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Mass Customization Monday #5

The Twikit team eats, sleeps and dreams mass customization and digital manufacturing. Mass Customization Monday is our attempt to sift through the noise and find you the signals.

Unilever subsidiary Nexxus uses AI and a chatbot to prepare for mass customization

Nexxus is a high end hair care brand by Unilever. The brand wants to increase women’s satisfaction with their hair by utilizing ‘”mass customization” by matching existing products to women’s stated needs.’ But, what are women’s stated needs and issues with their hair? To collect all of this information to find out what their customer’s want Unilever is deploying the Hair Concierge. The Hair Concierge is a Facebook chat bot powered by AI which answers women’s questions about their hair and tries to solve their hair issues. The “virtual Hair Concierge spawned more than 450,000 messages, around eight per conversation, during January.”

Rather than just creating awareness for their brand FMCG companies are now taking an interest in solving our problems. Facebook chat bots are being experimented with by a number of companies in a number of different roles. Using the chatbot to not only engage the customer and solve their problem but also to harvest useful information about who they are and what they need seems like a solid approach. Instead of focus groups or surveys which are expensive and time consuming, Unilever can now in a scalable way quickly harvest information from many people worldwide. This should let Unilever and other companies obtain more useful information directly from the customer. Combining this with analytics software should let them take that information and come up with a solution driven product or line up. Chatbots could be a very powerful tool in FMCG company arsenals. By defining needs and problems first and coupling this with a mass customized approach to solving them Unilever may be onto a new way of doing business.

We tried out the Hair Concierge. Initially a Facebook search and internet search did not lead to it. But when we went to the Nexxus homepage we could log in through messenger. We kept getting a username not found error however so will have to test out this innovative bot another time.

Ford to use 3D Printing for light weight and custom car parts

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3D Printed parts off the Stratasys Infinite Build System at Ford.

Ford has acquired a Stratasys Infinite Build system to 3D print large car parts such as spoilers. The company wants to make tooling, lightweight parts and customized car parts. 3D printing has been used extensively by automotive companies for years in prototyping, custom cars and concept cars. Regulatory barriers have long been an issue for adopting 3D printing directly in mass produced cars. Testing, quality inspection and certification were just some of the issues holding back 3D printing in this regard. Meanwhile automotive companies have lead the charge in offering mass customization to consumers by giving them extensive choices of car options. Could 3D printing take this much further? Could you go online and design certain interior or exterior components of your next Mustang? There are still some issues that will come into play. Crash testing can not be done for unique components and post finishing techniques will have to be applied to make parts look better. At one point we’re sure that mass customized 3D printed parts will, either through OEM’s or the aftermarket, make their way to automobiles at scale. The opportunity to add value through individualization is simply too significant to ignore and can (barring compliance issues) be done with current stage 3D printing technology. We however don’t know right now if Ford is the company that will get this right and when Ford or another firm will get this right.

ELSE Corp partners with Mypersonal3D

ELSE corp is a Milan based “Cloud SaaS API platform for Virtual Retail or no stock retail for the Apparel & Footwear industry”, that “supports at its core Mass Customization and cloud based hybrid & distributed Manufacturing services.” The company aims to offer their platform via mobile, VR, Mixed Reality and via the web. They hope to take fashion “towards a Product as a Service model” through the “democratisation of Product Customisation & Personalisation processes and … industrial approach to Made to Measure retail sales.” Their ELSE.ai is a recommendation bot while ELSE.shoes is an on demand mass customized shoe tool. Their Universal Product Configurator is a 3D visualization and customization tool which is analogous to our own Twikit Engine.

Their intro video is a bit worrying on the style and sexism front but apart from that gives an idea of what the company wants to do. The startup was founded by Andrey Golub, Professor of Digital Fashion Retail Strategies at Domus Academy. He sees the future of retail much as we do,

Of course, you could always order a made-to-measure jacket or suit from a brand that you could pay extra for, but it was a super exclusive service,” he says. “Now, technology changes that. We can scan the body. We can visualize in 3D the products, how they’ll look, and find the best fit. We can let the customer see different combinations of products – the color, the materials, you can touch them in the store, decide which one looks better on you, and the assistant will give you style advice.”

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Photo courtesy of ELSE Corp

The company now has partnered with MyPersonal3D by ToFit. This is a personal avatar platform tool that can take a 3D scan of a person’s body and store it. This helps visualize the mass customization experience and the user can then use their MyPersonal3D avatar for other retail experiences.

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The ToFit MyPersonal3D Scan

ELSE Corp has some very interesting concepts. Surely, a solution much like theres will make mass customized made to measure clothing work? Will consumers see being 3D scanned as something fun to do? Or will it be a novelty for a while but not be something many do? Or will they worry about companies storing their anthropometric data as well as a mesh of their body? In an age of security breaches and concerns over privacy where, how and by whom this data is to be stored could be the crucial deciding factor for many consumers.

Would you pay 40% more for a mass customized T-Shirt? 

German print industry magazine 4-C looks at mass customization. They are having an interactive series of talks about the mass customization opportunity for printing companies. In the article they quote Professor Nikolaus Franke of the Vienna University of Economics and Business who says that his research indicates that a consumer is willing to spend 40% more on a personalized T-shirt than a regular one. At Twikit we are convinced that having the consumer design an object increases their perceived value of that object. Our own implementations have borne this out. If however people will be willing to pay 40% more for mass customized things than this will be a boon for us and mass customized industry.

 

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