Tailor-Made for the Masses: Will Customers Be Satisfied with One-to-One Marketing Methods?

Management Today, September 1995 | Go to article overview

Tailor-Made for the Masses: Will Customers Be Satisfied with One-to-One Marketing Methods?


Recent developments in computer hardware and software allow marketers to direct individual messages to individual consumers. Could this mean the end of mass marketing? Yes, according to some prophets. In future, they argue, a company will aim to create a long-term `learning' relationship with each of its consumers, which will lock in his or her custom and increase its value year-by-year. `The more the customer teaches the company, the more difficult it becomes for the customer to go elsewhere,'us marketing guru Don Peppers told a conference of Britain's Institute of Direct Marketing this summer. The reason being that before any new company can be as useful to him as the existing company, the customer will have to invest time in teaching the new company. This is the essence of `one-to-one marketing'.

But there is a corollary to one-to-one marketing and that is mass customisation. Once the customer has taught the company what he or she wants, then the company must mass customise the product or service to meet the individually expressed need, explains Peppers. So instead of producing things and then selling them, companies will have to recreate the age of the Victorian tailor who made each item to measure and delivered it to order. This time round, however, they will have to mass produce the product in order to be cost-effective.

Companies which combine one-to-one marketing with mass customisation will achieve new levels of customer satisfaction, loyalty and profitability, argue the enthusiasts. Moreover, the cost of holding components and finished stock can be slashed. Just as improved quality can actually reduce costs, so building variety and customisation into processes can lower costs,' insists consultant Joseph Pine in his book Mass Customisation: the New Frontier of Business.

Numbers of companies are currently testing the thesis. Ford UK has a 9 million[pounds] computer system linking dealers with factories and enabling customers to specify their car's colour, trim, etc. It hopes to cut its running stock of 24,000 Fiestas (showroom value 175 million[pounds]) by 75% while keeping production levels much closer to fluctuations in demand. Rover has a similar programme. PC makers such as Dell invite customers to choose from a range of different modules such as screen size and keyboard. …

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