By Bob Phibbs
What if you could personalize most anything in your store in 90 seconds? Would you do it? And if you offered it for just $10, do you think it would appeal to consumers? I’ll bet you would, and I bet it will.
Xerox has introduced its Direct to Object Inkjet Printer, which can print on metal, plastic, glass, and on many fabrics in the future.* It is a new answer to how to create a memorable experience in a store.
Custom is where it is at. Look no further than online companies where you can create your own shoes, your own apparel and even your own custom cereal.
The reason custom is so hard to do in a brick and mortar space is the required time and inventory. Not many people want to wait, and those who do had already planned to buy something customized.
This is a whole new market that makes it simple to switch between coffee cups and water bottles to most anything within a cubic foot.
Would you put this off in a corner somewhere? No, in fact if you did that it would probably be worthless. At about 3 feet square and standing 7 feet tall, it should be in a featured location.
Personalization – outside of Valentine’s and Christmas – is an impulse. If they see it, shoppers are bound to want it.
You would want this machine to be front and center with signage about how quick and cheap it is to make most anything they are buying personal. From a basketball to a coffee cup, from a ribbon to a water bottle, the possibilities are endless. A recent study from Infosys revealed that almost a third of consumers wanted more personalization in their shopping experiences.
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Direct object printing versus 3D printing
Why not use a 3D printer?
Have you ever witnessed a 3D printer? Watching paint dry is quicker. A 3D printed coffee cup would take about 24 hours and run probably 50 to 75 dollars – hardly an impulse purchase.
The Xerox Direct to Object Inkjet Printer will take only 90 seconds, and all eyes will be on it as it quickly personalizes a product most people didn’t come in even thinking they could personalize.
And once someone does have their name or logo printed on an item, you know whoever they talk to – particularly kids – will want one too and beat a path to your door for something your competitors can’t offer.
An easy add-on to sales
There are already ways to print on several materials – if you’re willing to wait days or weeks to get it. That’s not who this product is meant for. While you could use this online, the reality is that’s not where it would shine. This printer can create real buzz in your store from those who pay to personalize items.
What I really like about this is you don’t have to commit to a whole new line of merchandise, you just look at the opportunities you have on your shelves. Instead of discounting them, how about personalizing them? Think about customized iPad covers, a cool pic on a notebook, or sneakers. The possibilities are seemingly endless – if you remember it is an impulse sale, not a custom product.
What I also like about this is that it allows your store to ride the trend of customization and personalization that online retailers have seized on to drive their own sales. Except this is faster, simpler and an easy add-on to almost any sale.
The shopper doesn’t have to plan to customize their item until they pick it out. With the quick 90-second printing, there are bound to be lines at some times. But the time in line would be about the same as waiting for a Frappuccino at Starbucks.
Do the math
So you’re probably asking how much the printer costs? About $150,000. Yes, this isn’t something just any retailer can put in a store, but with a cost of just about 25 cents per print that’s about $9.75 in profit. While it would be a slam dunk in high-traffic areas and tourist destinations, do the math and make your own projections how soon it could pay for itself in your store.
Retail exists to answer shoppers’ one question: “What’s new?” This product allows them to see it now, want it now and get it now.
It’s designed so anyone with a high school education can operate it, but you will also need to do some retail sales training to get the upsell.
Add the potential social media impact of bystanders videoing the process and customers taking selfies with the machine, and you’ll have a built in stream of content being watched online. Just make sure your branding is around the printer so they know where to go.
* Corrected on Sept. 1 to add the words “in the future.”