For the People by the People 
Jill Nickels in Consumer Insights Series, Retail

Image © Charlie Mayer

The past few generations of American consumers have trended toward eating out more often, outsourcing more work around the house, and buying things ready-made in faraway places by people they don’t know. But the pendulum is now swinging in the opposite direction: the gap between the goods we consume and their origins is closing.

People today want to know exactly where their food comes from. They want to participate in making their own meals, and they want to understand who is making their clothes. Handcrafted goods have grown more popular in conjunction with the rise of DIYness and maker culture. Now there’s a market geared towards taking this a step further. Toolkits that offer consumers the chance to craft and develop goods and services on their own and are built to the needs and preferences of individuals are growing in popularity. Crafting is becoming more common. People today want to do almost as much as they want to buy.

Along this vein is the rise of 3D printing. What happens when you can print out a toilet brush, picture frame or trash can at home instead of having to run to a retail store? 3D printing is the pinnacle of products on demand and offers unprecedented levels of customization and personalization.

Another trend we’ve seen is that consumers are increasingly trusting the assurances of science when choosing a brand. In response to this, a concept called lab retail has emerged. Brands are allowing customers to take a peek behind the curtain to see how products get made. Brands are even making it easy for customers to weigh in on the process so as to help refine the development of products and services.

By including loyal fans in product development in this way, the marketplace of the future will truly become for the people, by the people.

Jill Nickels has over 20 years of experience building brands and bringing them to life in built environments. As a senior strategist with Gensler, she works with companies from all industries. Contact her at
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