How “Customization” Got Hijacked

“How can we do both of these things for our clients? Isn’t it just one or the other?”

A client asked me this question the other day when we were discussing two major marketplace trends: customization and simplification.

That’s when I realized that the term “customization” has been hijacked. Many of us think of “customization” and “choice” as synonymous; in truth, they are very different concepts. Too many choices create analysis paralysis for the consumer. Customization creates fewer, but better options. As a result, customization creates happier customers.

To illustrate the customization/choice difference: My friend and I walked into a bookstore the other day. After walking around for a few minutes, he said, “There are way too many choices here. I have no idea what I want, I’ll just check Amazon later.” He wanted to check Amazon because their algorithm will help him find books that match his preferences and areas of interest. The bookstore offered choice whereas Amazon offered customization. (Disclaimer: I love bookstores and I forced him to buy something anyways).

It’s easy to create simplification if the product or service is appropriately customized. When a service provider takes the time to understand the needs and preferences of the customer, they can offer fewer and better options, thereby creating a simplified AND customized customer experience.