If I customize it, I will keep it longer? Segmenting mass customization consumers through the sustainability lens

Shaver, Jessica R., author
Yan, Ruoh-Nan, advisor
Diddi, Sonali, committee member
Niemiec, Rebecca, committee member
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Mass customization (MC) refers to the manufacture of customized products on a mass basis at prices similar to mass-produced (MP) goods (Davis, 1996). Mass customized apparel (MCA) products can better address consumer needs through the consumer-centric process (Yang, Kincade & Chen-Yu, 2015). Additionally, MCA has been heralded for its ability to reduce waste throughout the supply chain, most notably through the elimination of deadstock (e.g., Boër, Redaelli, Boër, & Gatti, 2018), and is suggested to offer the potential for more sustainable consumer behavior through an emotional bond formed with the customized product (Mugge, Schoormans, & Schifferstein, 2009) that may lead to increased product longevity. The purpose of this thesis was to explore the current MCA consumer market and investigate potential connections among MCA consumer segments regarding sustainability related variables. Specifically, this study utilized actual MCA consumers' purchase patterns (i.e. frequency of MCA purchase, amount of MCA purchase, and duration of MCA purchase behavior) to identify consumer segments and profile this emerging market to better understand their MCA-specific motivations for MCA purchase and satisfaction with the MCA product and customization experience as well as demographic variables (i.e., income, education, and body mass index (BMI)). Additionally, this study aimed to uncover to what extent they may display sustainability-related variables (i.e., emotional product attachment and environmental attitudes) and behaviors (i.e., sustainable apparel behaviors and general sustainable behavior). To address this purpose, an online consumer survey was distributed in Spring 2019, and 318 usable responses were analyzed using the segmentation framework. Two clusters were identified who differed mainly on the duration of their MCA purchase behaviors; new customizers (n = 243) had an average of 2 years of experience as MCA consumers, while experienced customizers (n =75) had on average 9 years of experience purchasing MCA. T-test comparison, multiple regression, and correlation analyses were conducted to explore the characteristics of the clusters. Findings showed a general trend among experienced customizers for stronger motivations and satisfaction, as well as increased environmental attitudes, and more sustainable apparel behaviors and general sustainable behaviors. Interestingly, regression analysis revealed participants' who were interested in making sustainable pre-purchase apparel decisions, such as purchasing apparel made of organic materials were likely to be less satisfied with the MCA products and experience. Both new and experienced customizers reported intentions of keeping MCA products longer than MP apparel, and a significant difference between clusters found experienced customizers intended to keep their MCA product a year longer than new customizers; suggesting MCA maybe a sustainable alternative for consumers. This thesis concludes with a discussion of theoretical and managerial implications as well as suggestions for future research for this promising topic.
2021 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.
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consumer behavior
segmentation analysis
sustainable consumption
mass customization
Associated Publications