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Looking toward the future, Lauzon says that consumers' expectations are changing in a way that will encourage more customized e-retailing. "More and more consumers are coming in with expectations that not only do they want to custom-make products, but with expectation that it will happen," he says.
Goldman, meanwhile, comes across as more skeptical than Lauzon, as befits an investor. But he projects that made-to-order furniture could represent the next frontier for customized e-commerce. "It's been done for 30 or 40 years in higher end bricks-and-mortar stores," he says.
Whatever the future holds, it seems likely that the best customized e-retailers will understand how much choice to give their consumers and when to pull back, and how to bring confidence to the process of create-your-own retailing.
The different flavors of customized e-retail
Mass customization: Taking mostly pre-sized apparel—for instance, blank T-shirts—and adding designs, colors and lettering selected by individual consumers. Examples include FashionPlaytes.com, where young shoppers can use the Design Studio to design girl's clothing, create and share apparel collections, and purchase their own designs.
'True' or 'pure' customization: This brings e-commerce about as close as it can be to a tailor who makes, say, a custom men's suit to order. Shirtsmyway.com, for instance, enables consumers to select the details of a dress shirt, from the fabric weight down to the color of thread used on the self-selected buttons, and also provide their body or shirt measurements to the e-retailer.