The lingering impact of the global financial crisis has encouraged prime, working-age older Millennials and Gen X-ers to re-evaluate their spending habits. Simultaneously, the rise of the sharing economy, with pioneers such as Uber and Airbnb, is eroding their desire to own goods.
The shift in focus from possessions to experiences is changing purchasing patterns, and driving buyers to connect with the product creation process. For some, merely to own is unrefined, but I-Designers, participating in creation, design and build, are seen as sophisticated connoisseurs.
Making it mine
The movement towards more holistic and mindful happiness and accomplishment means that purchasing is taking on greater significance. I-Designers are judged not just on their choices, but also on the care with which they make them. Social media flaunting of purchases is perhaps tacky, but it is compelling, even glamorous, to show “how I made it mine”. The ongoing desire for personalisation is meshing with the yearning for authenticity to create true next-generation customisation.
In their latest manifestation, I-Designers are assuming the role of creators: not just customising mass-produced products, but shaping them to their individual preferences before production. Consumers have long looked to choose between different colours, patterns and details, but I-Designers bring this to a new level. I-Designers want to exhibit their creativity. Instead of choosing something that is the same but different, they want to create something for themselves with which they personally connect, something that is truly unique—just like them.
Making it easier to be creative
I-Designers are not the niche cohort that frequents designers/makers or programmes their own electronics on Arduino; rather, they are a far broader segment of consumers looking for just enough involvement to end up with a truly personalized product. I-Designers are not looking to build from scratch, but want the tools and pieces they need to create, nor do they want excessive complexity or too-steep learning curves. Some consumers, however, get the opportunity to be involved in a small part of the production process, even if that is just polishing the final item when it comes off the production line. Empowering consumers in such a way is important for future loyalty.
A good example from the consumer goods word, mixing creative experience and technology, is Mon Purse. Mon Purse allows customers to design every part of a handbag from scratch, using a digital interface on the company’s website or via a screen in a department store. The designer can create items ranging from wristlets to satchels and has control over the colour and texture of the leather, hardware and personal monogram. The key, however, is that the design process has been simplified through the provision of some classic bag designs which provide a clear aesthetic to follow, and algorithms are run to make sure colours and patterns do not clash. In the end, the I-Designer is virtually guaranteed to end up with an item that is both fashionable and very much reflective of his or her personal style.