A prediction for 2013? Given that there is no official future, I think I will have to simply share a scenario: a story about a force underway in all markets, a force that seemed to start with independent coffee companies, bike makers and the farm-to-table food movement. In each of these cases there was an underlying dissatisfaction with the quality of mass market production. From a rebellion against standardized coffee, uninteresting and poorly made bikes and – led originally by Alice Waters – the serious problems of mass manufactured food and industrial agriculture.
Wanting your products to feel more personal has been an important element of consumerism for many years. Just look at Nike I-D and smartphone accessories. In addition to the simple desire for more personal products, I see a deeper impulse. The Maker Market is thriving. It brings together several powerful cultural forces: the first is the culture of code. Code is a language that makes product experiences. The people who code believe in making these experiences by hand and that ideal is spreading beyond software to hardware and all product categories. The second is that supply chains are easier to design and implement, manufacturing costs are getting lower and lower and the advantage of manufacturing at scale is eroding. If you can charge a premium in any category for a better product experience than is offered in the mainstream, then you can probably offer a small volume, hand crafted or locally crafted product. The third force is the Maker Market itself, as it upgrades from being peripheral and amateur to delivering pretty good quality. Small businesses making things for a customer they understand intimately and often with whom they share many activities as peers, can now compete in crowded mass markets where global brands and big box retailers have replaced depth of human interaction with breadth of low cost products. Most of which look the same.
This scenario is one where the Maker Market upgrades to offer premium products, bringing a local manufacturing and reselling ethic to many high engagement markets. It would begin to alter the dynamic of mainstream consumer markets, bringing new creativity from new competition.
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