Prime Advantage has invited industry experts to share their insights on the present and future of manufacturing success. In this post, Alex Clark-McGlenn discusses how customers are demanding more and more personalization in their products.
Consumers don't want to pick from a static, one-size-fits-all box these days. Instead, they want the freedom and options to customize technology for their exact needs. As a result, smartphones, tablets, and computers have entered an era of individuality.
But how does this customization change the tech market? Here's a look at how consumers are demanding more customization options when making purchasing decisions around today's popular tech and which enterprises are elemental in this trend.
3D printers are still expensive, but they have quickly enabled users and manufacturers to be more creative and precise in customization options. They let users create personalized items, like phone cases and laptop and desktop frames. But where 3D printing has made the most impact is with prototypes. Prototypes used to go from concept developers to artists to manufacturers where they could be produced. Now, thanks to 3D printers, concept development teams can design, create and test their product all within a day's work.
In addition, 3D printers can move beyond prototypes and into first-run production. This step typically helps manufacturers gauge the product as it is produced because the numbers tend to reveal any design flaws and also allows for an on-going conversation with the customer to ensure that requirements are being met and the product is satisfactory. This is especially important for low-volume production companies.
3D printing also can save lives. Because they are affordable and mobile, hospitals can have them on-site to produce small items they may need, such as plastic spacers or rubber o-rings. While these items are often overlooked, nurses, doctors, and surgeons can do their jobs better and faster when they have the capability to request customized tools.
In the world of smartphones, two operating systems take up the vast majority of market share — Google Android and Apple iOS. These two companies have taken vastly different approaches to their software, which, in turn, dictate the hardware smartphones require for smooth and efficient functionality. While iOS is a closed ecosystem that Apple keeps close tabs on to ensure quality, Android is open source, which means anyone can take the source code and customize it for their own wants and needs.
While Apple has sold an image of customization and individuality ever since the first iPhone hit the market, Android is a more dynamic operating system, as developers, consumers and manufacturers all have the ability to alter the source code to suit their needs. The Android operating system is used on Samsung, HTC and LG phones, like the LG G5. In an attempt for iOS users to gain some customization capabilities, certain companies and cellular carriers have promoted the ability to "jailbreak" iPhones, which lets users use software that isn't approved by Apple and iTunes.
As far as personal tech goes, computers are still the gold standard of customized devices. For years, companies like Dell and Toshiba have offered consumers options to build their own laptop and desktop computers. Choose a frame and then fill in the hardware to fit your needs and budget. The respective websites of these companies will guide you through this process; however, if you're tech-savvy, it will always be less expensive to build your own computer from scratch.
Even if you've never built a computer, you can find DIY guides that will lead you through every step of the process. Of course, you'll want the best deals on high-end hardware, and there is a collection of websites that provide discounted models for cheap. In fact, Micro Center, Newegg, and NCIX all have deals that rotate on a daily or weekly basis. At the same time that it affects retailers, the increase in hardware customization, of course, presents opportunity for manufacturers at all levels.
But hardware isn't the only customizable part of a computer. There are many more operating systems available on PCs than on Macs, such as Linux, Windows, Chrome OS, Steam OS and more. Many open-source programs also exist for PCs and Macs, such as OpenOffice, Firefox, and even the antivirus software, ClamWin. These offer customization options for software that replace otherwise costly standards and allow for programs that best serve the user, whether an individual, a supplier or a manufacturer.
Consumers and professionals want customized products that fulfill their specific needs. While most 3D printing is geared toward small- and medium-sized accessories produced by manufacturers, it has started to link with the technology industry as they begin to make customized computer chips. Even though 3D printers are still in their infancy in terms of the consumer market, with the rate of technological advancement rising at an exponential rate, the demand for customized products is becoming more prevalent.
As Steve Jobs once said, "People don't know what they want until you show it to them." As customization capabilities become the norm, more consumer will want and demand this freedom of choice.