Do you believe in Gemvara’s (Paragon Lake) strategy of customized products for consumers?

March 26, 2010

Gemvara (previously known as Paragon Lake) is focused on providing its customers with customized jewelry.  In other words if you wanted a new pair of earrings for your wife or girlfriend, you would select the setting, the material (gold, silver, etc.), and the stone(s) through their website.  Your jewelry would be custom produced for you and arrive in the mail.

Originally, the idea was to have their service available through jewelry stores — such as those that you see in every mall.  Now, they are focused on selling directly to consumers — a move which has resulted in some changes to their organizational structure.  (Story details below)

Gemvara CEO Deb Besemer steps aside, due to new e-commerce strategy –

I wonder about this strategy because jewelry purchases are very personal to me and I could not imagine buying something like this over the web.  I just wouldn’t be able to see the finished piece nor let my wife try it on to make sure it was what I (I mean, she) wanted.

But the bigger question is — Are US consumers now ready to purchase customized products over the web and wait for them to arrive?

Years ago, Rover Cars of the UK, wanted to offer its customers the ability to walk into a show room and order their customized automobile.  You would be able to pick the model, exterior color, interior color, numerous features, etc.  The car would be produced to your specifications and arrive at your local dealer in less than a week.  Unfortunately, Rover wasn’t able to sort out all of the manufacturing logistics at that time, so the effort was shelved.    Subsequently, other European car manufacturers have implemented similar capabilities so that most Europeans order their custom cars and wait for them to arrive — a big difference from the US approach where you select the model which is closest to what you really want from a large inventory on the lot and drive the car home almost immediately.

If Gemvara is correct and US consumers are ready for this type of buying experience, the potential impact to product design systems (so that you can account for all of the many product option combinations), manufacturing processes (so that you can produce customized products on-demand), shipping, customer call centers (to resolve complaints), and return policies (so that you can handle customers who didn’t like what they received) are immense.

And let’s not forget all of the systems that will need to help each customer configure, visualize, order, and pay for their products or the computing infrastructure that will be required.

Who knows, you may finally be able to buy a car in the US without having to endure all those hours spent negotiating with your sales rep, his manager, and whomever else the dealership injects into the process.


How can you use social media to interact with ALL of your target market members?

March 24, 2010

We all know people who have strong opinions and are not shy about sharing them.   We also know people who are much more comfortable with various technologies than others.

So, if you are using social media tools to engage members of your target market, how do you ensure that the results you see are not dominated by those who are technologically savvy AND strongly opinionated?

Consider a product targeted at older people, would they be likely to provide you feedback via Twitter, Facebook, or the like?   I doubt it.  As my mother says, “If I can’t talk to you on the phone or in-person, I’m not going to talk to you at all.”

What about a product targeted at young adults with young children??  Would they have the spare time to provide you with the quality feedback that you need?  Perhaps, but only if you make it very easy and simple for them to contribute — because “spare time” is something that young parents never have enough of.

And let’s not forget those people who aggressively post comments, suggestions, complaints, etc. on a semi-continual basis.  How can you know whether they represent a small, potentially negligible, segment of your target market or whether they are really the voice of your “silent majority”?

Bottom line — I think that social media is a good tool for collecting immediate feedback from your target market, but it is only one of many “feedback collection tools” that you should use.  You need to carefully select the right “tools” so that they match the characteristics of your market and cross-reference all of your inputs — so that you are not misdirected by strongly worded responses from a few, avid target market members.

Wistia video sharing and PLM or ERP systems?

March 24, 2010

Just saw the notice that Wistia got their 2nd round of angel funding.  Congratulations.

Wistia Gets Additional Funding (from Mass High Tech)

Their value proposition is centered around allowing companies to distribute video and track how it is used.  Makes sense for promotional materials.

But could it be used in PLM or ERP systems?

For example, you produce a training video that illustrates the correct way to install an ECO which is then distributed to all of your service reps.  How much more confident would you be in the performance of your service technicians if you knew which ones had (and had not) viewed the video?

Likewise, getting proposed engineering changes reviewed by appropriate people has always been a challenge.  Various companies have tried before-and-after drawings, drawings with annotations (or notes),  pictures of the proposed changes, etc.  But there is no way to know whether each reviewer actually looked at all of this information BEFORE they approved the change.   Perhaps Wistia’s technology could be adapted to track these events and incorporate that logic into the PLM system’s review capabilities…

What do you think?

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