For many image-conscious consumers, product customization provides a way to stand out from the crowd without searching high and low for something totally unique. At Big Shot Bikes, for instance, customers can choose the color and shape of up to 10 parts of the Colorado company’s fixed gear bikes. Once customers select their preferences, Big Shot assembles the bicycles and ships them to the buyers for under $500. With such a relatively reasonable price tag, the company wants consumers to know that customization can be the norm rather than an additional premium service.
Indeed, this has been the case for years as big brands like Apple and Nike used their extensive supply chains to lower the cost of customization. But as Big Shot shows, even smaller firms today can take advantage of technology in order to make their product designs more flexible. “Anything you can digitize you can customize,” says B. Joseph Pine II, author of the book Mass Customization. “Once it enters the realm of zeros and ones, you can instantly change a zero to a one, and vice versa.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in Big Shot’s iPad-friendly interface. Users can easily scroll through options and watch their bike get built before their eyes.
Despite its other impressive features, the site’s iPad compatibility is perhaps its most significant aspect. Big Shot initially hit the web in an Adobe Flash-based format, a platform that looks sleek on PCs but is unusable on many mobile devices and tablets. With 10 percent of total traffic coming from iPads alone, Big Shot soon translated their site into a mobile-ready programming language. Now 13 percent of sales are made through iPads. Big Shot expects revenue to grow steadily over the next few years as consumers become more and more dependent on their tablets for e-commerce. The company isn’t totally focused on Internet sales, though. Big Shot stocks bikes in a number of brick-and-mortar stores so that people can get a look at them before they buy. Customers can then order the customized bike of their choice from the same store for a small markup that includes assembly and tune-ups.
- Why has mass customization become the trend in virtually every industry?
- How has the Internet helped advance the growth of mass customization?
Source: John Patrick Pullen, “Color Wheels,” Entrepreneur, October 2013. Photo by Yong L.