Tag Archives: physical retail shops

3D Printing Technology for Retailers – An Opportunity or a Waste of Money?

3D printing technology for retailers is now emerging as an outcome for small localized retailers that are facing closure. However, as it is with most disruptive technologies, the advantages that 3D printing offer for retailers should be weighed against its potential pitfalls.

Although the 3D printing technology has been used for a number of years, it has been mostly on an industrial scale. Meanwhile, the price of desktop 3D printers has started to come down resulting in an average annually growth rate of 170% since 2008 1. The door is now starting to open for innovative retailers to include 3D printing technology into their business models. As a result, brave small retail store owners have already started using in store 3D printing.

3D printing is a game changer in retailing, according to Richard Kestenbaum, contributing for Forbes. Richard writes: “Last week Ministry of Supply installed a machine in its Boston store that can make a garment on demand in 90 minutes (with finishing done offline after the garment is created). The machine can be set to make garments all day and night or it can be instructed to make a garment to a specific customer’s design, allowing customers to customize the colors they want in the garment.”

Let’s have a look how 3D printing works…

How does 3D printing works?

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), refers to processes used to create a three-dimensional object in which layers of material are formed under computer control  (Wikipedia). According to Berman (2012), 3D printers work in a manner similar to traditional laser or inkjet printers. Rather than using multi-colored inks, the 3D printer uses powder that is slowly built into an image on a layer-by-layer basis. All 3D printers also use 3D CAD software that measures thousands of cross-sections of each product to determine exactly how each layer is to be constructed 2.

3D printing uses such raw materials as plastics; resins; super alloys, such as nickel-based chromium and cobalt chromium; stainless steel; titanium; polymers; and ceramics. Examples of products that are manufactured by 3D printing includes artwork, automotive parts, ductwork for a mobile hospital, sand cores for automotive engine block castings, architectural models, dental bridges, jewellery, ball bearing assemblies, and gear assemblies 4. But how can retailers use 3D printers to their advantage?

3D Printing technology for retailers – a 3D-printed product out of a desktop printer

What are the opportunities of 3D printing technology for retailers?

Cremona, et al. (2016) identified the following points on how 3D printing may influence a firm’s strategy:

  • Process innovation:
    • Delivery time of the product: the time to market is extremely reduced, to the extreme that it might become real time.
    • Product development process: is optimized because adjustments are made in a faster and less costly way.
    • Quality and flexibility: is under the control of the retailer with 3D printing.
    • Satisfaction of the single customer demand: personalized products are added to the platform.
  • Customer’s value:
    • Brand awareness: a close collaborative relationship is established between the retailer and the customers thanks to usability testing.
    • Customer’s loyalty: offering customized, personalized products may help clients to feel special.
  • Product platform enhancement:
    • Pushing the limits of traditional manufacturing machines: now new products can be developed also in a different approach and materials are added instead of subtracted.
    • Personalized modules: products can be designed and delivered exactly how the customers want them.
  • Sustainable competitive advantage:
    • Differentiation strategy: carrying out projects on demand makes the retailer to perform a differentiation strategy. It aims at delivering the most technologically advanced product, which is a unique solution with a unique design for each customer.
    • High specialized production know-how: allow companies to actually integrate 3D printing in the product life cycle. In doing so, an additional service is provided.

The most important strategic advantages that 3D printing offer small local retailers are customization, personalization and control over the supply chain. But what are the pitfalls of 3D printing?

What are the pitfalls of 3D printing technology for retailers?

3D printing is in the introduction phase of its life-cycle in the retail industry. Subsequently there will be a lot of surprises (good and bad) as the technology gets adopted more widely.

Shaleen recently blogged in inkjetwholesale.com.au the following of disadvantages of 3D printing:

  1. Scale and size limitations – you can’t print multiple objects of the same type at the same time.
  2. The absence of economies of scale – because every object or product is printed individually.
  3. Cost of buying and setting up a 3D printer – the initial cost still remains something of a roadblock for most businesses and individuals.
  4. 3D printed objects may require heavy duty post processing – it isn’t only the lack of polish that is the problem but also the possible dimensional inaccuracy.
  5. Large scale adoption of 3D printing will result in significant job losses – every new invention ends up taking away jobs amongst the masses.

According to Beck and Jacobson (2017), legal implications may include what is exactly a product, who is the manufacturer, what is the marketplace, and who should be potentially liable for a defective 3D-printed product (once “product” is defined).

At the end of the day, the most important aspect of 3D Printing technology for retailers is whether the customers will accept or reject it.

What do customers think of 3D printing technology in retail stores?

Retail Customer Experience recently reported results of a survey by self-service solutions company Interactions on what shoppers want from retail technology. The study, “What Shoppers Want from Retail Technology,” surveyed more than 1,000 adult shoppers. Of those polled, 84 percent expect retailers to successfully use tech features and functionality to boost the shopping experience and 62 percent are motivated to shop after an initial human greeting when entering a store. Importantly is what the respondents said about 3D printing in shops…

“According to the survey, 95% of shoppers said they were eager to buy products that were 3D printed, and 79% said that they would even spend more money at a store that offered product customization through 3D printing.”

Wow, really? I think we should end (or start) here…

Concluding

Lastly, 3D printing technology for retailers is a genuine disruptive digital technology that may (or will) turn the retail industry upside down. There are many recent examples of disruptive technologies that changed the rules of the retail game. As the costs of buying and setting up 3D printing technology are getting less, more retailers will adopt the technology. Indeed, if you invest now in the technology, you’ll be an early adopter and enjoy (localized) market leadership. Consequently, you’ll have to battle through the growing pains of the technology. On the other hand, by waiting a bit longer, laggard retailers my get 3D printers for a bargain, but at that time, probably, the customers will already be with the pioneers.

Video: The 3D printing process

Notes

1 Li, Y., Linke, B.S., Voet, H., Falk, B., Schmitt, R. and Lam, M. 2017. Cost, sustainability and surface roughness quality – A comprehensive analysis of products made with personal 3D printers, CIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology, 16:1-11.

2 Berman, B. 2012. 3-D printing: The new industrial revolution, Business horizons, 55(2):155-162.

3 Cremona, L., Mezzenzana, M., Ravarini, A. and Buonanno, G. 2016. How additive manufacturing adoption would influence a company strategy and business model, MIBES Transactions, 10(2):23-34.

4 Conner, B.P., Manogharan, G.P., Martof, A.N., Rodomsky, L.M., Rodomsky, C.M., Jordan, D.C. and Limperos, J.W. 2014. Making sense of 3-D printing: Creating a map of additive manufacturing products and services, Additive Manufacturing, 1:64-76.

5 Beck, J.M. and Jacobson, M.D. 2017. 3D Printing: What Could Happen to Products Liability When Users (and Everyone Else in Between) Become Manufacturers, Minn. JL Sci. & Tech., 18:143.

Images and video

  1. Commons.wikimedia.com; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3D_print_in_process_(9437659715).jpg
  2. Proto3000

Augmented Reality in Retail – a Useful Customer Experience

Not so long from now. There is an eerie quietness in the retail store.  Almost all the customers are wearing identical glasses and head sets, slowly walking through the aisles like humanoid robots. No, it’s not a new episode of Star Trek in the making – this is Augmented Reality (AR) in action.   Retailers are now experimenting with AR to get customers back in the stores.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is the practice of augmenting a real-time direct or indirect view of the physical world with virtual information 1. Scholz and Smith (2016) describe the practice of AR as: “Marketers layering digital information (e.g., text, pictures, and videos) over objects and spaces in the physical world (e.g., product packaging, advertisements, or street scenes). And consumers experiencing these hybridized realities via digital screens (e.g., smart phones or video installations) or projections (e.g., holograms)”.

AR can also be explained as the co-existence of virtual and real in the same space, as well as the interactive alignment and mutual registration of computer generated sources with physical reality 2.

Scholz and Smith (2016) have identified the five ingredients of AR:

  1. AR content – is virtual information that is often perceived by consumers through digital devices (e.g., smart phones, large-screen AR installations);
  2. Users – are the people who directly experience an AR layer. Users can share the same physical space. For example, if a screen displays an augmented view of the street behind a bus stop (e.g., bogus window paradigm). Or they may view the same AR layer while dispersed across different locations – for example, when readers of a magazine access the AR content of an active print;
  3. Bystanders – are people who do not experience an augmentation themselves but instead observe a user’s actions either directly – by sharing the same physical space – or indirectly – by viewing content (e.g., images) that a user has generated during his or her augmented experience. Bystanders can affect users’ willingness to engage in AR experiences because they form the social context of the experience;
  4. Targets – are entities in the physical world that are augmented with digital information. In many cases, targets are objects; for example, a marketer might digitally overlay a brand narrative or ingredient information on product packing. Targets may also be people – for example magic mirrors in fitting rooms that superimpose digital images of their merchandise over live images of customers;
  5. Background – those objects and ambient conditions that share the same physical space as the target, but that are not augmented in this particular AR layer.

AR has the potential to be a life-changing technology application. In a recent interview by Bloomberg, CEO Tim Cook of Apple said: “We’ll all have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you.” What is the value of AR for the retailer?

Augmented Reality in retail

AR can help Bricks and Mortar retailers to let their customers enjoy their shopping experience and come back for more. Shauna Heller writing in Media Leaders propose that retailers offer headsets for people to wear while in their stores, to guide people through the store with pop-up characters, animations, or even a virtual assistant right through the visor popping up as people walk around. According to Augment.com, AR helps in the following ways to stop buyer uncertainty:

  • Proximity, presence, and interaction – a customer who is shopping for home furnishings can launch models of a bed or lamp to see how the item would actually look and fit (to scale), rather than playing a guessing game. AR advocates for purchases with more certainty and satisfaction.
  • Modify or customize selections – Augmented Reality makes it easy for consumers to explore their options and make personalized modifications.
  • Visualize or understand products and features – a customer must be able to understand and visualize how a product works and functions. AR augment sophisticated demonstrations that make it easier for customers to visualize and understand the intricate features of a product before they purchase.

AR marketing campaigns open new possibilities for brands to engage and interact with consumers, especially those from social media generations. Yaoyuneyong 3, et al found that AR is “immersive, persuasive and powerful” and the two benefits of AR marketing that they’d identified are:

  1. Enhancing communication by engaging and increasing consumers’ level of immersion and
  2. Improving sales strategy and sales processes.

Also, augmented reality can make a difference to the shopping experience for both online and offline retail customers.

Concluding

After all, it took a game like Pokémon GO and millions of people with smartphones a couple of years ago to bring Augmented Reality under the spotlight. However, the real value of AR is not just for the entertainment of its users, but also as a dynamic marketing tool for retailers.

Remember Pokémon GO?

Further reading

  1. How successful are Retailers in the Omnichannel?
  2. Bricks and Clicks Retail – Shopping Experience makes the Difference

Notes

1 Scholz, J. and Smith, A.N. 2016. Augmented reality: Designing immersive experiences that maximize consumer engagement, Business Horizons, 59(2):149-161.

2 Javornik, A. 2016. Augmented reality: Research agenda for studying the impact of its media characteristics on consumer behaviour, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 30:252-261.

3 Yaoyuneyong, G., Foster, J., Johnson, E. and Johnson, D. 2016. Augmented Reality Marketing: Consumer Preferences and Attitudes Toward Hypermedia Print Ads, Journal of Interactive Advertising, 16(1):16-30.

Image and video

  1. shortfilmwindow.com
  2. Pokémon GO

Adding Bricks to Clicks – How to Choose a Site for your Physical Store

Choosing the right site for your physical store is critical decision for an online retailer that wants to add bricks to clicks.

Open a physical store for your online business

The reasons why online retailers are starting to open Brick and Mortar Stores were  mentioned previously in this blog (http://bricks2clicks.co.za/?p=260). However, once an online retailer has decided to open a physical store, choosing the right site will help to ease the integration process with her online business.

Kenny Kline proposes that retailers do the following when choosing a site for their shop:

Outline the business needs

The type of retail business you have will determine the site and location you need.  If you offer a large variety of merchandise online, then a physical shop with space  can serve as a warehouse.  Other factors to consider when choosing a site are zoning requirements and whether you anticipate needing deliveries, making shipments, or attracting walk-in customers.

Know your customers

Before renting or purchasing a space, it’s critical to have an understanding of your ideal customer.  It is important for most retailers that their businesses are in proximity to potential customers. Retailers should therefore take time to evaluate prospective locations based on demographic data. Insight into the age, education levels, economic base, and other characteristics of the people living nearby are important.

Consider accessibility and safety

Retailers need to make sure that customers will find it easy to park their vehicles and safe to walk to your retail site. Delivery and courier trucks should have easy access to the warehouse with safe parking space. Employees should also have a safe place to park the vehicles. Employing security personnel should be considered in some areas.

Cultivate a brand

A retailer’s physical location serves as the first impression it will make on potential customers. People’s impressions of the building and its surroundings will influence their perception of your brand, so think carefully about what potential locations might say about your business.

Outsmart the competition

Explore the area to get a sense of nearby businesses, including their customer demographics, accessibility, and whether or not they might provide auxiliary services to clients or employees. Then decide whether their presence might hurt or facilitate the company’s prospects.

Anticipate growth

If you hope to expand retail space or hire more employees down the road, then seek out a building of an appropriate size. At the same time, keep in mind that there’s no sense in taking on more space than the business can reasonably fill. More space typically comes with a larger cost. Weigh future goals with present realities when making any decisions on size.

Visit eBizplan for assistance with business plans and marketing plans

Image: Forbes