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Michael Baker
Smarter Writer

Michael Baker is a retail consultant and vice-chair of the ICSC's Asia-Pacific Research Council

Michael Baker
Smarter Writer

Michael Baker is a retail consultant and vice-chair of the ICSC's Asia-Pacific Research Council

Customisation is a means for customers to fulfil their ultimate product fantasies. Thanks to emerging technologies, innovative companies are seizing new opportunities.

A 3D-printed hand undergoing its final stages of creation

From fast food to the perfect pair of trainers and all sorts of weird and wonderful new gadgets, customers now have the ability to ‘create’ the product they truly desire. For manufacturers and retailers, it’s a far cry from a century ago when Henry Ford famously stated: “You can have any colour you want, as long as it's black!”

For many retailers and manufacturers, customisation will be essential to their future survival. Clothing, accessories and footwear were retail categories at the leading edge of customisation, which makes sense when you consider that these items are important means of personal self-expression. Customisation enables people to wear their ideal fashion item and be 'on trend', while at the same time feel unique by giving that item a personal tweak. For example, Nike shoppers in the US can use NIKEiD to customise their athletic shoes. What about a customised hydration platform for athletes? Absolutely.    

Customising in 3D

Another technology enabler for customisation is 3D printing.

Online platforms, such as i.materialise, Shapeways and Thingify, allow people to turn their own concepts into 3D-printed reality. They are also online marketplaces for all kinds of 3D-printed products.

A cautionary tale

The quest for innovative brands is to leverage the latest technologies in ways that enable people to easily customise the products they actually want. Unfortunately, what people say they want and what they will eventually purchase doesn’t always match up, so it pays to be careful with your market research and new product developments. Shoes of Prey offers one such cautionary tale of the gap between intended and actual consumer behaviour.

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