Robotics in particular are set to account for a substantial portion of the megatrend that is mass customization, Bernd Zipper firmly believes. Markets like packaging, labeling, textiles, promotion etc have already been virtually “fueled” by it“.

Prof. Frank Piller, RWTH Aachen

“Increasing customization of demand and the emergence of long-tail markets are forcing companies to reinvent themselves and achieve a new degree of flexibility. Mass customization is a key strategy in mastering this challenge”, says Prof. Dr. Frank Piller. He is Director of the Institute of Technology and Innovation Management at RWTH Aachen and has analyzed the way mass customization is put into practice at more than 200 different organizations in the last ten years. His conclusion: “mass customization provides a set of action options that can be applied in most companies.”

Successful mass customization is based, according to Prof. Piller, on a series of strategic skills that complement and enhance an existing business over time. He talked about this in his presentation using sports footwear manufacturers as an example. An impressive example: every year Adidas offers 8,400 footwear variants and it has recognized that mass customization has a massive impact on customer retention and therefore combines the purchase, usage and repeat purchase of its running shoes in a model that can be compared to a “subscription model”.

He emphasized that mass customization is exclusively based on the fact that people are different. “But nobody is interested in customization per se. They are more interested in the aftereffects and take a certain pleasure in configuring their own products.” A configurator needs to be as simple as possible to back up the buying experience.

But Prof. Piller does not see the innovators as being in manufacturing industry; online print has guided the mass customization market into a new generation.