Personalized retail is the future

By Bob Phibbs

Bob Phibbs
Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor, is an internationally recognized business strategist, customer service expert, sales coach, marketing mentor, retail author, and motivational business speaker. He has been compensated for this article.

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.

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.

Learn more: Xerox Direct to Object Inkjet Printer offers on-demand, personalized printing on three-dimensional objects and a variety of substrates.
Learn more: Xerox Direct to Object Inkjet Printer offers on-demand, personalized printing on three-dimensional objects and a variety of substrates.

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.”

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  1. Britton Robbins September 7, 2016 - Reply

    Very interesting concept. Cool looking machine too! How is the resultant print’s durability?

    • Gregory Pings September 8, 2016 - Reply

      Thanks for your question, Britton. Brendan Casey is one of our experts. Here’s his response:

      “Good question, we have completed durability, tape and scratch testing. We think our durability is comparable to current market standards.
      “And comparing the Direct to Object printer to screen printing, our technology allows for printing on objects where screen printing will have some difficulty, such as printing in a grove or a recessed area, or objects with complex curves.
      “For those that can, check out the printer at Graph Expo in Orlando at the end of the month.”

  2. Shawn Fogle September 25, 2016 - Reply

    Wow, this looks great. Is it a live product that is shipping or just prototype form? Curious how the software works for personalization since that can be a time suck at times. Please send me additional info when available.

    Thank you,
    Shawn Fogle
    VP Display & Graphics
    Swift Print Communications

    • Gregory Pings October 4, 2016 - Reply

      Hi Shawn,

      Thank you for writing. I know our sales specialist followed-up with you offline, but I wanted to also provide feedback publicly in case others were also curious.

      The Xerox Direct to Object Inkjet Printer is a real product that will begin shipping later this month. We first showed off this amazing device at the drupa tradeshow in May and again at the Graph Expo tradeshow just last week. To say it drew a lot of buzz is an understatement. In response to your question on the software driving the personalization, we have partnered with XMPie, which has provided us with an integrated, cloud-based solution that is both intuitive and easy to use. At Graph Expo, we printed personalized stainless steel water bottles for show attendees. The individual could simply walk up to a kiosk storefront, type in their name, choose their design and colors – and within a minute the object was printed. For more information, please visit

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