CustomMade Looks to Expand, Drive New Model for E-Commerce and Retail

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uniformly Amazon-like experiences to also include more personal and community-driven approaches. (Though there’s nothing wrong with Amazon’s model, clearly.) It’s also interesting that the startup’s founders aren’t retail guys or craftsmen or social Web geeks. They’re just savvy businessmen who saw an opportunity from the outside, by looking at the problem differently.

“With paradigm-shifting companies, people always think the founders are nuts. In this case they’re right,” Rosen says. “What everyone’s doing in e-commerce is, ‘How do I sell more stuff, and be the person to sell more of it?’ We’re saying, that’s totally cool, but you could also do this.”

Their business still faces serious challenges, of course. “Our biggest competitor is what we call ‘blinders.’ Consumers don’t know custom is an option,” says Salguero. “People still think custom is the way it was eight years ago. It’s not,” Rosen adds. “It’s basically a retail alternative right now—if there’s a connector.”

CustomMade hopes to be that connector on a grand scale. In the next few months, the company plans to roll out a new website that will look “a lot less like e-commerce,” says Rosen, and a lot more like Kickstarter. For example, it will include better ways to gather ideas for custom projects. “The focus of our site will be our stories,” he says. “Projects will all look like creation experiences.”

Before any new retail model can take off, though, more consumers will have to believe they can get better value for their money through CustomMade than via traditional outlets. One thing’s for certain: times have changed, for both buyers and sellers. “Customers can get access to makers they never had access to before, and makers have access to technology they never had before. They can communicate,” says Rosen. “We’re all selling stories. I think people want to buy that.”

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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