CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT AND VALUE ENHANCEMENT THROUGH PRODUCT INDIVIDUALISATION
Product customisation has always been a regular practice as a form of self or group identification. Previous studies have demonstrated that when investing time and effort to customise a product, an emotional attachment to that product develops. Since the 1980s, new technologies in design, manufacturing and communications have facilitated customisation practices for mass manufacturers as well as for individual consumers. For example, computer algorithms can now automate customisation (i.e. individualise), meaning that the investment of time and effort can be significantly lower than in other customisation processes. Such novel automated practices have, however, not considered the effects on emotional attachment to products, which occurs when the consumer personally engages in the process. This research investigates individualisation as a form of customisation by looking at the relationship between an individualised product and the consumers’ attribution of value and emotional attachment to the end result. This was achieved through a mixed methods approach: following a literature review, in-depth interviews, observation and experiments were carried out. Four pilot studies were conducted, involving 42 respondents (designers, company directors, and consumers). The main study engaged a further 44 respondents, profiled as one of two types of consumers depending on their critical engagement with customisation processes, namely Active Consumers (AC) that Passive Consumers (PC). Data was collected through five Action Research cycles and incorporated key features of Design-Based Research. It was then processed, coded and analysed using thematic analysis. This study makes contributions to knowledge in the area of product customisation and individualisation, as well as in the research methods developed, applied and refined over the four pilot iterations and in the main study. Results suggest that despite limiting freedom of choice, individualisation is a valuable approach to product customisation, particularly for PCs willing to relinquish part of the decision making to an automated process, in order to obtain a customised and unique design. ACs, on the other hand, value their freedom to customise their own products and see individualisation as a limitation to the customisation experience and as a hindrance to developing emotional attachment to the product. These findings have the potential to inform entrepreneurs’ and designers’ decisions to better understand and exploit the benefits associated to individualisation processes. Offering specific consumer groups opportunities to engage with the individualisation process can trigger a strong emotional product attachment and potentially generate new business opportunities.
- PhD 
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