Further research

Throughout this thesis and especially in this chapter, I have provided several topics for further research. This final section is written to help researchers in their selection and design of future research. Further research can refer to either topics or methodologies, or to both. A case study methodology thesis should mention the need for positivist research to generalize the findings of this hybrid of explanatory and exploratory research. Removing some limitations mentioned in paragraph 5.5 can provide opportunities for further research. Other opportunities for further research are mentioned in the following four sections.

Co-creation of digital products

Digital products have some characteristics that can be compared to services. The conclusions of this research pointed to the characteristic of digital products that stresses its nature as being experience goods. Like services, digital products have to be experienced first in order to determine its value. Other similarities are that services cannot be stocked and that the consumer participates in the delivery process. An important difference is that services are always produced and consumed simultaneously (Grönroos, 1990, Berry and Parasuraman, 1991, in de Vries, 2003), while customizing digital products does not have to be, and that reliability is more important than customization for services as opposed to products (Johnson and Nilsson, 2003; Johnson and Ettlie, 2001). However, when the type of modularity is employed during the design and fabrication stages, digital products are designed and consumed simultaneously. When digital products are designed and consumed simultaneously, they are co-created instead of co-designed. Further research can address the co-creation of digital products, which is a higher level of customization according to Duray et al. (2000).

Variety and the long tail

This thesis proves that increased variety does not necessarily means an increase in complexity for consumers. An increase in variety means more possibilities for consumers to discover new digital products that they will like. Brynjolfsson et al. (2003) suggested that the value of discovery may significantly outweigh the value of lower transaction costs. Anderson (2006) took this suggestion and addressed the economic consequences of an abundance of variety, which he calls the long tail. Anderson (2006) argues that companies should make everything available and that these companies should help consumers find what they need. I recommend further research on the economics of an abundance of variety.

Toolkits of mass customization co-design

The cases in this thesis explain that interaction possibilities for consumers increase the discovery of unknown digital products. Interaction possibilities for this thesis were taken from literature on mass customization. Because consumer demands are changing constantly, Von Hippel (2001) addresses user toolkits for innovation. These toolkits allow suppliers to give freedom to consumers to customize their products. I recommend further research on consumer toolkits, to extract the most valuable interaction possibilities for consumers that should be offered. Consumers’ subjective preference for features that should be customized should also be quantified (Jiao and Tseng, 2004).

Customization and sharing of digital products

The Pandora case shows that sharing modules with other products increases the multiple usages of modules. Sharing modules is useful for products that should match the needs of various consumers, not just that of a single person (Piller et al., 2005). Piller et al. (2005) suggest that communities can foster the sharing of products. Sharing thus plays a role in modularity and in communities as well. I suggest further research on customization and sharing of digital products within communities.


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