Three ways 3D printing is shaking up retail

David Rozzio, Managing Director, HP Africa
David Rozzio, Managing Director, HP Africa

With the advent and rapid evolution of 3D printing technology, the nature of retail is changing dramatically.

By decentralizing manufacturing and bringing it physically closer to the consumers it serves, 3D printing enables the on-demand production of customized goods, effectively reinventing many industries – including retail.

The coming decade will see $4 to $6 trillion of the global economy disrupted and redistributed, according to an HP study conducted by A.T. Kearney.

New technology is already making significant steps in reinventing the made-to-order footwear market. Superfeet, the leader in innovative, over-the-counter insoles, has been piloting the new FitStation.

This 3D scanning and printing platform captures 3D images of the foot, pressure measurements and gait analysis to create a unique digital profile, which can then be used to manufacture customized insoles or footwear.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 3D printing is revolutionizing retail with customized, on-demand products, unlocking new revenue streams for retailers and enabling the design and production of entirely new merchandise.

A near life experience

As 3D printing becomes more mainstream, stores will transition from being product showrooms into something more experiential and experimental. Customers will no longer have to pick and choose from available stock because products will be made to their preferences, on demand. As a result, retailers will need to shift their focus from product merchandizing and display to interactive in-store design and measurement experiences. Expect devices such as Zivelo kiosks to become more prevalent, empowering shoppers to customize the ambiance of their fitting room, explore and adapt product recommendations and digitally request help from staff.

Closing time

3D printing rapidly reduces the space between design and fabrication, accelerating time to market. The ability to quickly see how a newly designed product will appear and operate in the real world allows brands more freedom to experiment with new products and more closely align their offerings to market needs. 3D technology allows prototypes to be produced quicker than ever before, enabling retailers and manufacturers to be more responsive to market needs, and move seamlessly from prototyping into full scale production on 3D printers.

Cash machine

With 3D printing comes a range of efficiencies: less waste and energy consumption, a compressed supply chain closer to the end customer, and an impressive bespoke capability. All of this reduces inventory and overheads, generating significant retailer margins to increase financial performance and customer satisfaction.

By offering new in-store experiences, mass customization, reduced time to market and improved supply chain efficiency, 3D printing is poised to redefine the shape of the retail. Shopping will never look the same again.

By David Rozzio, Managing Director, HP Africa