Abstract Purpose This paper aims to explore how customer involvement unfolds in the development of a smart product. Smart product development poses new challenges to firms. In particular, the buyers’ and users’ involvement has shown novel dynamics in smart product development. These peculiarities are linked with the specific characteristics of the digital technology embedded into the smart products. This study’s rationale is to analyse the frictions arising from potential divergent objectives between the focal firm and its customers when digital technologies are embedded in traditional products. Design/methodology/approach This study adopted an explorative and qualitative approach to investigate new emerging dynamics of customer involvement during technological development. A coffee machine producer is selected as a case study to uncover new insights and a novel perspective on the phenomenon of customer involvement in smart product development. Data analysis followed an abductive approach that allowed to identify the dimensions of friction emerging during the technological development process. Findings The case study analysis depicts that smart product development presents novel customer involvement dynamics. In particular, this study abductively identifies dimensions of friction emerging between the focal firm and buyers/users. Friction arises in the technological interface between the actors involved. These dimensions of friction address the complexities of developing technology in terms of smart products with customer involvement. This study suggests that embedding of technology into an existing product might change how customers are involved. Originality/value Even though customer involvement in product innovation has been extensively studied in management literature, this paper focused on a new type of innovation, smart products. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, no previous studies have yet empirically explored customers’ involvement while embedding digital technologies into existing products to create smart products. In particular, this study sheds light on the dimensions of friction emerging between the focal firm and the actors of the business network. This study unfolds novel contributions to the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing literature on technological development.
Customer involvement in technological development of smart products: empirical evidence from a coffee-machine producer / Sabatini, Andrea; Pascucci, Federica; Gregori, Gian Luca. - In: THE JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. - ISSN 0885-8624. - (2023). [10.1108/JBIM-12-2021-0581]