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February 2, 2017
Maria Pesin

Customization, or made to order apparel and accessories, is a growing segment of the fashion industry. In an effort to be more consumer centric, brands are finding that personalization is something their customers respond to. “Mass personalization is set to become a reality, with 36% of consumers saying they are interested in personalized products or services,” according to research by the business advisory firm, Deloitte.
By offering different colors, styles, designs, fabrics, and fits, companies can truly empower customers to make their products feel unique and special. This allows the brands to differentiate themselves in the minds of their clients.
While it’s great in theory, it’s definitely not always so easy to deal with in the real world.
“The self-service, online customization experience is still very, very broken. The shopper is asked to configure their apparel by selecting from a vast array of options like collar types, pocket types, fabric materials and colors, etc. One custom dress shirt company used to boast that they offered over 7 billion possibilities to choose from. That’s nothing to boast about; that is way more than the human brain cares to process, i.e., the ‘paradox of choice.” Wrote Dave Sloan of Big Talker.
Another example is Shoes of Prey, a company out of Los Angeles, that customizes shoes according to the features a customer chooses. Nordstrom carried them in several stores, but found that customers spent hours of a sales persons time on designing their custom shoes. While it might be fun for the consumer, this is not something a commissioned salesperson wants to do. In the end, it just wasn’t practical.
Perhaps the best approach is partial personalization. The customer can change some features rather than being overwhelmed with the task of designing the whole product. After all, that’s what good designers do, no?
Like many business questions, the answer is almost always in finding the right balance. Is offering your customer choices a good idea? Almost certainly. However, you must take into account all of the implications before launching into a venture of this nature.

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Maria Pesin

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