Thursday, August 10, 2006

Customization is Pleasing to the Ear

It's exciting to hear of businesses taking mass customization, also known as individuation, seriously.

Contrast mass production with mass customization. The former model produces blue jeans in fixed waist and length styles and allows the consumer to pick from its offerings. The latter takes a detailed profile of measurements and produces a custom-cut pair of jeans, albeit for a higher price and slight delay as the denim is sewn and shipped.

Some businesses have jumped into the gulf and created business models to maximize mass customization using technology.

Let's take a look at one contender in the personal music category called Pandora, accessed at, of course.

Think narrowcasting instead of broadcasting.

The Pandora site really gets what it means to deliver a great user experience. My three favorite aspects of the site:
  1. It doesn't require any special software to download -- I was able to use Firefox to open the home page type the name of a favorite artist, and within 10 seconds, I was listening to music I liked.
  2. No registration required. They want to prove themselves of value before asking for personal contact info or money. After playing half a dozen songs, you're asked to register with the understanding that can opt- out of the ad sponsored messages (audio and web-based, not via e-mail) by paying about a dollar a week.
  3. They enhance the experience on a number of levels: let's start with showing, rating, and buying. They have a clean, informative interface that displays what albumn on which the song played originated. As other songs are played, they are based on what people who liked your initial song liked. You can fine-tune this playlist based on your own preferences, indicating whether you liked a given song, didn't like it, want to take a break from hearing it (a service feature to which popular broadcast radio is oblivous), or understand the rationale behind the recommendation. Lastly, since you're being introduced to new artists and new songs, Pandora makes it easy to purchase music from iTunes or, or just pass along an interesting song to a friend (thus spreading the word about Pandora via viral marketing).
When you're building a stronger business, it pays to study models that work.

Now, go implement.

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