Like forest paths intersecting in a clearing, three seemingly disparate articles on our reading list today led to the same place.
The subjects: 3D technology spurring mass customization, Patagonia’s new apparel line made from recycled garments and salvaged fabric swatches, and an expansive study of the age 25-to-34 crowd (aka millennials).
Far into the first article, posted on the blog of French software company Dassault Systèmes, noted mass customization expert B. Joseph Pine is quoted. He cites apparel as an example of an industry coming around to the benefits of mass customization, which enables consumers to personalize products before they’re made.
Overuse of a phrase or expression demotes it linguistically to cliché status. Sometimes the once descriptively powerful devolves into triteness. Familiarity breeds contempt, itself a cliché, captures the effect.
Such is the fate of a popular comparison: mass customization of personalized products vs mass production of the all-black Ford Model T. Search the terms together to see how often it’s been used. Even some Twitter users poked fun at the rampant use earlier this year.
Among our favorite topics is mass customization, the growing trend of shoppers personalizing products online before purchase and before they’re manufactured. Admittedly we have a self-interest in the trend, evident in our gBuilder demo.
A distant cousin to mass customization recently caught our eye. It’s too amorphous to warrant trend status. We’ve named it post-purchase offline customization, or PPOC, a term absent from Google until we post this blog item.
The staggering but steady leaps in computing power make possible Embodee’s virtual product experiences, as they do countless other things. Without several decades of exponential advances, our servers would take intolerably long to dynamically render images of apparel. And your web-enabled devices would take even longer to display them.
For example, our recently patented virtual try-on technology produces in seconds a 360-degree view of how a pair of jeans fit you. In the past it would have taken minutes or even hours, an experience like trying on those jeans in a dressing room but endlessly waiting to see anything in the mirror.
Welcome, retailers. Today’s lesson: the power of touch.
According to recent academic research, online shoppers more highly value a product if they touch an image of it using a touchscreen instead of pointing at it via a computer mouse or touchpad.
Yes, yes, the margin-squeezed skeptics among you are silently scoffing: What difference does it make how they click to our wares?
“I am not a number, I am a free man.”
That defiant declaration was enshrined in pop culture in the late 1960s, courtesy of the British cult TV series The Prisoner and its main character, Number Six, played by Patrick McGoohan. The show was remade as a miniseries that aired in 2009.
The show came to mind while reading one of 2013’s most provocative predictions about the retail industry from futurist and consultant Doug Stephens, who uses the moniker Retail Prophet. (The most provocative of the year, hands down, was tech investor Marc Andreesen’s claim that physical retail stores are destined for death. We’re not sure we can side with him but love the debate.)
Is mass customization of products finally on track to become the norm?
Academics and consultants have prognosticated this post-Industrial Revolution, end-of-mass-production era for two decades. They foresaw consumers routinely customizing goods online to meet personal tastes before the products are made.
No overnight sea change happened, however. Instead, companies—from the mammoth to the upstart—have slowly embraced or at least experimented with the approach, especially in recent years. Often this is how revolutions happen. Quietly, momentum builds until the revolutionary becomes the mainstream.
Embodee Corp. today announced in a news release that it has received a U.S. government patent for technology that fills a major void in online apparel shopping: the ability to try on garments virtually and accurately see how they fit and look.
Licensees of the company’s Online Try-On℠ can give their shoppers increased confidence that apparel they buy won’t have to be returned. For retailers the benefits are increased sales and reduced costs. By some apparel industry estimates each 1% reduction in returns increases net profit nearly an equal amount.
Sometimes it’s challenging to comprehend innovations that far outpace their once-innovative forerunners.
Consider the introduction of motion pictures in the late 1800s, Polaroid photography in the 1940s, and digital photography in the 1970s. They weren’t incremental advances in technology. They were leaps forward.
Those advances come to mind now thanks to an anecdote and unrelated calculation about Embodee’s unique visualization technology.
For the debut of our new website today, we’ve coined a new company tagline: “Virtual Product Experiences for Business.”
It encapsulates what we do: empower companies to give their customers an unparalleled rich and immersive visual interaction with products online to boost e-commerce sales.
To us it’s intuitive that the better consumers can inspect and interact with a product virtually, the more likely they are to buy it. Vividly seeing a product from whatever angle customers choose is inarguably a superior experience to viewing static 2D pictures. But what about the influence on purchases?
Online apparel sales have an image problem. Image as in how websites display garments, footwear, and accessories to entice shoppers to buy. Notable exceptions aside, most product photographs don’t narrow The Sensorial Chasm: the difference between touching and closely inspecting a garment vs experiencing it virtually on a screen.
Images online typically are small, two dimensional, and lack detail. Zoom features aren’t the norm. Another drawback: scarcity. Most sites show an individual item from only one or a few angles. At a brick-and-mortar store you don’t pick up a tennis shoe and only look at one side and the sole—you turn it every which way.
Stroll into Foot Locker’s store in New York’s Times Square and you can’t miss the bright red kiosk. Built around large interactive video screens, the kiosk invites shoppers to customize and then buy an iconic running shoe, the New Balance 574, before their personalized design is manufactured.
Via the touch screens, a potential buyer can choose from myriad color choices for various shoe components, different materials, and add text such as a name. A design can be zoomed in for an up-close inspection and turned 360 degrees before ordering. The kiosk includes physical samples of the shoes’ various parts, from thread and laces to leather and mesh swatches.