Do you feel your suppliers understand you as a human being? As the individual that you are? Because that is the trend. Your web browsing experience is different from mine, based on the ads you’ve clicked on, the products you’ve bought online and the websites you’ve visited.

The search engine and digital advertising markets know how profitable it can be to serve highly targeted adverts and information exactly tailored to each individual’s specific needs, personality and quirks.

Mass customisation, to give its other name, is easier to do with digital products.

But even very physical products are getting a mass customisation makeover. Retailers with their loyalty programmes have been collecting data for years, but very few have managed to turn that information into increased profitability or even increased purchasing.

Since Henry Ford’s infamous statement that customers could have “any colour as long as it’s black,” car brands have been at the forefront of offering their customers increased choice. I looked just this week to see how far they’ve come.

If you order one brand of luxury car these days, you can choose from around 250 options — available on the instrument panel alone. You select how stiff you want the suspension to be, how responsive the brakes are — even how responsive the steering is, all tailored to your own taste and the nature of the trips you want to take.

This is not even counting all the options you can choose from for the colour of the car, the upholstery, the interior trim, the sunroof, sound system, and all the other functional and cosmetic items.

All this effort is to serve a mass market — say for cars — but more specifically to serve each individual within that market. They call it the “market of one.”

For industries from manufacturing to mining, modern technology is now allowing companies to serve that elusive “market of one.”

At Accenture we call it Industry X.0, and it’s directly tied to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. You can start thinking about the huge opportunities of serving your “market of one” by thinking of using a combination of different technologies: Artificial intelligence, a highly-empowered “liquid” workforce, embedded sensors, the Internet of Things, generative design and human-collaborative robotics.

You can also take advantage of how your customers are changing. People are becoming digitally connected to every product they use. One example I found was a shoe manufacturer called True Gault.

They have no standard sizes. Instead they have a mobile app. If you want high-heel shoes (that is their niche), you scan your feet with the app, send them the information, and they make shoes just for you.

The holy grail in financial services has long been to capture customers when they are young, and accompany them through their life stages. As they gain promotions at work, or their living circumstances change, perhaps by having children or moving to another area, their financial needs and goals change. Recognizing and taking advantage of each customer’s changing needs has been difficult — until now.

How do you think your industry will be affected by Industry X.0 and mass customisation? Is this something you are considering? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. You can reach me at rory.moore@accenture.com. To read our report on Industry X.0, please click on this link.

Rory Moore

Associate Director – Innovation, Accenture Africa

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