Delivering Customizations to the Masses



As we emerge into the Age of Personalization, the leaders will be those who can cost-effectively deliver customized products and services to the door of discerning users, leveraging technology to collect and analyze data, and to optimize the distribution of same. Below are some winning strategies from tech companies to up-starts raising the bar for them.

Aggregating Delivery of Off-the-Shelf Products: Congratulations to Amazon and Google for finding the opportunity in aggregating off-the-shelf products, delivered to the door. Challenges are that the recipients must buy things off-the-shelf (must be standard sizes and offerings, customizations need not apply), that they must be in urban areas (there’s no way to deliver it cheaply to rural areas), and that there’s a service fee (in the case of Amazon Prime Fresh, it’s a $299 annual fee, which includes free same-day and early morning delivery on grocery orders over $35 as well as free two-day delivery on select items, the free Kindle e-book lending library, and unlimited video streaming through its FireTV solution – look out NetFlix, and in the case of Google, it’s free for 6 months, paid by merchants who sign up, and then annual fee is TBD, but for now, staples are emphasized, not produce and dairy which require special care).

  1. Can a start-up like SnapDeal, the largest ecommerce marketplace in India compete against the 800-pound gorillas and survive beyond what WebVan and Kosmo did when the opportunity was at its infancy? It will be difficult without the fulfillment centers of Amazon, the retailer relationships of Google, and the brand of both, both perhaps they can stay specialize in delivering to an established, high-population geography, and poise themselves for a buy-out by larger entities, perhaps they will remain dominate in that geographic area, or perhaps they will expand to other high-population, tech-philic, non-US regions quickly, or a combination of the above.

Connecting Buyers and Sellers: eBay is a prime example of an organization which built a market and industry around connecting buyers and sellers online, paying local couriers to deliver a wide range of products to areas throughout the US and the world, customized to the needs of the buyer, while also creating a process for validating both buyers and sellers. Other new options are emerging, also connecting buyers to sellers, for the purchase or products or services.

  1. eBid has local sites in over 20 countries including USA, Australia, New Zealand the UK, Canada and Ireland and sellers are reporting that customer service and ease of use are great. Listing auctions on eBid is free, sellers just pay for listing upgrades and success fees. ArtFire is where buyers go to find vintage, antique or handmade items. Selling items on ArtFire is free, but you can upgrade to a paid account for US $9.95 per month and you will receive greater options for customization, promotional tools, more exposure and faster service.
  2. Craigslist is the world’s largest online classified website and allows people to sell locally (mostly in US metro areas) if you are willing to organize pickups. There are no listing fees or selling fees, but there is less automation of the selling process. And Angieslist gives buyers a list of vetted recommended service providers for a wide range of needs.
  3. Lyft connects people who need rides to people who can provide rides.

Package Pick-ups and Deliveries: Amazon Prime did raise the bar for shipping companies including USPS, UPS and FedEx, and each are competing to get packages delivered to the door within 2 days. But what could we do to make it easier for sellers to efficiently package and send custom packages to the door of customers, and/or if we could aggregate packages received by customers into conveniently located shared mailboxes, would more people be buying and selling online? Here are two start-ups addressing this problem and opportunity.

  1. Shyp picks up your items, packs and sends them anywhere in the world, using the lowest cost, most reliable option. Unfortunately, it’s only being offered in SF, for now.
  2. MyDoorman gives you a secure address for package delivery, sign for your package, alert you when the package(s) have arrived, and then arranges for after-hours delivery of your online purchases for $7 a delivery (not for package). Unfortunately, it too is only being offered in SF, for now.

One-Time Customizations, Applied to Many: High-end men’s clothing stores like Men’s Wearhouse set the expectation that clothes will be high quality, tailored to fit, and relatively easy to care for, but not necessarily cheaply. Emerging start-ups are extending this concept to the internet marketplace where customers demand quality, fit and style, taking the time to meet in person the first time, to get measured and fit and identify preferences, and then automating orders from there.

  1. Trumaker delivers men’s casual and dress shirts and takes the time to meet you in person, measure you for fit, and understand your preferences for sleeve length, collar, material, cuffs, and costs. After the fitting, order online, for a cost similar to in-store prices.

Preference Identification: Amazon again set the standard with its online store, predicting other books or songs you might like because you’ve purchased something in the past. Grocery stores and just about everybody else is very much into that now, rewarding you for being a customer, and conveniently offering discounts for other products or services which may be of interest, given what you’ve shared about yourself through your past purchases.

  1. StitchFix is doing this online now, allowing you to set your profile online, receive 5 hand-picked items based on your identified tastes, and allowing for easy returns. The more you order and keep or exchange, the more they will understand what you like in terms of style, size, materials, patterns, etc., And they won’t just send you the same items, they would also send you styles and options that would stretch your range and help you create a fashion identity. Note that items are priced around $65 each.

Platforms for Creating and Sharing Customized Content, to your device: Applause to NetFlix for efficiently moving from moving from DVD to online content, making it easy to queue up your preferred shows and download them online, and now even creating customized content for your binge-viewing pleasure. Today there are platforms that allow users to upload their own custom content – from text to videos to pictures – to public and/or targeted audiences.

  1. Photo and video editing sites ArcSoft and YouTube and photo and video storing and sharing sites like SmugMug and Vimeo and Flickr allow users to upload and share custom content of interest to personal, social and general networks.
  2. Platforms like WordPress and PBWiki facilitates the creation and distribution of original content like blogs and wikis while curation platforms like let users gather theme-based content and social media platforms like FaceBook and LinkedIn and Twitter allow users to follow content creators. But the next generation of innovation in content creation will be solutions like WattPad, which recently received $46 million in funding, with its 25 million people creating 150,000 stories a day, with live feedback from readers.! Any way you slice it, there are plenty of ways for content consumers to decide whom or what to follow, based on their personal interests.

What are your thoughts on delivering customized solutions to the masses efficiently? E-mail us at with your thoughts.

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