High-end brands such as Prada, Gucci, Bally, Jimmy Choo, and Goyard have long recognised the attraction to customers of customized products. Not only does the opportunity to personalise goods ensure that customers are getting precisely what they want, but the chance to co-design bespoke pieces bestows on the customer a heightened sense of exclusivity and luxury.
Mainstream brands have more recently caught on to the trend and customer interaction in production has accordingly trickled down to the high street. One of the leaders of the movement has been NikeiD – an online service which allows customers to engage with the brand and design footwear to their exact specifications; choosing fabrics, colours and typography to create a one-of-a-kind item. Advances in technology, in particular, have made customization far more economically feasible than it was with historically hand-crafted methods.
The effect of mass customization in the retail world has been increased competition amongst brands. Customers are becoming conditioned to getting exactly what they want and, in an era where brand loyalty is low and demands are high, there is a risk that those who do not keep up will lose out.
However, offering customization does not come without its legal pitfalls. Allowing the use of language or images which are owned by a third party, which infringe any applicable law or any third party intellectual property rights, or which are offensive, pornographic, defamatory or blasphemous may expose the brand to legal challenges and/or reputational damage. Retailers need to ensure that they have checks and measures in place to avoid falling into these traps, and watertight terms and conditions to protect themselves.