Mass customisation allows the interior design enthusiast to become a designer
In recent years the demand for tailor-made products has kept on growing. Mass customisation, i.e. the possibility of high-volume personalisation, has definitely caught on in the interior design sector. While it's true that made-to-order furniture is nothing new, its digital realisation and the resulting speed of production certainly offer fresh perspectives. Where is the demand coming from? And – equally intriguing – how is the sector tackling this opportunity?
Uniqueness is a top priority in today’s living rooms. The Tylko Type 02 sideboard lets you design your own furniture item for your apartment. (Photo: Tylko)
The megatrend towards individualisation
Global digitalisation means that new trends spread at lightning speed, while accelerated production methods ensure that goods can be made available anytime, anywhere. In a kind of counter-trend, individual lifestyles and unique products are growing in popularity. This development is evident from recent key trend lines: the desire for DIY furniture , the success of vintage pieces and the new retro-design in movies and television are all illustrative of the search for the unique – whether that’s by harking back to the past or by using cutting-edge technologies.
Many furniture manufacturers are already responding to this change in consumer preferences by offering personalisation at various levels. It starts with digital business models, comprehensive modular systems and configurators that enable customers to make wide-ranging adjustments to the final product. What's more, digitalisation means that production lines are increasingly able to fulfil special requests quickly and expertly. Smart networked machinery makes even one-off items and customised products easier to achieve than ever before. So the serial production of individual pieces is no longer pie in the sky. The comparative efficiency of mass production is dwindling visibly.
Besides the personalisation of the end product, customer service has made its contribution to the megatrend towards individualisation. Individual consultation, whether digital or analogue, offers customers increasingly detailed options. Even services such as maintenance or cleaning are now tailored precisely to customers’ needs and personalised services are gaining momentum.
The Tylko Type 02 sideboard gives co-designing customers the green light to introduce their own preferences. (Photo: Tylko)
Growing demand for mass customisation
The individualisation of product ranges is nothing new in the bricks-and-mortar furniture trade. Plenty of manufacturers offer upholstered furniture in a vast range of fabrics, colours and shapes, far outnumbering the range offered by online pure players . But the younger generation in particular prefers to use a digital platform to find inspiration, and often to buy, as well. Online furniture stores with configurable products that are aesthetically and functionally appealing can enjoy an advantage over larger manufacturers.
It is clear that mass customisation will become further established in the furniture trade. For one thing, it’s the result of the demand for a personal furnishing style. Distinctiveness is very important to many people when they are setting up home. For another thing, the starting point of the customer journey is increasingly a digital one, where individual options and fast purchases are on the rise, including in the area of interior design. So the range of sophisticated furniture configurators offering customers added value is constantly growing. Value is also increasingly important when it comes to made-to-order, bespoke furniture. Many people are prepared to pay more and accept longer delivery times for personalised furnishings – an important argument for a lot of industry leaders.
The new made-to-order furniture: success factors
Young brands and start-ups demonstrate how digital customised production can be implemented successfully. Furniture configurators can adjust the space needed for shelving units, sideboards and cupboards to the nearest centimetre. Colours can be changed with a single click, and sofas and beds can be enhanced and improved upon.
However, communication with customers is still key. That applies to both bricks-and-mortar and digital businesses . For instance, Team 7 in Munich supports their natural wood furniture range with a comprehensive advice service, backed up by video calls. Pickawood , Tylko and MYCS are all examples of providers that take digital interior design consultancy one step further. The freely configurable Conseta sofa is a successful modern upholstery solution from COR.
Simple serviceability plus ample configuration options are clear priorities. The furniture item must be shown in detail, the configurator must be mobile device friendly with a fast download time. This sets up the ideal user experience. Other key aspects include the connection to inventory management and a backend process requiring minimal maintenance. The best scenarios involve furniture configurators that are directly connected to the production machines – examples of Industry 4.0.
Ample configuration options for furniture pieces such as the Conseta sofa by COR are an important part of the trend towards individualisation. (Photo: COR)
Effects of digitalisation in the furniture trade
Digital business models and sales platforms are becoming increasingly successful – partly because order-related production processes reduce warehousing and resource requirements. So mass customisation is actually helping to promote sustainability .
Interestingly, digital made-to-order production can lead to a reduction in the product range. In order that furniture configurators function with greater clarity, options are restricted – partly because an excessively broad product range can be overwhelming for the customer. Even so, the growing demand for this type of approach, together with the desire for individuality, make this megatrend an important aspect of future furniture production – one which the sector cannot afford to miss out on.
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