Trying to give customers exactly what they want can be a big mistake. Manufacturers spend billions of dollars on market research and product development to deliver a diverse mix of goods with a variety of options on a mass scale. But, in the end, they are still often guessing at what an individual customer really wants. It’s an expensive, sometimes futile endeavor that can backfire badly.
Dell Computers—once the corporate poster child for mass customization—had to pull the plug on its make-to-order model, saying it had become “too complex and costly”. German luxury carmaker Maybach offered an extensive array of models and long list of options. But Daimler lost $439,000 on each car sold and ultimately discontinued the entire line. And more choice isn’t always what customers want. When Procter & Gamble trimmed many of its product lines, including reducing the varieties of Head & Shoulders from 26 to 15, in an attempt to cut costs related to product complexity, its market share increased.
What had gotten lost in these cases was the feeling for what customers really wanted. But what would happen if customers could design and produce their own products?
To learn more about how exponential technology will affect business and life, seeSAP Digital Futures.
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About Kai Goerlich
Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network. His specialties include competitive intelligence, market intelligence, corporate foresight, trends, futuring, and ideation.
Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.
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