Whether or not you’ve noticed, mass customization has been blooming all around us in the past few years. We’ve gone from standard ‘what you see is what you get’ to partially expecting customized products offered to any specific consumer.
Interchangeable parts, specialized machinery, division of labor, skills of workers and continuous technological improvement characterize mass production. These characteristics allowed for low costs, low prices and some sort of flow in the system. Mass customization is about an increase in variety without driving up costs. In the past couple of years there has been a shift from mass production to mass customization of products.
While you may not think about it most products we buy are some variation of mass customization, however they may not be as dramatic as an individual pair of shoes like Nike and Puma offer. Take a trip to Target as an example; the main things on your list are shampoo and conditioner. As far as shampoo and conditioners are concerned you must decide on what type of brand you prefer, Dove, Herbal Essences, Vive, Suave, L’Oreal, Bed Head (among countless others) and then comes the hard part; you then have choices for oily hair, fine hair, long hair, curly hair, thick hair, thin hair etc. When compared to decades ago, there were few product choices for each item.
Before, consumers were ok with buying things that millions of other people had, nowadays people don’t think twice about making the product all about themselves as consumers. Probably the most memorable and well-known success of mass customization example that came to mind was the Dell laptop where computers were ‘built to order’. Dell picked up on how e-commerce could allow an individual customer to tailor a product to his or her own specifications and then order it. Customers could pick their computer’s memory, color, style, storage, processor and other equipment when purchasing on Dell’s website.
Nike and Puma are both using a relatively similar strategy to sell custom shoes on their respective websites. Neither fit my ideal workout shoe but both brands happen to be my favorite ‘wear around shoes’ so creating a shoe that fit my personal taste was exciting.
First and foremost, I was confused why Puma chose to have their website as ‘Puma Mongolian Shoe BBQ’ both because it’s hard to remember and the fact that without researching further, one would have no idea why it was called that. After reading the explanation about the BBQ title it does make sense, I just can't see many users going through all of the trouble to figure out why it's called Mongolian Shoe BBQ. It seems to make for a great and truly unique experience but may lack on the full understanding and recognition by the consumer. This misunderstanding only took away from my overall experience.
Creating a NikeiD shoe was very simple, well explained and had an easy to follow sequence to it. This website brought me to a home page where you could either select a range of colors that you want your shoe to have, or a particular style you wish to follow. Creating a Puma BBQ shoe was a similar experience, however the main difference was that this site doesn’t only allow you to select different colors but they allow you to choose different patterns and textures depending on the colors you chose.
Both shoes were tailor made for my individual tastes. While Nike let me choose from a rainbow of colors, a few different materials, new and old styles, and my preferred cushioning, Puma had a hard time beating my Nike experience. I felt that with Puma I was limited to a dark/pink/purple pallet and that both annoyed and frustrated me.
One major aspect that I preferred about NikeiD was how they explained the shoe itself. They used parts like lining, swoosh, lace, midsole heel, overlay, base, underlay. If you couldn’t understand that, as an added bonus, the section of the shoe was highlighted if you scrolled over the word, making it impossible not to know what part of the shoe you were about to work on.
While I see major advantages and disadvantages to both sites I think that the main factor for success would be brand recognition. I fear that Puma’s leap of creativity and ‘ingredient experience’ may hinder their overall success. When I was on the NikeiD site, I knew it every step of the way. With Mongolian shoe BBQ it didn’t have any apparent Puma recognition, which I see as a major red flag. Overall, I think NikeiD has the most brand recognition and best ingredients for success when compared to Mongolian Shoe BBQ.