Radical approaches to product manufacturing and design

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Fueled by ongoing disruptions in the global supply chain, brands and retailers are bringing manufacturing and design processes closer to the consumer – both physically and digitally. To better meet consumer needs, companies are using new types of data to inform front-end research and development and operational decision-making. They leverage creative AI applications to streamline product conception and design phases, and use 3D printing techniques to create a more efficient on-demand manufacturing model that effectively transitions from bulk to customization. In addition, production lines are being reconfigured into smaller footprints, allowing factories to be closer to the communities in which they operate. Collectively, these innovations help identify unmet needs in the marketplace, enable improved customization at scale, and bring products closer to their end users. These new manufacturing techniques save transaction costs, give companies more control over production, and enable more ethical and sustainable supply chains.

At the same time, companies are facing increased competition to retain customers, which has prompted them to think about how to offer consumers a more personalized product experience. As a result, brands rely on more agile processes in product development and production. Digital tools like AI, AR, and 3D printing can engage consumers as collaborators in the production process, which in turn creates new opportunities to gather real-time insights, feedback, and data, closing the loop between needs and finished goods. By giving consumers more control and confidence in their purchasing decisions, companies can not only boost repeat sales, but also reduce operational and environmental costs associated with unsold merchandise and returns.

To help companies consider new processes and initiatives to meet new consumer needs, the PSFK research team identified the 5 key trends shaping future product design and manufacturing. Developed through the lens of technological advances, digital behavior and sustainable business models, these trends underscore the innovative ways that companies are reinventing not only product design but also the end-user experience.

Proprietary insights with this report

Consumers expect responsible and sustainable practices from the retailers and brands they shop from.

Consumers are demanding environmental measures from manufacturers, such as the sustainable sourcing of components and ingredients or the use of a production process that reduces waste. In fact, 3 in 5 US shoppers say they are driven to buy products from responsible manufacturing companies.
PSFK US Shopper Survey, Radical Approaches To Product Manufacturing & Design, 2022

Consumers are willing to share data in exchange for a tailored product or experience, but many have yet to be convinced of the value.

While many people find what they are looking for when they go shopping, there is a significant portion that needs help finding products that are physically right for them. Over 45% of US shoppers say they rarely if ever find the perfect size, shape or fit.
PSFK US Shopper Survey, Radical Approaches To Product Manufacturing & Design, 2022

While shoppers are interested in customized products made on demand, there’s a limit to the amount of personal information they’re willing to share today. 57% of US shoppers say they would share little or moderate amounts of data with brands and retailers to offer them the right size and shape of products. 14% of shoppers say they don’t want to share any data at all.
PSFK US Shopper Survey, Radical Approaches To Product Manufacturing & Design, 2022

To improve overall CX and manage real-time demand changes, companies are adopting strategies that shorten supply chains and adjust production to reflect customer needs at the local level.

While many US shoppers are happy to have their goods manufactured anywhere in North America (31%) (or even worldwide (15%)), a high proportion are looking for locally made products. 48% of US shoppers would prefer to shop from companies that manufacture their products within 100 miles of where they live.
PSFK US Shopper Survey, Radical Approaches To Product Manufacturing & Design, 2022

As e-commerce grows, so does the environmental impact of deliveries. 43% of US shoppers are concerned or very concerned about the environmental impact of the shipping and delivery of their online purchases. Only 7% say they are not worried at all.
PSFK US Shopper Survey, Radical Approaches To Product Manufacturing & Design, 2022

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