Daily Management Review

The New Business Mecca of Customization


While customization is no new concept in business, it is certainly the buzz word for most sectors today.

A recent study by Booz Allen Hamilton about product and service companies in North America and Europe claims that firms that more effectively balance the value that customization brings to their clients despite the complexity costs it imposes, generate significantly higher organic sales growth and profit margins than their industry average.

In the modern business, customization is seen everywhere – from cars to banks and insurance, from apparels to textiles or even banknotes production. One of the traditional industries that now focus on customization is the auto industry. In a bid for customization, Rolls Royce has recently rolled out its customized Phantom cars for North America, the Middle East and Europe, and in US alone, 95% of Phantoms are customized. With the aim of gaining market share the bespoke personalization arm of the company has doubled the number of designers, craftsmen and engineers.

Other automobile manufacturers like Aston Martin officially opened its ‘Q by Aston Martin' customization service a couple of years ago, where customers can specify their demands for both interior and exterior features. Even McLaren has opened up what it calls its ‘Special Operations' division for customized cars and 25% of the company cars now produced are customized.

The banking sector too has shed off its traditional business model and is relying more and more on customization of it services to gain market shares. In the modern era, banks have started to think more like consumer brands in the retail and food industries to hold on to their customers. Going digital is one way of customization for banks.

“Behind the digital interface can sit a host of seemingly tailored — but completely pre-designed — financial products. In this way, consumers get exactly what they need without having to go through a slough of painful steps go get there,” says Jon Blakeney , Managing Director for management consultant firm I-AM.

Large banks have tried to customize their products and services to suit customers. One example is the Bank of America initiative called ‘Express Banking Centers’ launched in 2013. At such centers customers receive voice personal assistance through "Teller Assist" in matters of cash withdrawals, cashing checks, depositing checks with cash back and loan or credit card payments in English or Spanish language.

“…Our advanced ATM technology, online and mobile Banking and banking centers combine the personal assistance from our associates and specialists to enable customers to bank how and when they want,” says Katy Knox, Bank of America's head of business banking.

Closely association with the banking industry is the highly secured banknote printing industry, where customization for every single project is of utmost importance.

The first aspect is in the design of the banknotes which requires a customized understanding of the history and culture of a country or a region.

“Symbolism conveyed by a banknote is important in the eyes of our customers. A banknote is an element of the identity of a nation. It should reflect a history, a culture, a set of common values, and symbols of national pride as illustrious figures or monuments that make sense in the minds of citizens” says Thomas Savare, CEO of the French company Oberthur Fiduciaire, one of the leading private security printers in the world.

The second aspect is the understanding of the inherent threat to security of banknotes and the appropriate security technology that corresponds to mitigate the threat. Echoing this observation, Thomas Savare explains: “There are many different kinds  of security elements incorporated into the banknotes […] We have to do that within an environment that is highly industrial, because we’re supplying billions of individuals with products that are numbered and personalized”.

While banknote printing becomes a customized affair, textile industry also bets more and more on customization. This industry is perhaps the most customized of all where customers can design their own clothes – literally.

New York-based Tinker Tailor, a company launched just two years ago is the latest splash in the apparel industry to take customization to a new high. Here the company lets a customer create a one-of-a-kind dress, top or skirt, starting with the silhouette and then choosing the fabric and the embellishments. “I kept hearing from women that if it were a little bit longer, or if it had sleeves, or if was in the color she really wanted, etc., she'd buy it. People want more customized and unique products,” says Aslaug Magnusdottir, cofounder of Tinker Tailor.

The world of “mass customization” is best summed up by the consultancy firm Wipro, in its analysis of the subject where it states that customization has caught up with the modern business as “there is as such no constraint like financial muscle power of the company related to ability to go for customization”. And players already in seem to reap the benefits of first mover advantage!