Professor Thomas Aichner Keynote Speaker at Mass Customization Event
John Cabot University’s Marketing Professor Thomas Aichner was invited as a keynote speaker at the event “Mass-customization: make it real!” on September 15, 2020. The event, which was streamed online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was organized to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Fraunhofer Italia, a non-profit research organization focused on supporting small and medium-sized local companies through customized and research services.
Fraunhofer Italia’s task is to translate scientific findings into commercially viable, tailor-made innovations for companies. The organization promotes and conducts application-oriented research with relevance and impact for the direct benefit of industry and handcraft.
In his presentation about marketing and management issues concerning mass customization, Professor Aichner discussed corporate strategies, customer integration and willingness to participate in mass customization. He illustrated the implications of the “product variety paradox” and highlighted the need for personalizing the customization experience.
Mass customization denotes the operational capability to provide customized products/services that fulfill customers’ needs without substantial trade-offs in cost, delivery, and quality performance. Customizing sneakers or a car online according to one’s individual needs and preferences at a similar cost is an example of mass customization.
Customers engage in mass customization for multiple reasons. Because the process of customizing the product itself is fun. Because they feel pride in owning a self-designed object. Moreover, the product could be adapted/modified to perfectly fit their individual needs and preferences (e.g., in terms of size, color, etc.).
However, when companies develop online ‘sales configurators’ and offer a series of customization options, they need to consider one central aspect, namely, that customers value variety but are easily overwhelmed if they are offered too many options. For example, choosing your favorite color from a list of 80 is much more challenging than choosing from seven, and may result in customers being frustrated and not continuing the customization process at all. Seven is the ideal number of options that companies should provide, because customers still feel they have an ample enough choice, but without investing too much time and cognitive effort.
Other participants included top-level executives who shared insights about their practical experience with mass customization: Fernando Villa, Director of Building and Technology of the Junta Construtora del Temple Expiatori of the Sagrada Familia; Michael Obermair, CEO at Wolf System for the Middle East region; Thomas Weger, Development Engineer at Weger Walter GmbH; Klaus Tonhäuser, president and CEO of the Prinoth Group.
Professor Aichner published several articles, co-authored a book called Mass Customization: An Exploration of European Characteristics (Springer, 2011), and is a member of the scientific committee of the International Conference on Mass Customization and Personalization – Community of Europe (MCP-CE). His research about mass customization is focused on management and marketing aspects, including consumer behavior, variety management, and customer journeys, both in business to business and business to customer.