In the past few years, we have witnessed an explosion of new online business models and technologies that enable people to create their very own product lines without the need to set up a traditional brick and mortar shop. This user-generated industrial revolution—or People Powered Products—means people can truly unleash their creativity and produce retail-quality products without any of the financial risks associated with old-school manufacturing, inventory management, and distribution chains.
This revolution can be viewed as the culmination of three longer-term trends. First, innovation in small-scale manufacturing or on-demand manufacturing brought product personalization to the market. Next came the rise of user-to-user marketplaces like eBay or Amazon that introduced new, highly efficient ways to connect buyers to sellers in the long tail. And third, online communities and social networks are now tapping into the viral loop to enable producers to market to millions of niches outside of traditional distribution chains.
The intersection of these three trends has created something new: people making—and selling—their own products. Companies such as Ponoko, Styleshake, Kickstarter, Quirky, and Blurb are pushing the user-generated business models in new, profitable directions by focusing on smaller niches; offering platforms for production of commercial-quality goods; and building robust, connected communities.
So, what might this mean to designers and product planners? This presentation will share examples, outline implications and provide a framework for designing businesses in the age of people powered products. It’s quite possible that people powered business models will make user-generated content profitable long before YouTube does.
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