How to Deliver the Perfect Shade of lipstick to Every Customer?
Time, and time again, Retail has faced new challenges. The latest is the slow proliferation of 3D printing. As always, retailers can rise to the occasion by providing the one thing no one else can: the best possible customer experience.
Today, the big challenger to retail is Amazon.com- an innovative, powerful organization that has been able to provide excellent customer service, quick delivery of products, and a vast array of items that suit any consumer’s taste. Even today, many retailers are struggling to catch up with the services that Amazon provides to its users, and many of the retail innovations we see today, such as Omni-Channel Fulfillment, are centered on competing with Amazon.
A new technology is taking its first steps, though, which could create new competition for both Amazon and retailers around the world. That innovation is 3D printing.
The other day I was listening to the radio and heard a story about a company called Minka. Minka is a 3D printer that prints cosmetics. All the user has to do is take a snapshot of a color they like, input it into the printer, and then they can print lipstick, eye shadow, blush, nail polish, brow powder- basically anything that they may want to use. And they can print it all from the comfort of their homes.
As 3D printing begins to spread and become more complex, individuals will be able to print almost anything they want, just the way they want it, and all without stepping out their front door. This will create new challenges, not only for Retailers, but for Amazon too, because anyone with a 3D printer will bypass their inherent limitations. They’ll have a catalogue of products like no other; zero labor costs, and the convenience of doing things exactly the way want them done.
While many are excited about the spread of 3D printing, some of the technologies biggest proponents see having a printer in every house overhyped. Speaking at Real2015, Carl Bass, CEO of AutoDesk, said, “I worry too much when people overhype technologies,” he said, “because it comes back to bite you in the butt.”
Instead he offered an opportunity, one which retailers could take advantage of:
“I’d say, if you think about a whole bunch of on-demand businesses, where I can do this thing online, in a Web browser, I push a button, I get it delivered later in the day or tomorrow, for $12, that starts being a democratized tool.”
This is something that retailers could offer themselves. The same way retailers responded to Amazon with complex order fulfillment such as “Buy Online, Pick-up In Store” (BOPIS), they have the opportunity to respond to 3D printing by becoming 3D printers.
The other thing which stuck out to me about the interview was one line the caller said, “One of my favorite things is lipstick, but it’s so hard to find the color that you want. You’ll see it online but you can’t find it at the store and it’s just a hassle to go half way around the world looking for it.”
Retail is always going to be challenged by new technologies- and retailers always will, and always have found innovative ways of responding, such as offering BOPIS. More and more retail will have to provide the best possible customer experience. That experience will be the value proposition you offer customers to get out of their houses and into your stores.
Whether it is Amazon, 3D printing, or something new on the horizon, Retail will always have a place in the heart of consumers. Retail has the chance to offer delight and wonder, even a sense of home. Customers attach special memories to your stores, and that is your core strength that no one else can offer. As Retailers you must ensure that whatever your go-to-market strategy is, it is executed consistently in all of your stores and that store managers and associates can respond to the real-time demands of knowledgeable and demanding customers who have an increasingly wide variety of choices.