User design through self-customization

Claudia Townsend, Ulrike Kaiser, Martin Schreier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


Introduction Open any introductory marketing textbook and you will learn that the role of the firm is to create, communicate, and deliver value to the consumer who, in turn, takes the passive role of paying and consuming. For many years, this was, in fact, how marketers, consumer researchers, and psychologists perceived these two roles; the notion of consumer input into value creation was almost entirely neglected.This began to change when researchers in the area of innovation identified product users modifying and innovating on their own. In fact, von Hippel, De Jong, and Flowers (2012) found that in a representative sample of UK consumers, more than 6 percent had engaged in product modification or innovation during the prior three years, resulting in annual product development expenditures 1.4 times larger than the respective research and development (R&D) expenditures of all UK firms. More broadly, what emerged was the concept of “democratizing innovation,” that getting users actively involved in the process of new product development (NPD) can be a great source of value to the consumer and, thus, the firm (von Hippel, 2005). Today, consumer input is a recognized force in new product development, so much so that the Marketing Science Institute (MSI) listed it as one of its top priorities for exploration for 2008 through 2010.A parallel development in the marketplace has been that firms are going after smaller and more well-defined segments (Dalgic & Leeuw, 1994; Kotler & Armstrong, 2013). This is due to a number of factors, including the abundance of brands competing in many sectors; the rapid growth in media outlets, particularly online; and the increasing amount of information available on individual consumers. The result is that, in both media (Nelson-Field & Riebe, 2011) and products (Dalgic, 2006), the use of niche marketing is on the rise, while mass marketing is becoming an increasingly less viable option, particularly for new products.These two developments, consumer involvement in design as well as smaller target markets, have resulted in the practice of self-customization, where instead of offering ready-made products, the firm equips consumers with the tools to customize and design their own product. This can be viewed as the ultimate form of niche marketing, where the resulting segments consist of individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Psychology
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781107706552, 9781107069206
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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