possibilities for mass customisation are evident, but imagine a world where millions of energy customers have Twine type devices throughout their home, informing the likes of EDF or British Gas of relevant activity and allowing for smart, customised services. Then imagine the social layer you could add on top of this and (to me at least) it begins to get really exciting.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this but wanted to write it anyway. I’ll keep mulling it over but would love to hear any others thoughts on whether you’re interested in mass customisation? Or perhaps you think it’s already here?

*If you’ve not listened to one before I thoroughly recommend them; usually no longer than 45 minutes and they always contain a couple of real nuggets relating to the big world of business we all live in.

Photo used under Creative Commons License – from Flickr user Toyota UK.

This post was filed under Digital transformation, Technology, The future, Working culture Comments are currently closed.


  1. Like it alot.

    On the Bring Your Own Tech approach, I’ve been writing about exactly that in Culture Shock – here’s a link to an article about that very trend:

    The social business angle is interesting: I’m sure there’s more potential here…

    Posted 3rd January 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  2. Ross

    Thanks Will. I think I overheard you talking about the tech thing then my brain re-appropriated it as my own :)

    The more I think about this, the more ‘mass customisation’ is a catch-all lens for what we do at NM. Big brands can no longer be faceless monoliths, and so by creating customised interfaces for them (such as a social customer service team) we encourage them to deal with individuals. In a custom fashion. At mass.

    Posted 3rd January 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink