Bringing down the giant: How Mass Customization will rival Amazon.

Have you ever had that moment shopping online or in a store where you really like an item, but wish it had some extra detail or something that would make it more unique to you? This desire to customize an item and make it your own is becoming a more popular trend and is an untapped market that, if utilized correctly, could be the way for small businesses to compete with big box retailers.

What is Mass Customization?

Amazon has been successful at moving the shopping experience for mass-produced products solely to the Internet and it’s hard for companies to compete with them. However, there is one area that Amazon hasn’t cracked that holds a huge market share – mass customization. Mass customization allows customers to actively participate in the design and outcome of products they will eventually buy. There’s a tipping point for most products where the customer will always elect a custom version from a standard version if the price, quality and delivery times are right.

When you think about it, mass customization has been happening for years — we just didn’t call it that. The Internet has enabled standard custom to be produced in mass through streamlined and scaled manufacturing processes. It started when computer manufacturers allowed customers to build their own PCs and it has expanded to everything from custom cereal and M&Ms to canvas prints and books created with your child as the hero, or even a 3D printed sonogram fetus (weird, but true).

Why the popularity?

The growth of sites like Etsy and Pinterest has increased the interest in customized products. Now more than ever, consumers want to show their unique personalities in everything from products in their home to the clothes they are wearing. A few years ago, customized products in mass were not feasible, but the supply chain technology that we have today helps create a more effective process for companies to work with their customers to co-design the end product.

The ability to work one-on-one with your customer to turn their idea into reality is a huge opportunity for businesses to secure customer loyalty. At, we’ve seen large volumes of repeat customers due to our ability to take their creation and give them an end product that exceeds their expectations.

Making it happen

Mass customization has remained an elusive strategy for most companies, until now. We are finally at a point where customer demand and production have reached a common ground where items can be created at a more affordable cost. Customization usually requires a designer to be involved and that process is usually specific to the product. This is part of the reason Amazon does not offer customization as it goes against their mass selling business model.

Companies that are looking to take on mass customization need to figure out three things:

  • How to scale the manufacturing process to produce low prices
  • How to limit features available to allow single source processes for production
  • How to design an intuitive creation process for the user to interface with

There are a few companies that have been able to do this extremely well like Shoes of Prey, eThreads, and Nike.  It’s only a matter of time before more companies start to move in this direction now that the demand is there. Those of us that have been offering mass customization for a while need to continue to refine our process to make it more streamlined and effective for consumers and our bottom line.

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Philanthropitch 3.0

On Monday night, members of the Austin community gathered at Zach Scott Theater to, for the third consecutive year, celebrate the sheer awesomeness of seven nonprofits who are completely re-shaping the philanthropic world. These incredible mission-driven organizations are addressing some of Austin’s key challenges in poverty, affordable housing, at-risk youth development, services for the elderly – and tons more. If you missed Monday night, well, then, that really sucks.

Because it was awesome!!

By the end of the night, over $133,200 was awarded among the following local nonprofit organizations:

PLUS, five of these seven NPOs were selected to go through the Greenlights Accelerator – an amazing program that will help broaden their scope and perpetuate the powerful work they’re doing within their niches.

The Multicultural Refugee Coalition took home the grand prize of $39,500 – and rightfully so! That dynamic group is working tirelessly to reroute the future for refugees from war-torn areas of the globe. In an article published by Impact News this morning, “Those reguees find work at MRC Austin’s textile manufacturing business called Open Arms, which recently became the first U.S.-based social enterprise chosen by IKEA.”

How awesome is that?! I’m personally pumped to see what amazing things MRC does as they implement their long-desired sewing and advanced training programs with the cash they received, AND as they work through the Greenlights Accelerator.

Check out some photos from last night’s event – and in case you didn’t make it Monday night (again, that sucks) – be sure to save the date for the Inaugural Philanthropitch International event happening in conjunction with Greenlights’ Summit for Social Innovation, this upcoming September 10th. We’ll be featuring past winners from Austin as well as nine other nonprofit pitch events winners from across the world!!

Until September –