Combeenation: non-industry-specific mass customization software made in Austria

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Print product personalization – the whole shebang should be as flexible as possible and already proven to be successful. Anybody with mass customization ambitions should widen their horizons and look at solutions from outside the print industry.

The Austrian business, Combeenation, is exactly the kind of software specialist that successfully targets clients focusing on mass customization and that provides non-industry-specific customization strategies.

Anybody, who knows me, is aware of the fact that mass customization is one of my favorite topics. And it’s been a while since I last introduced any interesting software solutions for the online print industry to you here in my blog. So it’s time to tackle that subject again and introduce a modern-day software provider that has just won the National Innovation Award in its home country. Combeenation offers a highly interesting configurator as an online tool, although to date it has been used in sectors other than online print. This software offering in the form of a cloud-based SaaS solution is aimed at small and mid-sized enterprises (B2B and B2C providers) from various industries that focus on custom eCommerce, and which don’t necessarily have to have their own IT departments. The company behind Combeenation is IndiValue GmbH, based in Sarleinsbach, Upper Austria.

The spice packaging is customized, once the content has been configured; source: babettes.at
The spice packaging is customized, once the content has been configured; source: babettes.at

Since Combeenation now operates in the USA as well, the company has partners and clients not only in its home country. Its specially developed configurator has, for example, been integrated into reference client websites like babettes.at, shop.meinl.com (A) and deinsekt.de. Since July 2016 customers at Babette’s have been able to blend their own spice mixes and then customize the associated packaging according to their choice of fonts and colors. The procedure at Combeenation’s client Meinl is similar, where the configurator allows you to blend your own coffee and then add a personal dedication to the packaging. Besides the configurable centerpiece of each order, namely the packaging content, both services have to date been restricted to the option of (multiline) inscriptions on packaging labels. In the case of Combeenation’s German partner, deinsekt.de, an image can also be added to the bottle label alongside a 5-line inscription. Flaschenhelden therefore provides a range of different layout options to enable you to personalize a bottle of bubbly for any customer and any occasion. One segment where this configurator is used, but which would certainly not have occurred to most people, me included, is online design of front doors. Pieno is the name of this particular client and it uses the configurator for complex color and material design purposes as part of its webstore. It even has a really cool feature that shows the customer their specially configured door as part of a building façade as a preview to enable the customer to get an impression of their design work.

Pieno has a feature that lets you preview self-configured front doors; source: pieno.at

The options that the configurator provides range from changing product components, sizes, colors and textures to delivering user-defined text fields and image uploads. During the design process per se the business customer or consumer obtains an immediate visual impression of the product they have just configured. As an alternative to predefined templates, edited ones can also be actioned. If the provider knows what their customers want, this high-scalability software enables them to activate a wide range of different optional editing functions – in other words the frontend can be designed as required. Irrespective of any existing store system and mobile compatibility issues, Combeenation-produced templates deliver reasonable displays and functions on computers and tablets – smartphones are not (yet) mentioned.

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“While Combeenation has not yet partnered with any online print providers – the potential for providing print businesses with genuine added value by integrating their configurator definitely exists.” – Bernd Zipper

As far as the backend design of the configurator is concerned, changes can be undertaken separately via the web-browser. That’s because when the client gets the ready-to-use configurator, they get access to their own personal Combeenation administration cockpit, with the aid of which they can also amend their product data at short notice. Various design options are available for configurator installation and operational management purposes – corporate design features can thus be retained, no problem. Combeenation’s clients can choose whether they want their own screen designers to do this job, in which case HTML and CSS know-how is required, or whether to have the design done by in-house specialists in line with client specifications, e.g. by adapting the button or the background. This demonstrates that the configurator solution is flexible and is therefore very likely to be of interest to several online print providers offering ranges of mass customized products.

As an online tool the configurator is HTML5-based and works in conjunction with the standard browsers without the need for extra plugs-ins. The configurator is embedded in the website – irrespective of what CMS is employed – using iFrames, which guarantee excellent browser support. Combeenation’s cloud-based solution claims to provide a stable IT infrastructure, meaning its clients are not tied to any one place when accessing their stores.

My take: Combeenation’s configurator comes with an extensive range of editing functions and webstore integration also seems to be extremely simple. As a mass customization tool it provides a sound basis for store development and enhancement, meaning for many online print providers it is a genuine alternative to existing personalization software solutions. It is highly likely that the company will continue to expand and find more clients in the growing personalized products market. In other words, as a print provider it is worth occasionally thinking outside the box, because tools from related industries also have considerable merits.

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