What is the ‘maker movement’ and should retailers care?
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
At the recent SAP Retail Forum, a fireside chat, “Henry Ford Was Wrong — Delivering Experiential Retail,” explored how 3-D printing could enable consumers to have access to all kinds of custom-built products at very low cost.
This in turn raised the topic of the “maker movement” and its potential impact on the retail ecosystem going forward.
A 2014 article in Adweek describes the maker movement as a “convergence of computer hackers and traditional artisans” that is tapping into a yearning for self-reliance. It’s being supported by the emergence of open source learning, contemporary design and personal technology like 3-D printers. Adweek states, “The creations, born in cluttered local workshops and bedroom offices, stir the imaginations of consumers numbed by generic, mass-produced, made-in–China merchandise.”
While it might be tempting to try to limit the scope of the maker movement to 3-D laser printer-armed DIY inventors, I think it would be smart for retailers to look at the bigger landscape of consumers who have chosen for one reason or another to build-rather-than-buy.
Look no further than etsy.com, which is full of handmade craft items from everywhere. My daughter is an example of someone who uses Etsy as both a buyer and a seller of girls’ party dresses. Her biggest tech investment — a serger, a machine to finish off hems.
I’ve found myself joining the maker movement, too. Failing to find the exact electronic gadget I wanted, I decided to make my own. My technology? A solder gun.
The big winners are the stores and websites that supply the materials needed for makers.
Increasingly, consumers don’t just consume; they collaborate with each other to find the best solutions to fit their lifestyle needs. While (as the old saying goes) “a can of peas is still a can of peas,” consumers want more choices for a vast number of discretionary products, and increasingly that choice is, “I’ll make it myself.”
Instead of losing the people of the maker movement, enable them.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How would you rate the potential impact of the “Maker Movement” on retail and its likely boost with the arrival of more accessible 3-D printers? Do you see this as an opportunity more for niche retailers or for a wider spectrum of mainstream chains?