Sunday, October 30, 2011

How much revenue can you make with mass customization?

Mass Customization is a steadily growing trend with more and more companies offering personalized or customized products. But how big is this opportunity really?

After hearing that Spreadshirt nearly doubled its US revenue this year, I decided to do a bit of research to see how much money really is in this market. A lot of customization companies are startups and don’t disclose their revenues, but there are exceptions:

Element Bars, the custom energy bar maker, was on the TV show Shark Tank and as a result is discussing revenues publicly. In 2009, the founder Jonathan Miller estimated yearly revenues to be around $100k

Another rather young startup, Gemvara, reportedly has revenues around $12 million according to a BostInnovation article. It’s important to keep in mind though that the average order size for the personalized jewelry company are larger than for most customization websites.

I’ve only heard rumors about the revenues My M&Ms generates for Mars, but they should be around $10 million per year, with the majority being earned just before the holidays. Compared to the overall revenues of Mars of about $30 billion, the personalization business must seem like a pet project to them.

Spreadshirt, the company mentioned above that doubled their US revenues, now estimates 2011 revenues in the US at about $20M, with their 2010 global revenues having been $42, of which I’d expect the most to be generated in Germany.

Spreadshirt’s biggest US competitor, Zazzle, reported $20M revenues in 2006. I checked out Zazzle’s website traffic in the past, and they had about 1M visitors every month in 2007, and now get more than 4M visitors per month. That would imply that they quadrupled their revenues to a rough estimate of $80M per year.


One of the surprises in my research was Personal Creations. The aesthetically not very pleasing website generated $50M in 2007 according to Internet Retailer

Danny Wong reported on NikeiD contributing more than $100M to Nike’s 2009 revenues. While that’s little compared to the $2.5billion Nike makes in a year, it’s quite a chunk of the $260M total web sales revenue of Nike. Keep in mind that those are international revenues, not just for the US market. 

The biggest suprise however were Shutterfly's revenue figures. An article from only three days ago describes their Q3 2011 revenues for personalized products alone to have been $57M, which would imply a yearly revenue of approximately $230M. The revenues were also up 56 percent. Even if we assume that there was already some holiday business in there, that’s an impressive number. 

The “So-What”? Mass Customization is a business with both short term (revenue) and long term (growth) potential. Are you going to be part of the trend?


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