This paragraph also serves as the conclusion of this research. Where paragraph 5.3 addressed conclusions about the research problem and the hypotheses, this paragraph addresses issues that are not directly related to the research problem, but are implications for theory that became apparent during the data analysis in Chapter 4. In this paragraph I would like to reflect on paragraph 1.3 where I justified this research based on my initial assumptions. This section is a statement of the completed research’s usefulness. Through the explanatory and exploratory research I presented in this thesis, I came to a more comprehensive understanding of mass customization, consumer-supplier interaction, perceived variety and the typical characteristics of digital products.
Mass customization and consumer co-design
The results of this research point to the revision of the customization definition for digital products. This thesis contributed to the current knowledge of mass customization by determining the strategy to choose when offering customizable digital products. The involver mass customization classification configuration is the strategy to choose.
Modularity at the assembly and use stages is not considered the highest level of customization (Duray et al., 2000). The highest level is during the design and fabrication stages. Based on the type of modularity employed, I conclude that a strategy of co-design should be followed, not a strategy of co-creation.
This thesis shows that physical products and digital products have significant differences. Current literature is extensive about customization or mass customization of physical products. The literature is scarce on customization of digital products that are offered and customized on the Internet. A difference between customization of physical products became apparent during this research, a difference which can be found in the average interaction length of time to customize a product. This difference can be explained by the costs structures of physical and digital products. The value of a physical product is clearer than the value of a digital product before it is used. Because the value of a physical product can be determined before using it, it is desired for the consumer to obtain the desired customized product as quick as possible by interacting with the supplier. Because digital products are by definition experience goods (Pine and Gilmore, 1998), it is difficult to value the product before it has been used. This difference has two implications. First, instead of lowering the average interaction length of time (Blecker et al., 2006), it is desired to increase the interaction length of time between the supplier and the consumer. Second, instead of lowering search costs for consumers, it is desired for them to discover as much new products as possible.