keeping a watchful eye on here at ReadWriteStart is mass customization and co-creation. Startups in this sector provide customizable products to the end user, like t-shirts, bags, jewelry and even food. Back in March we suggested that the U.S. may be on the verge of a co-creation invasion from Europe, where these kinds of startups are more prominent. This week the Smart Customization Seminar is being held at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts and some fascinating stats and trends have emerged from the discussions and talks.A growing startup trend that we have been
Dominik Walcher, head of marketing and innovation management at Salzburg University in Austria, presented of a survey of over 500 customization companies as a mass customization state of the union. As we mentioned back in March, Germany has become a hub for co-creation startups, and Walcher's research found that over one-third of the URLs of the companies surveyed used the ".de" top level domain. While nearly all of the remaining sites used the ".com" domain, Walcher noted that many German companies use this domain as well.
The three most popular categories of customization among the companies surveyed are t-shirts (12%); dress shirts, jackets, suits and underwear (12%); and puzzles, photos, prints and cards (11%). Not far behind in fourth place is food customization at 8%, which is twice as popular as apparel accessories (hats, scarves, bags and belts).
By analyzing the data trends from his research, Professor Walcher was also able to provide some advice for best practices in the mass customization market. Surprisingly, Walcher found that over one-third of these companies do not provide some sort of visualization of the final product for the customer - an element of the co-creation process he sees as a necessity. Another major feature these sites should include is help and inspiration to the users; only 39% of the companies provided examples and only one-fifth gave recommendations.
Helping customers through the process of creation is also a key facet of the process that most companies are missing. Nearly two-thirds of the surveyed companies didn't provide users with any guidance through the process, and only 4% have a progress bar. Surprisingly a whopping 73% of the sites don't allow users to save and come back to a creation.
Another sign that this market is still finding its footing online is that fact that nearly two-fifths of the sites don't provide any information about delivery, and only half tell customers how long the delivery process takes. 11% only inform customers of when the shipment is ready and 70% don't have any expedited delivery options. Some of these features are fairly basic to implement and would greatly enhance the customer experience.
Clearly the mass customization trend among startups (especially those in Europe) is still getting off the ground and discovering its best practices. Some of these data points should influence many companies to make their experiences more user friendly, as well as give entrepreneurs some sparks of innovation for starting their own companies. Co-creation has yet to significantly take-off in the U.S. so there would seem to be a bit of an opportunity for startups in the space at the moment.
Image from Spreadshirt.com.