Posted by: prataap | January 20, 2008

CUSTOMIZATION TREND 2: Products/Services: Just In Time Catalogs



Creating services and products that fit….exactly !

Emerging Trends:

Computer “bots” at various e-business sites that assemble products on your command and create a custom catalog delivered to you based on your current tastes and needs are already possible and coming to a web site near you.  And of course, the catalog is downloadable. First generation of “bots” that are relatively crude are available and places like act as the clearing house, look for the next generation to be a lot more sophisticated. The opportunities for personalized services are endless.  Key is, “personalized.”

Products range from multi-flex furniture to made-to-suit online catalogs designed for just who you are and just what you like.  The next stage of product evolution will have the ability to “sense” and change with your changing tastes and desires and moods. Modular furniture, but with a twist will reappear. Check out A chair that can be stretched or shrunk or easily modified to fit different room dimensions and interior designs or that simply vanish at a press of a button into a kit of parts.  Shoes that “mold” to exactly fit your EE or 61/2 size feet are here in their crude forms but will be more than a fad and redefine footwear in the next 2-5 years. Top athletes already have them. Design your own urban chic bag from recycled tarp at Clothes with sensors that measure your body temp and outside temp and find the right temperature to maintain body heat or release excess heat are being tested as we speak.

Next Opportunities:

Take real estate for example; the smart way to create the next concept in extreme customized residential  buildings  is not just “full service” meaning concierge and valet parking; but really full service.  

These buildings will be highly flexible and fully wired digitally to maximize flexibility and be modified as needed, you figure out the new layout and while you are on vacation for the week in Kumarakom, Kerala, the building management will reconfigure your condo and its furnishing.  Soon buildings will be built to be customized over time. It is simply the more sustainable model. 

These buildings will challenge existing zoning and land use concepts and regulations as they mix and change various uses within one building over time: gyms, apartments, work spaces, conference centers, retail, restaurants, theme centers, you name what you want. In these buildings, if you need secretarial help or a live-in maid for a week they can easily arrange that for you. Need a crash course in French they will find the tutor for you or locate the best virtual Tai-Chi avatar to help you get that flow back. Bottom line is everyone will want services that simplify his or her lives but tailored to their needs. The more affluent will demand it and pay for it.

So if you are one of these who has a specialized niche product or service that is a natural fit into this mix, you may want to offer your services directly through Trump to the new occupants of the next Trump Towers. Or if you are a chef and want flexible hours, become a “home chef’. But be prepared to offer soup to nuts. Offer to cook, but also to organize the menu, buy the  fresh ingredients, and cook everyday or once a week, offer to deliver a freshly cooked different pre-fixed meal every day. Throw in 2 DVDs, the person’s favorite flowers, along with the meal based on the client’s pre-selected list of preferences, occasion appropriate table cloth, napkins and candles. Discreetly tuck in the NY Times review of the movie and some esoteric information on the flowers and the ingredients in the meal.

Personalization and convenience are the two key words that define the kind of flexibility these services will provide through design and services.  Early prototypes of the customized workplace are being developed by architects all over the world and some like Thompson and Rose architects of Cambridge (Business Week 2000) have pretty good working models of the “nomadic work shells” where you may find yourself tomorrow. A peak into the layout of MIT’s Media Lab  will give you another glimpse of the egalitarian (chaotic) nature of the coming workspaces; part living room, part cubicle, part restaurant, part agora.

If you are a retailer then look at Bethesda, Maryland or look where the demographics may be similar to see where this trend may appear within your metropolitan area. The trend here is the “anti-chain” chain stores, with names like Ancient Rhythms, Outrage Cafe, and Fitigues. Little boutique and individualized stores that cater to the,” too refined to shop at the mall types” in suburbia who want the handcrafted, even it is mass produced in India, China or Malayasia. In the Indian villages where a lot of these products are made, they even have a saying for the look of this type of product, “old like”.  Here too polarization is the underlying trend.

The large Walmarts and the small niche boutique stores will both thrive. Figure out where your opportunity lies. The right, crafted aged look sells! Whether it is the decor of the coffee shop or home wares products or furniture. This trend is tied to the rate of change in technology and other aspects of life. People want names, products and personalized services that represent a slower pace, that are reminiscent of an old and familiar age.   According to the WSJ ( Jan 19, 2008) Larry Page and Sergey Brin founders of Google, shop at MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing) in SF. “MAC looks like a refined warehouse, retrofitted in green”.  Selling T-shirts for $60 made of “road kill acrylic.”  Handmade, independent labels. No cash registers or credit card machines in sight.  Once again, the Starbucks lounge approach to shoppingExterior color & designs of cars will become completely personalized. Think of a shrink wrapped  car exterior with your personal logo,name or any design you want !!! Yet another source of info overload for the public and one more opportunity for personalized brand making.  People are simultaneously seeking the fine balance between stability and novelty in their environment.

Why the sudden move to a living room arrangement to your favorite coffee shop or now even at banks? It somehow balances things to be sitting on a leather deco sofa at a reproduction Arts and Crafts table and surfing the Internet and sipping Latte at Muchobucks Cafe while you use your cell phone to purchase an airline ticket over the web. Products and services that custom fit the high need for balance in people’s net paced lives will be highly sought after for the next 10 years.

I am sitting in a monastery on a silent retreat writing this! Talk of personalized balance.

Let your imagination run wild.

Create the future and smell the roses, it’s your move!

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