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Business Model Innovation Through New Customer Roles

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Business Model Innovation Through New Customer Roles. Inspirational cues and insights from a design-driven case study analysis



Cautela CABIRIO, Paola PISANO and Marco PIRONTI


Framing business models as relational devices governing transactions with

the customers and stakeholders, the current article aims to identify new rules

of customer engagement and their impact on business model innovations in

design-intensive industries. These industries, framed as the locus of “cultural

innovation” – where the innovation soul is characterized by the proposition of

new product cultural messages and meaning – sees the customer as a

product “sense giver,” an interpreter of the meaning, the cultural and

symbolic messages attached to the product. In this setting, new customer

roles are explored through a case study analysis based on a fast-growing

company operating in the furniture sector.


The case study analysis highlights three main customer roles that impact

business models: (i) the customer as a market bridge, where the customer

attracts new potential contacts and customers; (ii) the customer context as a

company “show-room,” where the customer’s home setting is designed to

convey the company’s product language and aesthetics; (iii) the customer as

an external company design lab, where the customer host events to seek for

new product scenarios.



PUBLISHED: Proceedings from the The 19th DMI: Academic Design Management Conference, 2014


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