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Fixing the Future: 3 Ways Repairability Will Change the Consumer Goods Ecosystem

Giovanni Carati

Product Experience Designer, EPAM Continuum

Giorgio De Marco

Lead Design Strategist, EPAM Continuum
Blog
  • Retail & Consumer

As reported in the Global E-Waste Monitor, in 2019, we generated over 50 million metric tons of e-waste globally, with a 21% jump in the five years since 2014 and a prediction to reach 74 million metric tons annually by 2030. It's no surprise, then, that public concern about institutional commitment against throwaway culture is on the rise.

When purchasing new products, people are increasingly leaning toward refurbished, highly repairable and second-hand goods. Younger generations are especially motivated to minimize their impact on the environment by changing their consumption behaviors and raising public awareness. At the same time, new Right to Repair policies and initiatives are encouraging brands in multiple sectors to raise their repairability standards to prevent the early disposal of their products. 

Repairability is effectively starting to matter a lot more to legislators, brands and consumers, which will impact the consumer product ecosystem in three ways:

1. Provide customers with an additional way of evaluating products

Repairability will be seen as added value, creating a new dimension in market segmentation. People will consider “truly” repairable products as robust, updatable, re-sellable and therefore of higher value. Conversely, products that need to be replaced if broken will be perceived as being of lower value and poorly made — or even purposefully designed to become obsolete.

For instance, brands like Fairphone and Framework are setting the bar of repairability in the consumer electronics industry, becoming reference points of how durable and upgradable products should be designed.

However, if brands truly want to increase the perceived value of their goods, and consequently their margins, they can’t just offer repairable products — they’ll need to enable the repair of those products by offering a compelling repair experience and related content and services.

2. Give brands the opportunity to reimagine their relationships with customers, moving past traditional customer service

As a product's lifespan increases, so do the opportunities for contact between brands and their customers that go beyond basic repair and maintenance services (which are often avoided in favor of purchasing newer models, as it's perceived to be a more convenient and economical option in the long run).

Interactions with customers will no longer be just about providing spare parts or replacing broken ones. Companies will be able to introduce and invent many new services and touchpoints — such as periodic care and check-ups, DIY repair-training content and reselling support, to name a few — opening new opportunities to connect with customers, drive loyalty and establish new revenue streams.

These more frequent and intimate interactions have the power to change the current paradigm of customer service, transforming peoples’ perception of it as a painful experience — that is, a last resort — to something much more positive and effortless. 

To make this change work in a credible and effective way, brands need to structure a harmonic ecosystem around repairability, connecting services, touchpoints and stakeholders to better support and retain their current customers — and provide avenues for acquiring new ones.

3. Create a new playground for brands to express themselves, compete and be evaluated

Repairability is, and will increasingly become, an opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves in the market — especially in heavily saturated ones — and demonstrate their commitment toward a circular economy.

From offering easy-to-repair products and compelling repair experiences to providing customers with enriching service moments throughout their products’ lifecycles — all these touchpoints represent opportunities not just for brands to provide value to customers, but to communicate their own values and genuine commitment to sustainability. Brands that can do this, and show it, stand to win customers and keep them.

Just think of Patagonia for example: Their brand reputation and incredibly loyal customer base are built around concrete actions like free repair services, DIY repair tutorials, and reuse and recycle assistance, on top of their lifetime guarantee.

By pairing these initiatives with durable, high-quality products, brands will be able to demonstrate their dedication and credibility, solidifying their perception in the eyes of consumers and elevating their position in the market.

The Future of Repairability is Multiform

When it comes to repairability, there is no one single way to stand out — nor is there an established best practice. It’s a new frontier for brands to act, experiment and innovate through new narratives, services and product offerings. It also creates an ideal opportunity for brands to use their imagination and create something surprising, relevant and effective. And there’s no time like the present to start fixing the future.

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