Article

Sales configurator capabilities to avoid the product variety paradox: Construct development and validation

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Abstract

Sales configurators are applications designed to support potential customers in choosing, within a company's product offer, the product solution that best fits their needs. These applications can help firms avoid the risk that offering more product variety and customization in an attempt to increase sales, paradoxically results in a loss of sales. Relatively few studies, however, have focused on the characteristics sales configurators should have so as to avoid this paradox. Furthermore, empirical investigation on the effectiveness of the recommendations made by these studies has been hindered by the lack of psychometrically sound measurement items and scales. This paper conceptualizes, develops and validates five capabilities that sales configurators should deploy in order to avoid the product variety paradox: namely, focused navigation, flexible navigation, easy comparison, benefit-cost communication, and user-friendly product-space description capabilities. It is hoped that this study will provide a parsimonious measurement instrument to advance theory testing in the field. Moreover, this instrument may be a useful diagnostic and benchmarking tool for companies seeking to assess and/or improve sales configurators they use or develop.

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... Whenever one desires to buy a new camera, a computer, a smartphone, a car or a shirt, one can explore, compare and configure a large number of customizable products. In diverse industries, many companies aim at giving customers products closer to their expectations and thus gain higher market shares [31]. Two kinds of systems -product comparators and product configurators -are usually developed and provided to ease the decision-making process of choosing a product. ...
... Yet user experience is not necessarily satisfactory. Trentin et al. recently discussed five improvement directions for sales configurators that deal with: (1) focused navigation capability, (2) benefit-cost communication, (3) flexible navigation, (4) easy comparison, and (5) user-friendly product space description [31]. The previous scenarios illustrates the limits presented by Trentin et al., not only for configurators but also for comparators. ...
... The current problem faced by practitioners is the lack of comprehensive and systematic solutions for engineering high-quality comparators and configurators that are able to address the previous criteria [21,31]. A possible unification of the two systems can be realized through the use of Product Comparison Matrices (PCMs). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Product comparators and configurators aim to assist customers in choosing a product that meets their expectations. While comparators present similarities and differences between competing products, configurators propose an assisted environment to gradually choose and customize products. The two systems have pros and cons and are inherently different. But both share the same variability information background and operate over a set of (possible) products, typically represented through product comparison matrices (PCMs). A key issue is that current PCMs have no clear semantics, making their analysis and transformations imprecise and hard. In this paper, we sketch a research plan for generating dedicated comparators or configurators from PCMs. The core of our vision is the use of formal variability models to encode PCMs and enables a further exploitation by developers of comparators or configurators. We elaborate on five research questions and describe the expected outputs of the research.
... The present paper is the first empirical study that offers insights into which characteristics (online) SCs should have in order to enhance consumer-perceived uniqueness and SE benefits. Drawing upon previous research on MC, SCs, and learning psychology, this study developed the hypotheses that not only consumer-perceived utilitarian benefit, but also consumer- perceived uniqueness and SE benefits are enhanced as the (online) SC with which a product has been configured deploys higher levels of the five (online) SC capabilities conceptualized and validated by Trentin et al. (2013). These hypotheses were tested using structural equation modeling (SEM) on data from 675 configuration experiences from a convenience sample of potential consumers with 31 real online SCs for laptops/notebooks, economy cars, and sport shoes/sneakers. ...
... Other characteristics of an SC that were found to improve customer satisfaction with the configured product are those studied by Chang and his co-authors, namely, the provision of examples of product configurations that customers could easily reproduce ( , and the provision of cues that are compatible with the product category under consideration . Trentin et al. (2013) showed that customer satisfaction with a self-customized product is positively related to the extent to which the SC deploys five capabilities (cf. Table I), which alleviate the cognitive and emotional difficulty of the configuration task. ...
... For instance, Randall et al.'s (2005) recommendation that an SC should provide rich illustrations of the configured product echoes the dimension of multimedia capability in Cao et al.'s (2005) measurement instrument of e-commerce website quality. Likewise, the SC capability of focused navigation recommended by Trentin et al. (2013) captures a specific aspect of the website quality dimension of search facility in Cao et al.'s (2005) measurement instrument. While an exhaustive review of the literature on e-commerce website quality and on e-service quality is beyond the scope of this paper [1], it is worth noting here that the majority of prior studies have investigated "the predictive capability of service quality measurement scales in the e-commerce domain by using customer satisfaction or repurchase intention as dependent variables" (Wen et al., 2014(Wen et al., , p. 1508. ...
Article
Purpose This paper focuses on online sales configurators (SCs), also known as mass-customization toolkits, which enable consumers to self-customize their product solutions online. The paper aims to provide new insights into which characteristics of an online SC increase the consumer-perceived benefits of possessing a mass-customized product. Design/methodology/approach Previous studies on mass customization, sales configuration, and learning psychology are used to develop the research hypotheses, which are tested by analyzing data from 675 configuration experiences from a convenience sample of potential consumers using 31 real online SCs for laptops/notebooks, economy cars, and sport shoes/sneakers. Findings The paper finds support for the hypotheses that SCs with higher flexible-navigation, focused-navigation, and easy-comparison capabilities enhance not only the traditionally considered utilitarian benefit (UT), but also the consumer-perceived uniqueness benefit (UN) and self-expressiveness benefit (SE). Furthermore, consistent with the study’s hypotheses, SCs with higher benefit-cost communication and user-friendly product-space description capabilities are found to improve UT. The hypotheses that these two capabilities enhance UN and SE, however, are not supported. Post-hoc analyses suggest that the examined SCs are generally UT-centered and need improvement of their ability to communicate the UN and the SE a consumer could derive from the purchase of his/her configured product. Originality/value While prior research has primarily been concerned with conceptually arguing and empirically showing that uniqueness and self-expressiveness are two additional sources of consumer value in business-to-consumer mass customization, this is the first empirical study that offers insights into which characteristics online SCs should have in order to draw from these two value sources.
... The only exception is Sandrin et al.'s [19] study concerning the effects of five SC capabilities (i.e., focused navigation, user-friendly product-space description, flexible navigation, easy comparison, and benefit-cost communication capabilities) on three consumer-perceived benefits of mass-customized products (i.e., utilitarian, uniqueness, and selfexpressiveness benefits). The five SC capabilities considered by Sandrin et al.'s [19] were originally conceptualized, operationalized, and validated by Trentin et al. [20] and represent a means to evaluate an SC in terms of its capabilities regardless of the specific design solutions adopted. A major advantage of these five capabilities is that they are not context-specific, which makes them suitable for evaluating different SCs in different industries. ...
... More specifically, extrinsic cues (e.g., expert reviews and word of mouth) should be provided in case of experience products, whose quality can be determined only after purchase, while intrinsic cues, which reflect objective product characteristics, should be provided in the case of search products, for which sufficient information can be acquired from firms prior to purchase [47]. Trentin et al. [20] show that satisfaction with a configured product and purchase intention grow based on the extent to which an SC deploys five capabilities (i.e., flexible navigation, focused navigation, easy comparison, userfriendly product-space description, and benefit-cost communication), which reduce the difficulty experienced by a potential customer in configuring a product and in making a purchase decision ( Table 2). The same authors in another study find that the same five SC capabilities make the experience of selfcustomizing a product more enjoyable and make potential customers feel stronger pride of authorship, thus delivering higher hedonic and creativeachievement benefits [48]. ...
... Before conducting the analyses, possible effects of the participants' characteristics were controlled. To that purpose, consistent with prior studies [e.g., 6,20,48], the observed indicators were regressed on 75 dummies representing the participants in the study, and the standardized residuals from this linear, ordinary least square regression model were used as the data in all subsequent analyses. Common method bias was assessed by performing Harman's single-factor test. ...
Article
Full-text available
Sales configurators (SCs) are beneficial to both mass customizers and their customers. The widespread adoption of online SCs, which enable consumers to self-customize their product solutions online, reflects the importance of these tools for companies that pursue mass customization. Prior research has found empirical evidence that the SC capabilities of focused navigation, flexible navigation, easy comparison, user-friendly product-space description, and benefit-cost communication improve the utilitarian benefit consumers perceive to gain from the possession of a mass-customized product. Only the first three capabilities, however, have been shown to enhance the uniqueness and self-expressiveness benefits. These findings derive from the study of the independent effects of the five capabilities on the utilitarian, uniqueness and self-expressiveness benefits. The present paper adds to prior research results by conceptually and empirically examining the synergic effects of the five capabilities on such benefits. Data analysis is performed using structural equation modeling and a sample of 675 configuration experiences using real online SCs for laptops/notebooks, economy cars, and sport shoes/sneakers. The paper finds that all five capabilities become effective in improving all the three consumer-perceived benefits when the capabilities are implemented jointly. This result suggests that a holistic approach in the implementation of the five capabilities is more effective in improving the consumer-perceived benefits of mass-customized products than a piecemeal approach.
... The product variety paradox is a similar problem. This means that while organizations offer more product variety and customization in an attempt to increase their sales, paradoxically they end up losing a share of their sales [2]. Sales configurators offer a solution for both of these problems. ...
... From the customers' perspective, product configurators are applications that support them in choosing the product solution that best fits their needs from a specific organization's product offering [2]. Product configurators can also be seen as components of sales force automation tools [4]. ...
... Product configurators can also be seen as components of sales force automation tools [4]. Product configurators can be stand-alone applications or modules of other applications [2]. ...
... As the relationships between producers and clients move from physical to virtual worlds, an increasingly important role is played by product configurators [4], [5]. These systems embody the mass customization strategies by allowing users to customize their products online [6]. ...
... Some scholars [5] maintain that two of the main advantages of mass customization, the hedonic benefit and the creative achievement benefit, are related to different features of the configurators. One of the necessary requirements seem to be that of allowing a "flexible navigation", by giving the users options to easily and quickly change the features of product they are configuring. ...
... One of the necessary requirements seem to be that of allowing a "flexible navigation", by giving the users options to easily and quickly change the features of product they are configuring. The "focused navigation" instead refers to the ability of a configurator to guide the user within a "product-space" (for the "problem-object" to build) which should not be perceived as too constraining by the user despite being predefined [5]. Another necessary feature is the so-called "benefit cost communication", the ability of the system to make explicit to the users costs and benefits of the different possible choices, not just in economic terms, but also in terms of sensory experience [7]. ...
Conference Paper
In recent years, the emergence of the mass customization paradigm has led to the development of online configurators as tools to increase the involvement of possible clients in the productive process. The study here presented involved 50 users which interacted with an online configurator for interior design products. Participants were also administered two tests aimed at measuring their prospective memory abilities. When they completed the interaction with the configurator, they were asked to provide ratings of aspects such as their level of satisfaction with the configurator and their willingness to buy the product they created. The results show that prospective memory is relevant in allowing the successful completion of the configuration task. Moreover, the willingness to buy the product is related to the ability to remember events in the distant future, while the degree of satisfaction with the interaction experience is related to the ability to remember what is going to happen in the near future.
... The process of selling customized products is increasingly occurring via online sales configurators (OSCs). OSCs are mass-customization (MC) toolkits designed to support potential customers in choosing the product configuration that best suits their needs from a company's web product offerings [1][2][3]. However, selling through the web is challenging not only because it is a new sales method for many companies but also because e-commerce is undergoing a constant evolution driven by the adoption of a variety of social web technologies [4]. ...
... chat boxes, online social networks) enables a form of customer socialization that has a profound impact on customer decision making [19,[46][47][48]. The socialization process enabled by SSW is possible thanks to SSW´s capability of providing communication tools [1,2] that make the social-interaction process easy and convenient (because it usually costs less) via online platforms such as blogs, instant messaging, and social networking sites. For example, in virtual communities, members can interact easily with virtual groups through electronic communication and quickly learn task-related knowledge and skills through their interactions with other members [7,48]. ...
... OSCs are knowledge-based software applications that support potential customers or sales people who are interacting with customers online to completely and correctly specify a product solution from within the company's offerings [1][2][3]. Sales configurators are designed with the purpose of guiding users toward configuration solutions that best fulfill their specific needs [53][54][55][56]. ...
Article
Full-text available
The growing adoption of social web technologies such as social software (SSW) in online configuration environments has enabled the possibility of supporting configurator users in interacting digitally with real people while they are shopping for customized products. Previous research has identified that online sales configurators (OSCs) are currently connected to SSW with different modalities to provide configurator users with a variety of options to digitally interact with real people. Enriching the configuration environment with social-interaction tools has engendered the phenomenon of social- product customization. Recent studies considered the social product-customization by investigating the impact that community feedback and social comparisons has on configurator user. However, the OSCs users’ need to interact with different referents during their configuration process, and whether the SSW- OSCs connections respond to this need are still unsearched. To address this gap, the present study explores (a) whether users experience the need to interact with different referents while shopping via OSCs and (b) which interaction modalities users are looking for. By considering 943 configuration experiences from 189 users of 378 OSCs for various consumer goods, the present study finds that the need for social interaction by OSC users is highly relevant. Moreover, OSC users perceive the need to interact with different referents during different stages of the configuration process, and, depending on the referent with whom they wish to interact, they are interested in different interaction modalities in terms of how and where those interactions take place. These findings imply that mass customizers may leverage their customers’ need to interact with real people while shopping online via OSCs in order to better engage their actual and potential customers.
... Subsequent studies focused on key characteristics of toolkits or configurators effective in enhancing the consumer's perceived value of MC. These confirmed the nature of a successful MC experience for the consumer as the interaction between her and the tools she employed to engage in the customization of an offering [16,30,31,32,33,34]. Collaboration between the consumer and firm via the co-design experience develops this partnership, but the consumer's use of the toolkit is what creates experiential value for her [30,31,32]. ...
... Merle et al. [30] proposed five values, or perceived benefits, of MCutilitarian, uniqueness, self-expressiveness, hedonic, and creative-achievement. Moreover, subsequent studies by Trentin, Perin and Forza [33], Sandrin [35], and Sandrin, Trentin, Grosso and Forza [36] demonstrate the manner in which online sales configurators positively influence Merle et al.'s [30] list of customer perceived benefits derived from the MC experience. Turner and Merle [31] supported the strong influence of the consumer's perception of complexity, control and enjoyment on the MC co-design experience and the relational values of satisfaction and loyalty intentions toward the MC program. ...
... Subsequent studies provided several indications of the characteristics of a mass-customization toolkit that enhance the co-design experience [32,34]. In their work on structuring sales configurators to avoid product variety paradox, Trentin et al. [33] proposed five capabilities that positively influence customer perceived benefits of the MC experience [32,35,36], specifically focused navigation, flexible navigation, easy comparison, user-friendly product-space description, and benefit-cost communication. With these studies in mind, we suggest three categories of MC toolkit design features [34]: scope of customization, feedback mechanisms, and comparative elements [15,25,28,26,29]. ...
... As the relationships between producers and customers move from physical to virtual worlds, product configurators play an ever more central role [5,6]. These systems embody mass customisation strategies by allowing users to customise their products online [7]. ...
... Other scholars [6] maintain that two of the main advantages of mass customisation, the hedonic benefit and the creative achievement benefit, are related to different features of the configurators. One of the necessary requirements seems to be that of allowing "flexible navigation", by giving the users options which easily and quickly change the features of product they are configuring. ...
... One of the necessary requirements seems to be that of allowing "flexible navigation", by giving the users options which easily and quickly change the features of product they are configuring. The "focused navigation" instead refers to the ability of a configurator to guide the user within a "productspace" (in order to build the "problem-object") which should not be perceived as too constraining by the user despite being predefined [6]. Another necessary feature is the so-called "benefit cost communication", the ability of the system to highlight to the users the various costs and benefits of the different possible choices, not just in economic terms, but also in terms of sensory experience [10]. ...
Conference Paper
Many steps have been taken in recent years to bring production processes closer to customer needs. This trend of mass customisation is best characterised by the emergence of online configurators which help to eliminate barriers between production and market needs. This study involved 82 participants who interacted with an online configurator for interior design products. Participants were administered two tests to measure their prospective memory abilities. After interacting with the product configurator, the participants were asked to rate aspects of the configurator - level of satisfaction, extent to which they had been able to satisfactorily conclude the configuration process, as well as their willingness to buy the product they created. The results show that prospective memory is relevant in relation to the degree of satisfaction with the interaction experience. The results also seem to suggest that prospective memory is involved in the successful completion of the configuration process and in the level of willingness to purchase the configured product.
... Toolkits that provide users with "focused navigation," i.e., equip users to arrive quickly at matching solutions have been suggested for configurators as a way to reduce the product variety paradox (Trentin et al. 2013) and can also be extended to equip users when designing with an innovation toolkit. However, providing focused navigation is a challenge because of unstable requirements and constraints based on illdefined environmental contexts. ...
... Configurators require five core capabilities to offer the right solution space to users. These are flexible navigation, focused navigation, benefit-cost communication, easy comparison functionality and userfriendly product space description (Trentin et al. 2013). Out of these, the capability of focused navigation is of interest to our research. ...
... Out of these, the capability of focused navigation is of interest to our research. Focused navigation is the ability to focus a user's search quickly in the solution space on finding the best match to the user's needs (Trentin et al. 2013). It is a challenge for non-expert users who have a large potential solution space. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Toolkits for user innovation and design democratize innovation by offering users a solution space to develop solutions that meet their diverse needs. Advancements in manufacturing and IS have given users space for creativity and innovation and the danger of overloading users with too many design decisions, especially when they also have unknown implicit needs. This design science study presents a toolkit that generates and recommends complete solutions to users. It identifies users' implicit needs with a critiquing technique, where users iteratively evaluate recommendations by visually inspecting and selecting matching solutions. It presents artifacts that make up the toolkit and its evaluation by comparing it with a traditional toolkit. The smart toolkit further expands innovation capabilities to society by learning the needs of non-expert users and enabling them with completed solutions instead of the traditional toolkit approach, where users follow a slower, manual, learning-by-doing search process through the needs and solution space.
... Evaluating product configurators is a complex task. In order to ensure that the present research is rigorous, the assessment is based on the WBSC capabilities proposed by Trentin et al. (2013). The capabilities under consideration (user-friendly product space description, focused navigation, flexible navigation, benefit-cost communication, and easy comparison) have been proposed to reduce the difficulties a customer faces when he or she customizes a product (Trentin et al., 2013). ...
... In order to ensure that the present research is rigorous, the assessment is based on the WBSC capabilities proposed by Trentin et al. (2013). The capabilities under consideration (user-friendly product space description, focused navigation, flexible navigation, benefit-cost communication, and easy comparison) have been proposed to reduce the difficulties a customer faces when he or she customizes a product (Trentin et al., 2013). However, sales configurators can act not only as tools to reduce customer difficulties but also as a means to increase the benefits that customers derive from customization. ...
... Based on the measures proposed and tested by Merle et al. (2010), Trentin et al. (2013Trentin et al. ( , 2014, and Grosso et al. (2014), both shoe configurators and configurators of other fashion products are evaluated. The 68 webbased configurators were evaluated by a total of 98 users. ...
Chapter
Mass customizers (MCs) increasingly sell their products on the web through web-based sales configurators (WBSCs). This selling approach has proved beneficial to both MCs and their customers because, on the one hand, it facilitates the customization process and, on the other hand, it provides a real-time preview of the customized product. However, selling through WBSCs is challenging. Different WBSCs have different capabilities and, consequently, customers perceive different levels of benefits from both the configured products and the customization experience. The present work performs an analysis of state-of-the-art WBSCs for shoes and compares them with other fashion WBSCs in order to help companies and researchers to adopt or develop innovative approaches to enhancing WBSCs.
... Digitalization, however, introduces the possibility of linking both marketing and customer demand information to various operational viewpoints. A key digital tool category that highlights this possibility is product and sales configurators (Trentin, Perin, & Forza, 2013). A sales configurator -essentially a digital tool that is responsible for guiding the user through a service or product configuration process (Rogoll & Piller, 2004) -can be defined as "knowledgebased software applications that support a potential customer […] in completely and correctly specifying a product solution within a company's product offer" (Trentin, Perin, & Forza, 2014, p. 694). ...
... Another critical aspect of format quality is a system that does not require the user to memorize things but one that provides recognizable elements (Johnson, 2010). In a sales configurator context, the format quality, especially the way the information is presented, is vital, as the individual users are unlikely to be IT specialists or software engineers (Tiihonen et al., 1996;Trentin et al., 2013). ...
... Regarding sales configurators, Trentin et al. (2013) emphasize that flexible and focused navigation is a critical component of ease of use. By flexible navigation, the authors refer to the system's ability to make modifications to the previous or current configurations. ...
Article
Full-text available
Digitalization changes both buying processes and sales processes and, consequently, the dynamics and division of work between buyers and suppliers in the supply chain. This has major implications for industrial marketing and supply chain management. In this study, we analyze the impact of sales configurators, which are used to create valid configurations of market offerings that fulfill customer requirements. The usefulness of sales configurators can be investigated from both the sellers' and buyers' perspectives. In this research, we focus on the latter, and we specifically investigate the antecedents of customers' acceptance of sales configurators in a supply chain. In our analysis, we concentrate on system-level antecedents, which have been neglected by the existing literature. Our research yields better knowledge of how digital sales technologies can be used by customers for improved effectiveness and perceived value. The results demonstrate that ease of use and system adaptability contribute strongly to the perceived effectiveness, and eventually to the perceived usefulness, of sales configurators. Yet, surprisingly, perceived enjoyment is identified as having the most significant effect on perceived usefulness.
... The present paper is the first empirical study that offers insights into which characteristics (online) SCs should have in order to enhance consumer-perceived uniqueness and SE benefits. Drawing upon previous research on MC, SCs, and learning psychology, this study developed the hypotheses that not only consumer-perceived utilitarian benefit, but also consumerperceived uniqueness and SE benefits are enhanced as the (online) SC with which a product has been configured deploys higher levels of the five (online) SC capabilities conceptualized and validated by Trentin et al. (2013). These hypotheses were tested using structural equation modeling (SEM) on data from 675 configuration experiences from a convenience sample of potential consumers with 31 real online SCs for laptops/notebooks, economy cars, and sport shoes/sneakers. ...
... Greater information adequacy, in turn, proved to enhance consumerperceived preference fit as well as the benefits of the configuration process per se, such as personal gratification, fun, and increased knowledge about the product ( Jiang et al., 2014). Other characteristics of an SC that were found to improve customer satisfaction with the configured product are those studied by Chang and his co-authors, namely, the provision of examples of product configurations that customers could easily reproduce ( ), and the provision of cues that are compatible with the product category under consideration ( ). Trentin et al. (2013) showed that customer satisfaction with a self-customized product is positively related to the extent to which the SC deploys five capabilities (cf. Table I), which alleviate the cognitive and emotional difficulty of the configuration task. ...
... For instance, Randall et al.'s (2005) recommendation that an SC should provide rich illustrations of the configured product echoes the dimension of multimedia capability in Cao et al.'s (2005) measurement instrument of e-commerce website quality. Likewise, the SC capability of focused navigation recommended by Trentin et al. (2013) captures a specific aspect of the website quality dimension of search facility in Cao et al.'s (2005) measurement instrument. While an exhaustive review of the literature on e-commerce website quality and on e-service quality is beyond the scope of this paper [1], it is worth noting here that the majority of prior studies have investigated "the predictive capability of service quality measurement scales in the e-commerce domain by using customer satisfaction or repurchase intention as dependent variables" ( Wen et al., 2014Wen et al., , p. 1508). ...
Article
Manufacturers that adopt mass customization are paying a growing attention to understanding not only how product customization can be delivered efficiently, but also how this strategy can create value for their customers. As reported in literature, the customer-perceived value of a mass-customized product also depends on the uniqueness and self-expressiveness benefits that a customer may experience above and beyond the traditionally considered utility of possessing a product that fits with the customer's functional and aesthetical needs. Increasing customer-perceived value by delivering uniqueness and selfexpressiveness benefits can therefore be one key in augmenting the customer's willingness to pay for a mass-customized product. This paper conceptually develops and empirically tests the hypotheses that five sales-configurator capabilities previously defined in literature increase uniqueness and self-expressiveness benefits of a mass-customized product, in addition to the traditionally considered utilitarian benefit. The hypothesized relationships have been tested by analyzing self-customization experiences made by engineering students using a set of real Web-based sales configurators of different consumer goods. The analysis results show that easy comparison, flexible navigation and focused navigation capabilities have a positive impact on each of the considered benefits, while user-friendly product space description and benefit-cost communication capabilities have a positive impact on utilitarian benefit only. The findings of this study complement previous research results on what characteristics sales configurators should have to increase consumer-perceived benefits of mass customization.
... Case-based recommendation approaches investigated in this work seem to be potentially viable, but further research is required. In addition, future configurators should provide recently identified user support capabilities to avoid the product variety paradox where increased offered variety may decrease sales volume (Trentin, Perin, & Forza, 2013). These capabilities are focused navigation, flexible navigation, easy comparison, benefit-cost communication, and user-friendly product-space description capabilities (Trentin et al., 2013) (Trentin et al., 2013). ...
... In addition, future configurators should provide recently identified user support capabilities to avoid the product variety paradox where increased offered variety may decrease sales volume (Trentin, Perin, & Forza, 2013). These capabilities are focused navigation, flexible navigation, easy comparison, benefit-cost communication, and user-friendly product-space description capabilities (Trentin et al., 2013) (Trentin et al., 2013). ...
... WeCoTin could be extended. Potential extensions include repair functionality of inconsistent configurations, personalized recommendations, optimization support, enhanced ways to express requirements, visualization, improved enduser interface (with enhanced capabilities for supporting the end user to prevent the product variety paradox (Trentin et al., 2013) and dynamic aspects such as the sequence of questions depending on previous answers), and support for reconfiguration. "Syntactic sugar" could be offered: a minor inconvenience was apparent in the case of an optional subfeature (cardinality 0 to 1), and exactly one allowed type: it was difficult to invent a name for the feature type and the subfeature. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
The ideal of mass customization is to satisfy individual customer requirements efficiently. This can be realized with configurable products that can be adapted, within the bounds of pre-designed offered variation, to individual requirements. Configurators are information systems that support efficient and errorless specification of individualized products or services. Applying the Design Science research approach, a number of artifacts that support the sales configuration of physical products and services were developed with the aim of advancing the state of the art of practically applicable configurators. We present a conceptualization for configuration knowledge that unifies previous connection-based, resource-based, structure-based, and function-based approaches. The conceptualization is object oriented and treats the main concepts uniformly with respect to several criteria, including the availability of taxonomic hierarchies with refinement, abstraction, and applicability of attributes. A detailed conceptualization for representing the variable compositional structure of components and functions is included. The main artifact of this work is a novel configurator instantiation called WeCoTin. It consists of a graphical modeling environment Modeling Tool and a Web-based Configuration Tool that supports the configuration task. WeCoTin is based on a well-founded modeling conceptualization and a corresponding high-level object-oriented modeling language with clear formal semantics, provided by mapping the modeling language to weight constraint rules—a form of logic programs. The Modeling Tool enables efficient graphical modeling and includes features that support long-term management. The Configuration Tool provides Web-based sales configuration functionality. It applies an inference engine that is based on weight constraint rules to provide consistent and complete inference. Evaluation includes the characterization of 26 sales configuration models and run-time performance analysis. Enabled by the novel principles of WeCoTin, an information systems design theory for sales configurators is proposed. Recommendation technologies can support users during choice navigation. We present scenarios in which support can be offered and analyze the applicability of recommendation technologies. We propose extensions to the existing case-based feature value recommendation technologies by integrating importance weights and similarity metrics. A basic evaluation of the utility of the case-based collaborative approach was provided through an empirical study. Due to the importance of services, mass customization of services by configuration is crucial. We discuss the offered variation of configurable services in three industries and the applicability of configurators designed for physical products in the context of service configuration.
... In addition, scientific knowledge on different approaches and means for building configurators has been published in different fields of research. For example, a procedure for implementing configurator instantiations based on generic configurators has been proposed [20] and sound principles and requirements on user interaction of configurators have been presented [21,22]. However, any theories from the design perspective of generic configurator systems are still nonexistent. ...
... Examples of identified configuration related research challenges include personalized configuration, communitybased configuration (by a group of users), standardized configuration knowledge representations, intelligent user interfaces for configuration knowledge acquisition, intelligent testing and debugging, and unobtrusive preference elicitation [56]. To our knowledge, it is not common for generic configuration systems to directly support providing the user support capabilities proposed to avoid the product variety paradox [21]: focused navigation, flexible navigation, easy comparison, benefit-cost communication, and user-friendly product-space description capabilities. Many sales configurators even struggle on aspects like consistency checking [22]. ...
... Many sales configurators even struggle on aspects like consistency checking [22]. However, the application of configurators in business and corresponding effects (e.g., on organization, processes, business performance), and configurator user interaction aspects are relevant and gaining momentum [21,22,[57][58][59][60][61]. A number of books guide companies on information management required by mass customization, configurator classifications, and selecting a configurator [20,59,62]. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
We look for means to advance the field of configuration systems via research that is performed rigorously and methodolog- ically with the aim of theory creation. Specifically, we explore the use of Information Systems Design Theory (ISDT) as a framework for defining a design science theory for sales configurator construc- tion. ISDT is the primary output of Design Science research that “shows the principles inherent in the design of an IS artifact that accomplishes some end, based on knowledge of both IT and human behavior”. The components of ISDT include purpose and scope, constructs, principles of form and function, artifact mutability, testable propositions, and justificatory knowledge. Generalizing from the novel principles of our earlier work applied in the con- struction of a sales configuration system called WeCoTin, we present the Sales Configurator Information Systems Design Theory SCISDT. SCISDT aims to support development of generic config- urators (aka configuration toolkits) that enable the creation of configurator instantiations for individual companies or product lines to provide choice navigation capability.
... D 0 and D 1 , the following two measures are proposed: , (13) . (14) Then, if ∆ H w0,1 > ∆H c0,1 => design platform D 1 is more preferable for mass customization (MC) than D 0 . To compare between three alternative design platforms, the following sub-procedure can be used. ...
... Some authors, e.g. [10][11][12][13][14][15] argue that infeasible configurations might be hidden to improve "con guration experience" by using sophisticated Fig. 6. SHIMANO compatibility table with Platforms D 0-3 for gears and front derailleur [9] product configurators. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
An important part of product variety management in mass customization environment is finding optimum variety extent. The problem appears as crucial when product configuration conflict problems occur. This paper proposes a method to decide about more suitable degree of customization for existing or newly proposed product design platforms. Finally, the case application is described in order to demonstrate applicability of the method. The newly developed method can be employed to assist product managers to independently assess competitive product variety platforms against each other and to evaluate their customization characteristics.
... Neither of them can benefit the company of insightful information for further product development; 2) customer can become frustrated with unknown specifications, or confused by the amount of product variants [10] during the configuration process. Thus, a navigation process with personalized informative contents and recommendations is critical in customer-centric product configuration process [11]; 3) the configuration system generally gives a fixed sequence of queries and obtains inputs passively without distinguishing different customer's preferences [7], which is not adaptable or intelligent for the interaction process. It is time consuming and tedious especially for the complicated product configuration process. ...
... Another type of work focused on the improvement of web-based user-friendly interface in the configuration process to capture CRs effectively by taking customers' different level of product knowledge into consideration [23]. Trentin, Perin and Forza [11] further validated five capabilities that sales configurators should deploy in order to avoid the "mass confusion", i.e.: focused navigation, flexible navigation, easy comparison, benefit-cost communication, and user-friendly product-space description capabilities. In order to optimize the complicated configuration process, knowledge-based recommendation technique is widely used to shorten the configuration rounds, which is usually dependent on customer history view, purchase or transaction records to predict customers' future desires and buying intentions [24]. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Product configurator, as an effective tool in mapping customer requirements with company’s existing product attributes, enables customers’ satisfaction and companies’ competitiveness in a cost-efficient way. However, with the tendency towards mass personalization, customers are not only just selecting from each company’s own options in a ‘configure-to-order’ model, but also more actively involved in the product development process to create their own individualized products in an ‘engineer-to-order’ model. Besides, the existing configurators generally apply the same matching procedures to all the customers in the same sequential way, which is tedious and time consuming, especially for the complicated product configuration. Aiming to solve these problems, this paper proposes a personalized product configuration process to determine design attributes in a cloud-based environment, which is based on two assumptions: 1) products need to be adaptable enough for configuration; 2) customers prefer to develop new designs from the existing products in a tangible or visualized way other than design from scratch. The proposed process is capable of handling personalized requirements by adding new modules or upgrading design attributes in the existing product family. An illustrative example shows its advantages in customer-centric product development process.
... The benefits of configurators in supporting commercial and technical processes have been deepened by academic literature [2,[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]. The use of configurators is notable in this: it reduces lead times [8][9][10]19], improves the quality of product specifications [7,[10][11][12] and products [13,14], improves costing accuracy and product profitability [20], preserves product knowledge [7,16], reduces routine work [2], improves the certainty of delivery [7,10,17,19], augments the product-related and experience-related benefits perceived by customers [21][22][23][24], and increases customer satisfaction [7,10,18]. ...
... The benefits of configurators in supporting commercial and technical processes have been deepened by academic literature [2,[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]. The use of configurators is notable in this: it reduces lead times [8][9][10]19], improves the quality of product specifications [7,[10][11][12] and products [13,14], improves costing accuracy and product profitability [20], preserves product knowledge [7,16], reduces routine work [2], improves the certainty of delivery [7,10,17,19], augments the product-related and experience-related benefits perceived by customers [21][22][23][24], and increases customer satisfaction [7,10,18]. However, the challenges companies face in implementing and using configurators have not been addressed to the same extent as the benefits derived from the use of configurators, given the tendency in the literature to highlight successful uses [25]. ...
Article
Companies providing customized products increasingly apply configurators in supporting sales and design activities, thus improving lead-times, quality, cost, benefits perceived by customers, and customer satisfaction. While configurator advantages have been substantially investigated, the challenges of implementing and utilizing configurators have less often been considered. By reviewing relevant literature, the present study first categorizes the main challenges faced by manufacturing companies when implementing and utilizing configurators. Six main categories of challenges are identified: (1) IT-related, (2) product modeling, (3) organizational, (4) resource constraints, (5) product-related, and (6) knowledge acquisition. Second, through a survey, the importance of those categories of challenges is assessed, and the specific challenges within each of those categories are highlighted. Finally, it is investigated whether the importance of the main categories of challenges varies according to a number of potential context variables. The results of the survey, which studies manufacturing companies that use configurators in providing customized products, offer new insights into the importance of these categories of challenges. The findings contribute to the research on manufacturing companies’ utilization of configurators and will raise awareness of the main challenges associated with their implementation and use.
... To provide a consistent appearance to the customer customization sites should not only offer adaptable products. The configuration process itself has to be adapted to the individual user [40], [41]. Within the 157 configuration process it would be easy to determine the gender with a simple question in an early step to subsequently offer a personalized site. ...
Article
Full-text available
Although several studies on gender commerce were published in the last decade, showing the importance of a differentiated address of men and women in marketing, studies on gender differences in online mass customization (MC) are rare. With the help of an empirical study it was analyzed which categories of customized products are preferred by women and men and if products are bought for self-usage or for gift-giving. A quantitative study with 247 participants showed that products in the categories " food & nutrition " as well as " personalized look " are preferably bought by women, whereas products in the categories " made-to-measure-apparel " and " footwear " are predominantly purchased by men. The research showed that, in all product categories considered, women customized products for gift-giving more than men. This result follows the theoretical foundation in evolutionary psychology. In addition, in the category " personalized fashion " women bought significantly more products (i.e. printed T-shirts) to give as a gift to others than men. Based on the results of the study recommendations for adapting the customization process to the gender of the users and the objective of purchase are given.
... Companies may charge higher prices and/or earn better positions on the market and thus increase their profit by having a greater variety of products and by including customers into the production process in order to offer them what they really want, or at least, what most resembles customers' wishes. However, the strategy of product proliferation, product adjustment to customers' needs, and an active involvement of customers in the production process may be risky in that it can generate lower, rather than higher, profits [7][8][9]. An offer of an ever growing number of product variations and their possible adjustments in an attempt to increase the sales paradoxically decreases the sales-the product variety paradox. ...
Article
Full-text available
The majority of the current product configurators defined for the small or medium-sized enterprise one-of-akind production (SME OKP) with the dominant variation of the product by typology are derived from the assemble-toorder (ATO) production configurators. Unfortunately, they do not provide the customers with the possibility to adjust the products to their specific needs and further configuration-related actions through specialized software interfaces are required. On the basis of a detailed 1-year-long customer behavior tracking and analysis, the following key issues of the actual configurators have been defined: a low degree of the product adjustment, the complexity of the process of modeling the adjusted product, the extension of the leading time, a separated process of modeling, and the establishment of the communication channel between the customer and the manufacturer in the real time. The proposed solution is based on integrating the existing configurators into one common software application. It should act mainly as the necessary real-time communication channel between the customer and manufacturer in order to alleviate the effects of the product complex paradox. With this concept, the reduction of the leading time is observed as the additional positive effect. The case study illustrates the basic principles and technology required for the practical realization of the proposed solution for the configuration processes of the products in the SME OKP for the PVC windows manufacturing in the hybrid manufacturing cloud environment.
... Companies utilizing a PCS demonstrate better capability in terms of offering a variety of products, improving product quality, simplifying the customer-ordering process, and reducing the complexity of both processes and products, in addition to increased product profitability [6][7][8][9][10]. Further, a PCS facilitates knowledge sharing, uses fewer resources, optimizes product designs, performs less routine work, ensures timely delivery, reduces the time required to train new employees, and augments the product related and experience related benefits perceived by customers [1,[11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20]. ...
Article
This article aims at analyzing the impact of implementing a product configuration system (PCS) on the increased accuracy of the cost calculations and the increased profitability of the products. Companies that have implemented PCSs have achieved substantial benefits in terms of being more in control of their product assortment, making the right decisions in the sales phase and increasing sales of optimal products. These benefits should have an impact on the company’s ability to make more accurate cost estimations in the sales phase, which can positively affect the products’ profitability. However, previous studies have not addressed this relationship to a great extent. For that reason, a configure-to-order (CTO) manufacturing company was analyzed. A longitudinal field study was performed in which the accuracy of the cost calculations and the products’ profitability were analyzed before and after a PCS was implemented. The comparison in the case study revealed that increased accuracy of the cost calculations in the sales phase and consequently increased profitability can be achieved by implementing a PCS.
... It is the product configurators that may have a key role in lessening the detrimental effects of the product variety paradox [12]. A product configurator is a subtype of a software based on expert systems or knowledge-based systems whose crucial purpose is the transfer of every individual customer's needs into a complete and valid product specification that will satisfy the customer's needs within the production range of a company [13]. ...
Article
This paper is concerned with the complexity of the configuration process in small-and medium-sized one-of-a-kind production (SMEs OKP) with the dominant variation of the topology from the aspect of the position of customer involvement decoupling point (CIDP), batch size and the complexity of the product configurations process. The issues of the level of the product adjustment to the customer, complexity of the product configuration process, the possibility for the client to be integrated in that early phase of the production and the way of using the data obtained in the product configuration process for generating the final product specification of the customised product in this type of production have been discussed. A special concern has been given to the product complexity paradox, i.e. a risk that a customer may decide not to purchase the product because of too many technical details they encounter while configuring the product, as well as an inevitable extension of the leading time induced by the position of CIDP in this type of production. The division of configurators in three interconnected parts is suggested as the solution for the aforementioned problems: the front-end, middle-end and back-end configurator. The paper emphasises the establishment of the necessary communication channel between the customer, i.e. the front-end configurator and the seller, i.e. the middle end configurator in order to alleviate the effects of the product complexity paradox. A positive effect of the automatic download of the generated data from the front-end and middle-end configurators by the back-end configurator on the leading time reduction has been also discussed.
... Another type of work focused on the improvement of the web-based user-friendly interface in the configuration process to capture CRs effectively by taking customers' different level of product knowledge into consideration [21]. Trentin et al. [22] further validated five capabilities that sales configurators should deploy in order to avoid the "mass confusion", i.e. focused navigation, flexible navigation, easy comparison, benefit-cost communication, and user-friendly product-space description capabilities. In order to optimize the complicated configuration process, knowledge-based recommendation technique is widely used to shorten the configuration rounds, which is usually dependent on the customer's history view, purchase or transaction records to predict customers' future desires and buying intentions [23]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Product configuration system, as an effective tool to bridge the gap between customer requirements and product offerings, enables customer-centric product development in a cost-efficient way. Despite its advantages, however, most existing product configurators are centralized, i.e. the configuration process is conducted in a single company within its own product family. It cannot fulfill the ever increasing tendency towards personalization. This is because customers no longer have to choose from the limited options within the company's solution space in a " configure-to-order " (CTO) model, they also propose or even create their individualized design in an " engineer-to-order " (ETO) model. Moreover, companies, especially large ones, are not willing to invest much into the niche market to produce the highly personalized components. To solve this problem, an open architecture product platform with adaptable interface can be adopted to integrate the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) with various vendors into a co-creation process. This paper proposes a conceptual framework of a personalized product configuration system based on the adaptable open architecture product platform. The technical configurator is enabled by a two-stage process (i.e. modular design and scalable design) to ensure the adaptability and scalability of product variety, while the sales configurator is established by considering each customer's preferences and conducting the configuration process in an ETO manner. The technical details of the prototype system implementation is described and an illustrative example of a personalized bicycle configuration process is given to validate the overall framework.
... These methods can be based on the market analyses, benchmarking tool, mathematical statistics, etc. In (Trentin et al, 2013) it is shown that sales configuration capabilities are applications designed to support potential customers in choosing within a company of product offer, the product solution that best fits their needs. The Analytic Hierarchical Process (AHP) is applied to help the company determine where to invest the development resources to achieve maximum payoff (Ramanathan and Yunfeng, 2009). ...
Article
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The market validation of any devices presents one of the most waste important tasks. There are many factors have a critical effect on market validation. These factors are defined by reverse logistic management team. In this paper, a new model for market validation of device for recycling is proposed which includes both quantitative and qualitative factors. In this paper, fuzzy pair-wise comparison matrix of the relative importance of factors is performed by reverse logistic team which use linguistic expressions. The factor weights are given by fuzzy AHP. The values of factor can be crisps and described by pre-defined linguistic expressions. All linguistic terms are modeled by triangular fuzzy numbers. The proposed model is verified through an illustrative example. The obtained results represent an input for future research which should include a good benchmark base for tested different devices which use in reverse logistic chains and their continuous improvement.
... Some authors (e.g. [17,[21][22][23][24][25][26][27]) argue that infeasible configurations might be hidden to improve "configuration experience" by using sophisticated product configurators. It was also proven in psycho-social domain (e.g. ...
Article
Full-text available
The development of methods to identify the optimal product variety of a product platform is an important research issue in mass customization. A product platform which includes a wide portfolio of modules or components allows customers to customize their product by expressing a lot of different requirements. However, certain requirements may be constrained each other thus bringing customers to be disappointed by unfeasible product configurations. The present article explores the possibility of using entropy-based measures for quantifying the complexity induced by product variety in the context of constrained product configuration. More specifically, this article proposes a method which uses entropy-based measures to decide the optimal variety for product platforms. This method characterises a given product platform comparing the entropy associated to the feasible product configurations with the entropy associated to the unfeasible product configurations. Computational experiments performed on two case applications show that the proposed method can be effectively used to quantify variety-induced complexity and to assist product managers to choose optimal product variety.
... The information required to provide this support is modelled and included in the PCSs during their implementation (Forza and Salvador, 2006;Hvam et al., 2008). Widely used in various industries, PCSs bring substantial benefits to both suppliers of customised products who are seeking an optimal balance between customisation and operational performance (Ardissono et al., 2003;Forza and Salvador, 2002a;Trentin et al., 2012) and to customers who are looking for and co-designing product variants that better match their needs (Kamis et al., 2008;Sandrin, 2017;Sandrin et al., 2017;Trentin et al., 2013). PCSs are therefore recognised as a crucial component in implementing mass customisation (Suzić et al., 2018a,b). ...
Conference Paper
Product Configuration Systems (PCS) are considered types of IT systems that enable companies to develop product alternatives to facilitate the sales and production processes automation. Based on literature, there are various challenges reported on managing different phases of PCS projects. Different tools and solutions have been suggested and applied for solving these challenges especially at the level of the project management process. Moreover, various software project management methods are used, in order to get high quality PCS, such as Rational Unified Process (RUP). The changes from Plan-driven methodologies towards a pure agile way of working is a challenge that comes with both benefits and risks. In this paper, first we will investigate about the PCS projects using the RUP method and then we will discuss PCS projects cases managed and launch using Agile principles. We use a comparative qualitative explanatory case study method on multiple data sources: documentation, workshops and participant observation. We find that changing from RUP to Scrum brings both positive effects and challenges to the organization.
... Nevertheless, in the configuration community, interesting UIrelated studies have been published. For example, the diagnostic tool of Trentin et al. [20] to assess and improve sales configurators based on their perceived benefits by users. More specific works can be found on points addressed by Trentin et al. e.g. on flexible navigation, user-friendly space description, side-by-side product comparison [17,22,16,9,15]. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
While past research on product configuration has focused on knowledge representation and automated reasoning, researchers have paid less attention to the design and evaluation of user experience (UX). For product configurators like for other interactive applications, UX is of paramount importance. This is all the more true since configurators are often primary points of contact between a merchant and its customers, and business-critical assets meant to maximize sales. Over the years, the HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) community has defined standard guidelines for interactive applications. Yet, previous studies suggested that in practice product configurators often differ from such guidelines. In this preliminary study, we address two main research questions: (1) To what extent do existing config-urators deviate from HCI guidelines? (2) Why do those deviations appear? We first present a synthesis of the main well-established guidelines from the HCI community. We complement these observations with an analysis of the literature to collect more HCI issues and to better understand their origins. Then, we proceed to studying a sample of 50 real-world configurators to observe whether, and to which extent, they comply with the HCI guidelines. We then conclude the paper with directions for future research, emphasizing HCI challenges that are specific to configurators. This study is part of a broader PhD project which ultimate goal is to define a set of guidelines specifically intended to optimize the UX of sales configurators.
... On the other hand, practical implications in the insurance market illustrate an existence of a narrow and concentrated purpose to ensure a numerous variety of products and/or customisation options without proper access to information or proper assistance in the customisation process. In theory, this situation is known as Mass Confusion and stands for consequences where customers are overwhelmed with processes, products, or service data, which later leads to user dissatisfaction as well as a decrease in demand for customised products or services, customer loyalty and branding (Huffman & Kahn 1998;Piller et al., 2005;Trentin et al., 2013). ...
Article
Full-text available
The Baltic non-life insurance market has not only continued recording a dynamic premium growth in the past three years but also has shown a significant transition to digital technologies and solutions. Here, the development of customised insurance products and systems, assessment of claims, and creation of personalised customer experience can be considered best practices in the application of theoretical concepts and, accordingly, require continuous studies from a scientific point of view. Therefore, the following research aims to present an as-is status of existing solutions of digital insurance platforms in Baltic countries and to clarify their compatibility with customisation, personalisation, and value co-creation features at the practical product and functional levels. Accordingly, a case-study method following a combination of a descriptive embedded single-case design and the state-of-the-art method was applied in the analysis of the non-life insurance market, its e-channel environment, and platforms of three Baltic countries — Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The multidimensional assessment matrix has been designed to present the results of the case study analysis on the practical product and functional levels. Research results refer to an assumption that ideas and methods of Mass Customisation and Mass Personalisation concepts, as well as their combination with digital solutions, penetrate the analysed part of the non-life insurance market in the Baltic countries and result in a mutually useful outcome for insurance companies and end-users. The paper contributes to further theoretical investigation of digitalisation and digital transformation of the non-life insurance market in the Baltic countries, as well as the development of practical knowledge in combined management and IT solutions application.
... Companies utilizing a PCS demonstrate better capability in terms of offering a variety of products, improving product quality, simplifying the customer-ordering process, and reducing the complexity of both processes and products, in addition to increased product profitability [6][7][8][9][10]. Further, a PCS facilitates knowledge sharing, uses fewer resources, optimizes product designs, performs less routine work, ensures timely delivery, reduces the time required to train new employees, and augments the product related and experience related benefits perceived by customers [1,[11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20]. ...
Article
Product configuration systems (PCS) are increasingly being used in industrial companies to enable the efficient design of customized products. The literature describes substantial benefits that companies have achieved from the use of PCS, such as reduced resource consumption, reduced lead-time, improved quality, and increased sales, which should lead to a significant return on investment (ROI). However, there is little detailed quantification of the benefits, costs, and ROI from using PCS in the literature. Thus, the true value of PCS remains unknown. Hence, this study quantifies (1) the benefits in terms of reduced man-hours, improved quality of specifications, reduced lead-time, and increased sales and (2) the costs of development, implementation, and maintenance of PCS. Based on this, the ROI is calculated. The analyses presented in this study are based on a world-leading company in pump manufacturing. This study verifies the benefits of PCS that are described in the literature. Further, it contributes to the field by introducing a method to quantify the related benefits, costs, and ROI. Finally, the article illustrates how PCS can be used in companies having product portfolios consisting of a standard to engineered products.
... The listed factors do not only illustrate new development of the concept, but also influence its organizational frameworks, its practical operating logic, the application format of mass service or product systems and processes, as well as stimulating new forms of innovation in the Customization field (Ferguson et al. 2010). Therefore, the pre-dominance of five clusters in researchers' countries should not lead to the misleading interpretation that Customization does not work and is not compatible with any modern technology application, customer experience management or intangible goods (Piller et al. 2005;Trentin et al. 2013). ...
Article
Full-text available
Researchers of the Mass Customization domain face not only challenges of proper and timeless identification of latest practical trends, but also difficulties in rational analyses on the numerous existing scientific studies in this field as well as a need for a comprehensive and multidimensional state-of-the-art overview of the Mass Customization research domain in the last three decades. Therefore, the present research article aims to provide a critical standpoint and reveal the main research directions and content at systemic, bibliometric and historical research levels in the period of 1990-2020. Four types of bibliometric clustering techniques and a visualization of results in a format of two-dimensional maps by the VOSviewer software were applied in the analysis on 1783 scientific papers from the Clarivate Analytics Web of Science Core Collection. The analysis reveals six historical periods in the Mass Customization research domain, from which, in the last three decades, three are identified as influencing modern Mass Customization research areas and objects. Results confirmed a shift from a stand-alone scientific approach to the customization of tangible products in the manufacturing field and their risk management, to a hybrid scientific approach with a focus on the customization of non-tangible products and personalized customer behavior in online environments.
... It keeps them from finding optimal solutions, because of the overwhelming number of design options that are given to them (see also Matzler et al., 2007). Online platforms offer specialized design toolkits, recommender systems, and communication channels to support users in their activities (Piller et al., 2004;Burke, 2007;Trentin et al., 2013). With technologies like 3D printing, a user's available solution space continues to increase. ...
Article
Full-text available
An increasingly popular form of open innovation in the digital age is ‘making,’ where users innovate across multiple disciplines and make products that meet their needs, using mechanical, electronic, and digital components. These users have at their disposal, a wide solution space for innovation through various modular toolkits enabled by digital‐age technologies. This study explores and outlines how these users simplify this wide solution space to innovate and make tangible products. Following a modularity theory perspective, it draws on case studies of users and their innovations: (1) Users with initial prototype product designs based on the Internet of things (IoT) from a maker event and (2) users with established product designs from the online community platform Thingiverse. The studies found that users reused the design in the form of existing off‐the‐shelf products and utilized digital fabrication and low‐cost electronics hardware as a ‘glue’ to create physical and informational interfaces wherever needed, enabling bottom‐up modularity. They iteratively refined their innovations, gradually replacing re‐used designs with own integrated designs, reducing modularity, and reducing wastage. The study contributes to open innovation and modularity with implications on the design of products and toolkits enabled by the digital age.
... The information required to provide this support is modelled and included in the PCSs during their implementation (Forza and Salvador, 2006;Hvam et al., 2008). Widely used in various industries, PCSs bring substantial benefits to both suppliers of customised products who are seeking an optimal balance between customisation and operational performance (Ardissono et al., 2003;Forza and Salvador, 2002a;Trentin et al., 2012) and to customers who are looking for and co-designing product variants that better match their needs (Kamis et al., 2008;Sandrin, 2017;Sandrin et al., 2017;Trentin et al., 2013). PCSs are therefore recognised as a crucial component in implementing mass customisation (Suzić et al., 2018a,b). ...
Article
Product configuration systems (PCSs) are software applications that enable companies to customise configurable products by facilitating the automation of sales and engineering. Widely used in various industries, PCSs can bring substantial benefits and constitute a fundamental tool for mass customisation. However, serious challenges in PCS development have been reported. Software engineering approaches, such as the rational unified process (RUP) and Scrum, have been adopted to realise high-quality PCSs, but research insights on their use in PCS development are very limited, and their different capabilities to address PCS challenges are almost totally unexplored. This article illustrates the application of RUP and Scrum in PCS development and compares their contributions to addressing PCS development challenges. To perform this comparison, four PCS projects in a company that moved from RUP to Scrum are analysed. The evidence provided suggests that moving from RUP to Scrum has a positive effect in facing organisational, IT-related and resource constraint challenges. The results also highlight worsening knowledge management and documentation, product modelling and visualisation. The findings suggest the adaptation of Scrum for PCS development to reinforce Scrum’s knowledge-related capabilities.
... Similarly, Ardissono et al. (2003) presented an adaptive, dynamically generated user interface for better capturing customer requirements in a sales configuration process. Trentin et al. (2013) discussed the necessary capabilities of sales configurators to help companies avoid the paradox of offering more product variety while resulting in a loss of sales. In a similar study (Trentin et al., 2014), the authors presented the sales configurators' capabilities to increase customers' perceived benefits from configuring products. ...
Article
Unlike most of the available configuration solutions, the integrated sales, product and production configuration is proposed to help companies realize product customization from a holistic view. It achieves this by determining the functional features (i.e., sales configuration), possible product alternatives (i.e., product configuration), and production process alternatives (i.e., production configuration). With the presence of multiple alternatives, it is necessary to determine final products and production processes based on the evaluation. This study, thus, evaluates the product alternatives and production process alternatives, which are configured in the integrated configuration. In line with the fact that in practice, cost and time are two of the most important elements in quotation preparation, we develop evaluation models to minimize the production costs and completion time. In addition, to provide companies with better decision-making support in selecting product offerings, the proposed configuration evaluation computes the differences in terms of cost and time among all the product and production process alternatives. With the differences in cost and time, companies can opt for suitable selection with respect to time or cost and/or other factors, e.g., strategic objectives. A case application of temperature controllers is utilized to demonstrate the results of the proposed evaluation of the integrated configuration.
... Moreover, the development of modules must match customer's preferences, so that the overall platform is attractive to the market and variety does not increase complexity in vain. Finally, customers often must be guided through the choice process, e.g. by using bundle strategies or configurators (Derdenger and Kumar 2013;Trentin et al. 2013). Furthermore, the paradox of choice (Schwartz 2004;Piasecki and Hanna 2011) states that the more choice a customer has, the less satisfied he or she may be and choosing over an enormous set of options can be burdensome and tedious, or even intimidating. ...
Article
Full-text available
Mass customization and product platform design can exploit the benefits of modularity and provide personalized devices at competitive costs through economies of scope. However, customization-intense platforms can have thousands of potential configurations, whose development and verification must be prioritized. This paper develops a value analysis methodology that is able to rank alternative platform configurations according to customers’ preferences. It introduces Logit value, a definition of value based on a well-known stated choice model and explains the five steps of platform-based value analysis. Since product platforms are complex technical systems, particular attention is given to the gathering of information, the automatic generation of platform architectures and the visualization of results. A case study based on Google ARA’s Spiral-2 modular smart phone concept demonstrates an application of the methodology and shows its potential benefits. The case study leverages data from a conjoint analysis and survey of 200 potential customers in Puerto Rico and a generated set of over 21,000 potential configurations of which less than 1% are shown to be non-dominated. The value analysis identifies module types that are compatible with the modular product platform and appear in a high percentage of Pareto architectures. Knowledge pertaining to non-dominated configurations can provide insights into module development strategy and verification/validation activities.
... Von Hippel [13] suggested that an effective website for user innovation should meet five important objectives: learning by doing via trial-anderror; providing an appropriate "solution space"; being "user-friendly"; offering module libraries and a producible "language" to translate user designs for production. Trentin et al. [12] proposed five capabilities to support consumers to make the decision that best fits their needs, including focused navigation capability, benefit-cost communication capability, flexible navigation capability, easy comparison capability, userfriendly product-space description capability. Sandrin et al. [30] [31] concluded that a mass customisation website with these five capabilities had synergic effects on the three consumer-perceived benefits of mass customised products: utilitarian benefit, uniqueness benefit and self-expressiveness benefit. ...
Article
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Mass customisation has become a prospective business strategy for many industries. Despite the great efforts that have been put into implementing product configuration systems (e.g., NikeID), the Deloitte Consumer Review 2019 indicated that nearly half of consumers still prefer to buy mass produced products. Another study by Khan and Haasis (2016) also concluded that the increase in mass customisation has led to a decline in customer satisfaction of the sales process. Given these considerations, this paper aims to investigate, from the consumer’s perspective, the factors that influence consumer purchase intention of online mass customised products. The primary contribution of this study is that we found in addition to price and design freedom, website information quality and the visual presentation of customisable products have significant influences on consumer purchase intention. Specifically, participants preferred to have intuitive and sufficient information as well as a 3D visualisation of the products to help them understand what the customisation options are, how to interact with them and to see a full view of the final products. In addition, we found participants responded differently to new companies and well-established companies. Here, lack of trust is one of the main reasons stopping consumers from purchasing mass customised products from new companies; while for well established companies consumer individual differences especially their personal preference is more determinant. Accordingly, we suggest that new startup companies and well-established companies should take different strategies to attract potential consumers.
... manufacturing processes). In case the user is not a domain expert, like for telephone service bundling, the configuration process may result too daunting [42]. Moreover, psychological studies [32] have shown that users adapt their preferences while browsing for solutions, which is difficult to achieve if users are only presented with sequences of choices on single attributes. ...
Conference Paper
We propose a new recommendation system for service and product bundling in the domain of telecommunication and multimedia. Using this system, users can easily generate a combined service plan that best suits their needs within a vast range of candidates. The system exploits the recent constructive preference elicitation framework, which allows us to flexibly model the exponentially large domain of bundle offers as an implicitly defined set of variables and constraints. The user preferences are modeled by a utility function estimated via coactive learning interaction, while iteratively generating high-utility recommendations through constraint optimization. In this paper, we detail the structure of our system, as well as the methodology and results of an empirical validation study which involved more than 130 participants. The system turned out to be highly usable with respect to both time and number of interactions, and its outputs were found much more satisfactory than those obtained with standard techniques used in the market.
... Another type of work focused on the improvement of the web-based user-friendly interface to capture CRs effectively, by offering better UX and taking customers' capability of product knowledge into consideration [104]. Trentin et al. [105] further validated five capabilities that sales configurators should deploy in order to avoid "mass confusion": focused navigation, flexible navigation, easy comparison, benefit-cost communication, and user-friendly product-space description capabilities. ...
Chapter
People are co-designs, unique masterpieces of art and science. Each is tangible, real, and being, as well as intangible, abstract, and feeling. The mass customization (MC) co-design toolkit enables the consumer to convey uniqueness and achieve her ideal offering – be it a good, service, experience or, ultimately, transformation [1]. MC toolkits increase functional, transactional benefits, rendering experiential, relational value, generating tangible and intangible worth for the individual, and leading to loyalty [2]. Ever-evolving contexts of URL and IRL converge, compressing the continuum between virtual and real life, and presenting the MC field with prospects to complement extant work. Via comparative analysis, this paper aims to determine if discernible patterns exist between tangible and intangible MC toolkits. If so, are these patterns palpable, or nuanced structural distinctions? Do they reveal other dimensions of consumer value allowing deeper understanding of key benefits identified by extant MC literature? Findings contribute to theory and practice regarding MC co-design experience value for individual consumers and providers.
Conference Paper
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Configuration problems have always been subject of interest for the application and the development of advanced Artificial Intelligence techniques. The selection of papers of this year's workshop demonstrates the wide range of applicable AI techniques including contributions on configuration knowledge representation, algorithms, theoretical approaches, and real-world configuration problems & applications. The workshop is of interest for both, researchers working in the various fields of Artificial Intelligence as well as for industry representatives interested in the relationship between configuration technology and the business problem behind configuration and mass customization. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas, evaluations, and experiences especially related to the use of Artificial Intelligence techniques in the configuration context. As such, this year's Configuration Workshop again aims at providing a stimulating environment for knowledge-exchange among academia and industry and thus building a solid basis for further developments in the field.
Article
Product configurators are recognised as critical toolkits enabling customers to co-create products with companies. Most available product configurators require customers to select suitable product attributes from predefined options. However, customers usually find the selection processes frustrating due to their lack of product knowledge. In view of the fact that customers often express their needs in imprecise and vague natural language, we define a new needs-based configuration mechanism and propose an implementation approach based on text embeddings and multilayer perceptron. Specifically, we leverage the massive amount of product reviews by encoding them into text embeddings. A multilayer perceptron is trained to map text embeddings to product attribute options. Experiment results indicate that the mapping has good generalisation capability to map customer needs into product configurations. The performance of our approach is comparable to that of deep learning-based approaches but with much higher efficiency in terms of computational complexity. Our needs-based configuration thus provides a quick and effective means of facilitating product customisation. It also demonstrates an innovative way of utilising customer resources in unstructured text to co-create products with companies.
Article
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The implementation of the mass customization relies on the tools to integrate the customer on the process of choosing and developing products. The online toolkit is often used as to connect the company to the customer´s needs. The objective of this paper is to test two hypotheses: a) the association between the volume of cars sold and the use of the online toolkit; b) the association between the volume of vehicles sold and the features used on the online toolkit. The survey was done with secondary data from 134 companies and the results confirmed the hypothesis. In addition, it was possible to identify the online toolkit specific features had different impact on the vehicles sold.
Conference Paper
In the past years, digitalization and information technology have changed our buying behavior in numerous ways. As consumers, we increasingly go online to search for more information, evaluate products, and make purchasing decisions. Nonetheless, the online purchasing has mainly focused primarily on non-complex business-to-consumer (B2C) goods. When products become more complex, customers are left struggling with company web pages that only list their product information online and with online stores that are not helpful when buying multidimensional products. Therefore, companies have started using interactive digital selling processes and sales configurators as tools to address these challenges. The goal of this paper is to identify the drivers behind this emerging organizational movement toward deeper digitalization in business-to-business (B2B) selling processes. The paper analyses 32 in-depth interviews conducted in 14 different companies. The results show that, in addition to technological and economical enablers, the organizational benefits are a major driver in this movement. Major selling company benefits include operations that are more efficient and increased market knowledge. Distributors are believed to have an improved selling process and more easily managed profitability. Finally, customer benefits are found to include improved need fulfillment and optimized configuration processes.
Article
A product (e.g. automobile, computer) can be configured using different combinations of its available attributes (features). However, selection of attributes may not be independent of the selection of other attributes. In practice, each attribute implies a selection rule (dependency) for other sets of attributes in order to generate a valid configuration. Due to dynamic changes in the product design, miniaturization, legislation etc., product attributes and their selection rules get changed. This implies that variants produced in the past may not be valid for future product design. Nevertheless, customer history contains important information related to customer buying behaviour which is an essential input for future planning activities. In order to achieve efficient adaption of past customer orders to a changed product design, we propose a fully automated optimization based framework. The methodology is demonstrated using an industry size example.
Chapter
At a global level, the demand for online transactions is increasing. This is propelled by both the digital transformation paradigm and the COVID 19 pandemic. The research on Web infrastructure design recognizes the impact that social, behavioral, and human aspects have on online transactions in e-commerce, e-health, e-education, and e-work. As a result, social computing features are leading the Web with information and communication technologies that facilitate interactions among web users through socially enhanced online environments. It is crucial to research the social, behavioral, and human dimensions of web-mediated activities, especially when social activities are restricted only to an online environment. The present study focuses on the social dimension of the e-commerce of customizable products. This domain was selected because of the specificity of its product self-design process in terms of customers’ decision-making and their involvement in product value creation. This study aims to seek the extent that a set of customers’ motivational drivers rely on their need to interact with real persons during the technology-assisted process of products’ self-design. By adopting a user-centered perspective, the study considers 937 self-design experiences by 187 young adult users on a sample of 378 business-to-customers product configurators. The results should provide companies and software designers with insights about customers’ need for social presence during their product self-design experience so that they can fulfill this need by using social technology that provides positive experiences.
Chapter
During the past few years, many companies are playing in their respective market managing one batch of their commercial offer as mass customizer and another as a pure Engineer-to-Order (ETO) company. This newly created business model generates new needs and issues both in the internal organization approaches, and in the supporting IT systems. The competitive advantage of successful firms relies on the effective management of their purely customized orders, with the aim of including relevant knowledge and information in the standard space of action. Therefore, this study aims at conceptualizing this new business reality, presenting an innovative underlying scheme for the ETO enabling process in which the central focus is on the design phase. Furthermore, a set of success practices are represented, discriminated between long and short term horizons. In this context, both technological and organizational aspects have been explored. Lastly, applicability of the proposed framework has been empirically validated through case studies.
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22nd International Configuration Workshop
Chapter
Innovation occurs when better solutions emerge that meet existing, new or newly identified market needs (Maranville, 1992). It can arise through novelty in either solution information or need information or both. Users of products and services, whether they use these products and service professionally as part of firms, or as end consumers are increasingly able to innovate and design from both ends of the need-solution spectrum (von Hippel, 2005). Users often develop a sound knowledge of their individual needs and sometimes the needs of other users close to them, i.e., due to connections at a personal or professional level (von Hippel, 1994).
Article
Web configurators are increasingly used to support mass customisation of all sorts of products and services. As these business-critical applications become more and more widespread, users with different profiles and expectations, as well as increasingly complex products and services, have to be addressed during the configurator's design process. While past research on product configuration has focused on knowledge representation and automated reasoning, researchers have paid less attention to the design and evaluation of user experience. This paper is the first to perform an in-depth study of the user's perspective on configurators. It identifies the users' favourite perceived values and qualities as well as the undesired defects of configurators. It also ranks these items by order of importance and investigates which characteristics of configurators influence, positively or negatively, the perceived values. To achieve this, a questionnaire-based survey was performed. Users were asked to answer detailed questions about their perceptions of configurators and influencing characteristics. The responses shows that the validity of the customised product and its adequacy in matching user's needs and preferences are the most desired perceived values. The study also identifies usability and product visualisation as the favourite qualities. Consequently, their absence, in addition to the absence of configuration progress and state indicator, are the worst defects. These and other observations detailed in the paper are a first step towards the systematic definition of guidelines for optimizing user experience in Web configurators.
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Evidence from past research and insights from an exploratory investigation are combined in a conceptual model that defines and relates price, perceived quality, and perceived value. Propositions about the concepts and their relationships are presented, then supported with evidence from the literature. Discussion centers on directions for research and implications for managing price, quality, and value.
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The role of effort and accuracy in the adaptive use of decision processes is examined. A computer simulation using the concept of elementary information processes identified heuristic choice strategies that approximate the accuracy of normative procedures while saving substantial effort. However, no single heuristic did well across all task and context conditions. Of particular interest was the finding that under time constraints, several heuristics were more accurate than a truncated normative procedure. Using a process-tracing technique that monitors information acquisition behaviors, two experiments tested how closely the efficient processing patterns for a given decision problem identified by the simulation correspond to the actual processing behavior exhibited by subjects. People appear highly adaptive in responding to changes in the structure of the available alternatives and to the presence of time pressure. In general, actual behavior corresponded to the general patterns of efficient processing identified by the simulation. Finally, learning of effort and accuracy trade-offs are discussed.
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Introduction 1 The Customer Centric Enterprise ................................................ 3 Mitchell M. Tseng and Frank T. Piller Part II: Mass Customization and Personalization ........................................ 17 Key Strategies for Customer Centric Enterprises 2 Examination of Mass Customization Through Field Evidence............................................................................... 19 Bart MacCarthy, Philip G. Brabazon and Johanna Bramham 3 The Many Faces of Personalization ............................................ 35 An integrative economic overview of mass customization and personalization Kai Riemer and Carsten Totz 4 Economic Evaluation of Mini-Plants for Mass Customization ..................................................................... 51 A decentralized setting of customer-centric production units Ralf Reichwald, Frank T. Piller, Stephan Jaeger and Stefan Zanner 5 Customer Driven Manufacturing Versus Mass Customization ...........
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American Power Conversion (APC), a company in the electronics industry, has used the principles of mass customisation to achieve major improvements in its efficiency and performance. APC sells, designs, produces, delivers, and installs large complex infrastructure systems for data centres, and components for these systems. At the heart of its mass customisation strategy are a module-based product range and the use of product configuration systems for sales and order processing. In addition, the company has implemented a manufacturing concept, which involves the mass production of standard components in the Far East, and customer order-based final assembly based on customer orders at various production sites around the world within close customer proximity. The results of applying mass customisation principles include a reduction of the overall delivery time for a complete system from around 400 to 16 days. Also, production costs were significantly reduced. At the same time, the company's capability for introducing new products has increased.
Article
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When customers are offered multiple product or service options, they confront an opportunity as well as a challenge. More options, in fact, mean higher changes to find exactly what customers need, but at the same time, imply that more effort has to be put into the product selection process. Such effort can become such a burden that customers ultimately end up preferring more standardised items. Sales configurators offer an opportunity to help the customer reduce the complexity of the product selection process. Yet, to turn this opportunity into a reality, it is fundamental to identify what principles could be followed to effectively design such sales configurators and, ultimately, part of the customer‐company sales interaction process. The present paper formalises the underlying principles through which a firm's product assortment can be efficiently and effectively presented to the customer.
Article
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This article presents a generalized ontology of product configuration as a step towards a general ontology of config-uration, which is needed to reuse and share configuration knowledge. The ontology presented consists of a set of concepts for representing the knowledge on a configuration and the restrictions on possible configurations. The ontol-ogy is based on a synthesis of the main approaches to configuration. Earlier approaches are extended with new concepts arising from our practical experience on configurable products. The concepts include components, attributes, re-sources, ports, contexts, functions, constraints, and relations between these. The main contributions of this work are in the detailed conceptualization of knowledge on product structures and in extending the resource concept with contexts for limiting the availability and use of resources. In addition, constraint sets representing different views on the product are introduced. The ontology is compared with the previous work on configuration. It covers all the principal ap-proaches, that is, connection-based, structure-based, resource-based, and function-based approaches to configuration. The dependencies between the concepts arising from different conceptualizations are briefly analyzed. Several ways in which the ontology could be extended are pointed out.
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We examine the impact of product variety decisions on an operational measure – unit fill rate – and on sales performance. Results are estimated using weekly data over three years from 108 distribution centers of a major soft drink bottler. Our results show that fill rates are negatively associated with product variety at a diminishing rate. In addition, we examine the total effect of product variety on sales including both the direct effect and the indirect effect through operations performance. The total impact of product variety on sales initially is positive, although at a diminishing rate. However, beyond a certain level, increased product variety actually results in lower sales; that is, “too much of a good thing”. Thus, the findings provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of product variety on operations and sales performance.
Article
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We have reviewed the dominantly goods focused literature for the main benefits and challenges of mass customisation, configurable products, and configurators and then analysed if the issues are relevant in services. The analysis is based on the conceptual differences of goods and services and is supported by our observations of two case service suppliers. Our aim is to take a small step towards filling the literature gap on mass customisation, configurable products, and configurators in service settings.
Article
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Customized communications have the potential to reduce information overload and aid customer decisions, and the highly relevant products that result from customization can form the cornerstone of enduring customer relationships. In spite of such potential benefits, few models exist in the marketing literature to exploit the Internet's unique ability to design communications or marketing programs at the individual level. The authors develop a statistical and optimization approach for customization of information on the Internet. The authors use clickstream data from users at one of the top ten most trafficked Web sites to estimate the model and optimize the design and content of such communications for each user. The authors apply the model to the context of permission-based e-mail marketing, in which the objective is to customize the design and content of the e-mail to increase Web site traffic. The analysis suggests that the content-targeting approach can potentially increase the expected number of click-throughs by 62%.
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The idea of integrating users into the design and production process is a promising strategy for companies being forced to react to the growing individualisation of demand. Whilst there is a huge amount of managerial literature on mass customisation, empirical findings are scarce. Our literature review shows that specifically the core of a mass customisation system, the toolkit and the users' interaction with it, has hardly been researched. The objective of this paper is to set a research agenda in the field of user interaction with toolkits for mass customisation. From the literature and 15 exploratory expert interviews with leading pioneering companies we deploy four key research issues in this evolving field.
Article
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The operations management literature on mass customization mainly focuses on the questions of whether and how manufacturers can efficiently deliver customization. Researchers have analyzed the trade-offs between customization and dimensions of operational performance such as delivery times, quality, and costs. However, we argue that providing efficient customization is not sufficient per se to assess the value of mass customization. From this perspective, this paper focuses on complementary mechanisms for creating value: the benefits perceived by individual consumers. Two global components of perceived value within the context of mass customization are identified: mass-customized product, with three dimensions, and mass customization experience, with two dimensions. The Consumer-Perceived Value Tool (CPVT) is proposed to empirically measure the five perceived benefits related to the mass-customized product and to the codesign process from the consumer viewpoint. The psychometric properties of the CPVT are assessed using three samples. The implications of this approach are discussed, along with directions for further research.
Article
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Offering a large variety of products at competitive prices and reasonable delivery times is a complex managerial challenge that many companies have to address. Software vendors responded to this challenge by developing and proposing various solutions, such as product configuration (PC) systems, product data management (PDM) systems and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. The relative newness, complexity and mutual interdependencies among these systems make it difficult to understand how they—individually and as a whole—actually support a firm in managing its product variety. Precisely these complexities, ultimately, add to the risks of software selection, leading companies to make inconsistent choices or to implement the wrong systems. Starting from this theoretical and practical concern, the present paper provides a conceptualization of the essential functions of PC, PDM and CRM systems, discussing how these functions help a company to manage its product variety and how they relate to each other. This paper proposes that two core data structures of PC systems—namely the sales and technical configuration models—are essential elements of the information management infrastructure of a company offering a large variety of products, because they enable a number of important product variety management functions also present within PDM and CRM systems.
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The authors examine the implications of electronic shopping for consumers, retailers, and manufacturers. They assume that near-term technological developments will offer consumers unparalleled opportunities to locate and compare product offerings. They examine these advantages as a function of typical consumer goals and the types of products and services being sought and offer conclusions regarding consumer incentives and disincentives to purchase through interactive home shopping vis-a-vis traditional retail formats. The authors discuss implications for industry structure as they pertain to competition among retailers, competition among manufacturers, and retailer-manufacturer relationships.
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Mass customization is a business strategy that aims at satisfying an individual customer's needs with near mass production efficiency. Mass Customization Information Systems in Business provides original and innovative research on IT systems for mass customization. It is a wide-ranging reference collection of chapters describing the solutions, tools, and concepts needed for successful realization of these systems. Mass customized markets, product modeling, and supply chain management are explored in precise detail. This Premier Reference Source provides a comprehensive investigation of the business processes required for manufacturing individualized products.
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Product customization uses a flexible production system to deliver a product to order that matches the needs of an individual customer or user. User design is a particular form of product customization that allows the user to specify the properties of that product. User design has emerged as a mechanism to build brand loyalty, to fit products to the heterogeneous needs of a market, and to differentiate the offerings of a manufacturer. However, many consumers face daunting challenges in designing a product that fits their personal needs. This makes it essential for producers of customized goods and services to create user interfaces that are effective in supporting consumers in the user design process. We recently completed an intensive research project with Dell Computer in which we designed, built, and tested several different user interfaces for customizing laptop computers. In this paper, we define the fundamental information-processing problem associated with user design of customized products. We then articulate five principles of user design. The principles are drawn from our experimental research as well as from our observations of many commercial user design systems. After articulating a principle, we explicitly outline actions that can be taken in support of the principle to improve user design systems.
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Knowledge-based configuration systems have made their way into industrial practice. Nowadays, all major vendors of configuration systems rely on some form of declarative knowledge representation and intelligent search techniques for solving the core configuration problem, due to the inherent advantages of that technology: On the one hand, changes in the business logic (configuration rules) can be accomplished more easily because of the declarative and modular nature of the knowledge bases, while on the other hand highly-optimized, domain-independent problem-solving algorithms are available for the task of constructing valid configurations. Still, the development has not come to an end as, in a world that becomes increasingly automated and wired together, constantly new challenges for the development of intelligent configuration systems come in: Web-based configurators are being made available for large heterogeneous user groups, the provision of mass-customized products requires the integration of companies along a supply chain, and configuration and reconfiguration of services become an increasingly important issue, just to name a few. This chapter gives an overview on these current and future research issues in the domain of knowledge-based configuration technology, and thus summarizes the state-of-the-art, recent achievements, novel approaches, and open challenges in the field.
Article
Research in operations management suggests that firms can mitigate the negative impact of product variety on operational performance by deliberately pursuing modularity in the design of product family architectures. However, modularity is not a dichotomous property of a product, as different types of modularity can be embedded into a product family architecture. The present paper explores how manufacturing characteristics affect the appropriate type of modularity to be embedded into the product family architecture, and how the types of modularity relate to component sourcing. The study is based on a qualitative research design involving a multiple case study methodology to examine six product families belonging to six European companies. The themes derived through case analyses are synthesized in the form of empirical generalizations. Insights from these empirical generalizations are subsequently developed into two propositions explaining why and under what conditions these empirical generalizations might hold for a product family outside of the original sample. The theoretical results formalize, first of all, a type of modularity (i.e. combinatorial modularity) not currently described in literature. Second, the theoretical propositions suggest that when the desired level of product variety is low (high) relative to total production volume, component swapping modularity (combinatorial modularity) helps to maximize operational performance. Finally, the complexity of component families outsourced to suppliers and the geographical proximity of component family suppliers affect the extent to which the product variety–operational performance trade‐off can be mitigated through modularity.
Article
Operations management research is beginning to focus on the development and use of reliable and valid scales. OM scale development efforts and scale development in organizational behavior and psychology are compared. Major differences include the fact that OM research tended, until recently, to be theoretical and, when applied, tended to use the firm as a unit of measure. OM research, therefore, seems to lack a common language that other fields have developed. OM literature was searched for completely described scale development efforts, and six studies were identified and reviewed for this paper. Suggested techniques of scale development were compiled primarily from those methods used in research areas such as psychology, organizational behavior, and management. The reviewed studies were compared to the suggested techniques. Many of the same techniques were described by the six studies. The similarities should be encouraging to researchers thinking about scale development studies. Weaknesses in the studies are identified, and suggestions for researchers are presented. Finally, the study provides a discussion of when and why OM researchers might find the development and use of scales advantageous in their research efforts.
Article
This paper provides an in‐depth review of the different methods available for assessing the construct validity of measures used in empirical research. Construct validity pertains to the degree to which the measure of a construct sufficiently measures the intended concept (e.g., is free of measurement error) and has been shown to be a necessary component of the research process. In order to illustrate the steps required to establish construct validity, we drew upon empirical research in the operations management area of manufacturing flexibility.
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Consumer choice is often influenced by the context, defined by the set of alternatives under consideration. Two hypotheses about the effect of context on choice are proposed. The first hypothesis, tradeoff contrast, states that the tendency to prefer an alternative is enhanced or hindered depending on whether the tradeoffs within the set under consideration are favorable or unfavorable to that option. The second hypothesis, extremeness aversion, states that the attractiveness of an option is enhanced if it is an intermediate option in the choice set and is diminished if it is an extreme option. These hypotheses can explain previous findings (e.g., attraction and compromise effects) and predict some new effects, demonstrated in a series of studies with consumer products as choice alternatives. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.
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The statistical tests used in the analysis of structural equation models with unobservable variables and measurement error are examined. A drawback of the commonly applied chi square test, in addition to the known problems related to sample size and power, is that it may indicate an increasing correspondence between the hypothesized model and the observed data as both the measurement properties and the relationship between constructs decline. Further, and contrary to common assertion, the risk of making a Type II error can be substantial even when the sample size is large. Moreover, the present testing methods are unable to assess a model's explanatory power. To overcome these problems, the authors develop and apply a testing system based on measures of shared variance within the structural model, measurement model, and overall model.
Book
Successfully managed product information for mass customization avoids disclosure of how these systems work. This is the first book to provide a holistic recognition of the essential aspects of an IT-supported product configuration system. It reveals the basic building blocks of these systems and their operational and strategic implications. © Cipriano Forza and Fabrizio Salvador 2006. All rights reserved.
Article
Global self-esteem based on M. Rosenberg's (1965) scale is typically treated as a unidimensional scale. However, factor analyses suggest separate factors associated with positively and negatively worded items, and there is an ongoing debate about the substantive meaningfulness of this distinction. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was used to evaluate alternative 1- and 2-factor models and to test hypotheses about how the factors vary with reading ability and age. Responses based on the National Longitudinal Study of 1988 (S. J. Ingles et al., 1992) reflected a relatively unidimensional factor and method effects associated with negatively worded items. Such effects are common in rating stale responses, and this CFA approach may be useful in evaluating whether factors associated with positively and negatively worded items are substantively meaningful or artifactors.
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Multimedia-based interactive advising technology for online consumer decision support is discussed. The continuous visual stimuli and associated sound effects provide various product presentations and engage online customers in examining products. Multimedia-based Product Annotation (MPA) is a product presentation in which customers can retrieve embedded product information in a multimedia context. MPA provides explanations related to the features or functions associated with certain parts of a product while consumers look at an illustration of the product. It is already used in some Web sites, where MPA is used to present digital cameras.
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In this article, we provide guidance for substantive researchers on the use of structural equation modeling in practice for theory testing and development. We present a comprehensive, two-step modeling approach that employs a series of nested models and sequential chi-square difference tests. We discuss the comparative advantages of this approach over a one-step approach. Considerations in specification, assessment of fit, and respecification of measurement models using confirmatory factor analysis are reviewed. As background to the two-step approach, the distinction between exploratory and confirmatory analysis, the distinction between complementary approaches for theory testing versus predictive application, and some developments in estimation methods also are discussed.
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Interest in the problem of method biases has a long history in the behavioral sciences. Despite this, a comprehensive summary of the potential sources of method biases and how to control for them does not exist. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to examine the extent to which method biases influence behavioral research results, identify potential sources of method biases, discuss the cognitive processes through which method biases influence responses to measures, evaluate the many different procedural and statistical techniques that can be used to control method biases, and provide recommendations for how to select appropriate procedural and statistical remedies for different types of research settings.
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This article gives a comprehensive overview of techniques for personalised hypermedia presentation. It describes the data about the computer user, the computer usage and the physical environment that can be taken into account when adapting hypermedia pages to the needs of the current user. Methods for acquiring these data, for representing them as models in formal systems and for making generalisations and predictions about the user based thereon are discussed. Different types of hypermedia adaptation to the individual user's needs are distinguished and recommendations for further research and applications given. While the focus of the article is on hypermedia adaptation for improving customer relationship management utilising the World Wide Web, many of the techniques and distinctions also apply to other types of personalised hypermedia applications within and outside the World Wide Web, like adaptive educational systems.
Article
The transformation from mass-produced to mass-customised goods is challenging. Such a radical change in the product nature forces a revision of the processes and supporting Information Technology (IT) systems within an 'Extended Mass Customising Enterprise'. Based on the processes for marketing, sales, design, production and distribution, an IT architecture in connection with all required IT systems and their specifications will be presented. Finally, a case study including the composition of standard business software tools to support the above-mentioned processes of an 'Extended Mass Customising Enterprise' will be presented.