Mass Customization by the Numbers

Calculator in hand, we dug through a 349-page report about companies that enable shoppers to customize products online. Among the unearthed statistical nuggets: 160 of the 900 firms in the “Configurator Database Report 2013” sell apparel. At 18%, that’s far and away the largest of 16 industry categories of products in the international database, a treasure trove of information about the mass customization movement in manufacturing. cyLEDGE, a new media, technology and strategy consultancy in Vienna, Austria, developed and maintains the database.

Add footwear to apparel, and the combined categories share of companies reaches 21%. That’s an eye-opening and smile-inducing percentage here at Embodee, where we specialize in creating for mass customizers the highest-quality 3D visualizations of garments and shoes, as well as offering online try-on of clothes.

cyLEDGE uses “configurator” to refer to the software applications that give consumers the tools to design products matching their individual needs and desires. The much-championed advantages for companies include reduced capital commitment, less overproduction, differentiation through individuality, and higher customer loyalty.

Where are the 900 customizing companies? Germany and the United States, with 388 and 346 respectively, are home for 82%. The remaining 166 are spread among 17 other countries.

cyLEDGE also quantitatively analyzed the configuration tools based on types of product visualizations, tutorials, support features, and social media links available to shoppers. Although the report doesn’t judge the quality of these elements, it identifies disparities in standards. For example, 63 companies provide no product images.

When first compiled in 2007, the database contained 400 companies. With 900 now, the variety of customizable products has mushroomed, the report states. The expanding inventory of exotic items, such as horseshoes and sausages and dog accessories, shows that “everything is conceivable.”