Mass Customization the the Big End of Town

Now we are all getting excited about the prospect of being an active participant in the design process, either making our own objects from scratch, modifying, hacking or just decorating our belongings. But what is the big end of town letting us do with their products?
“No user serviceable parts inside, or breaking seal will void warranty”
As far as mass customization is concerned most manufacturers really only offer a choice of limited, pre-defined options, not exactly ground breaking, but lets take a look:
Nike:iD lets you chose from a limited range of colours and the option of adding a few letters to the back of your ‘personalised’ shoes, as does Reebok.
Dell let you chose internal components and peripherals but you cannot currently specify anything not in the options or customize the housing. And Starbucks lets you specify your own coffee combination from their menu apparently providing 19,000 possible combinations.

So when does Mass Customisation really just mean you have a ‘few options to chose from‘ and when is it really “producing goods and services to meet individual customer’s needs with near mass production efficiency” as defined by Andreas M. Kaplan and Michael Haenlein in their 2006 paper entitled Toward a Parsimonious Definition of Traditional and Electronic Mass Customization in the Journal of Product Innovation Management?

O.K. so Starbucks and Dell have begun crowdsourcing for user input, but that is just a suggestion box where they get your ideas and you get social capital, and maybe, your idea realized.
Let’s make Mass Customization about empowering consumers!

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