A new store at Disney World allows visitors to design custom T-Shirts using in store kiosks. The service provides ~100 pre-selected artworks, dozens of fonts, and colors to be combined to make your perfect shirt. The most interesting aspect of this project is that Disney partnered with Hanes rather than Zazzle, their online customization partner, for this offering
It may be a matter of Hanes providing a 10 year investment for the rights, or Zazzle’s interest in its prodigious new product releases, rather than single site installations. It could also be a signal of a move away from the intermediary customization providers.
Zazzle combines off the shelf printing technology, pre-manufactured customizable goods, a licensed content library, and adds value with its design software. It becomes easy for a manufacturer like Hanes to provide the shirts and printing, Disney to provide the IP, and to cut Zazzle out by offering a cut rate software solution.
Companies like Zazzle, Cafepress, Spreadshirt, Ponoko, Shapeways, etc. all offer a valuable service to the market. Each provides customers with access to custom manufacturing equipment and web-based design tools enabling the creation of one-of-a-kind products, but can that model survive long term?
Will “Customization” companies be able to survive long term? Or will the technology become vertically integrated?
As the interaction paradigms become standardized and manufacturing processes become commodities, what will enable the survival of these customization intermediaries?
The outcome is unclear, but the following companies are experimenting with models that add value beyond customization alone. These approaches and many others will be increasingly important as the market matures.
- Grow communities around creation (Threadless)
- Develop original brands (Xoddo)
- Become highly efficent production partners (HP/Tabblo)
- Produce patentable technology (Zcorp)
- Serve a niche community of enthusiasts (FigurePrints)