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Written By Philip Williams

Your Customers Want What You Don't Sell

December 09, 2010 | business

The Internet has radically changed the way we shop. Before the Internet, shoppers would visit a few local stores, then make a purchase decision based on a small selection of products. If a store did not carry exactly what a customer wanted, well, tough luck. Shoppers bought what was available.

That world is gone forever. The Internet has opened up literally millions of product options, all just a few clicks away. If a website does not sell what I want, I'll find one that does.

Shoppers are now individuals with very specific preferences. They know what they want and they will not settle for anything less. Large retail sites like Amazon.com cater to this new breed of customers by carrying thousands of products and providing personalized recommendations. If Amazon sells nearly every product ever made, I'm guaranteed to find something I like, right?

Wrong. I may want something that does not exist yet! You showed me 50 different colors of laptop cases, but I want a case with stripes the color of my favorite sports team. I don't want to browse your products, I want to build my own product!

The future of online retail can be summed up in one word – customize. There are already countless websites for creating custom t-shirts and apparel. Nike has long allowed customers to design custom shoes using the NikeID website. There are now websites for customizing anything from greeting cards to wallpaper. I predict that this trend will continue into every other area of online retail. Why can't I design and customize jewelry, furniture, toys, or appliances?

The days of cookie-cutter customers are over. It's time to prepare for the world of customization!

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