Topic: Technology

Personalized Retail Is The Future - Meet The Xerox Direct Object Printer

By Bob Phibbs

xerox direct to print printer exampleRemember the old Burger King jingle, Have it your way, have it your way?

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 would.

Xerox has introduced its Direct to Object Inkjet Printer, which can print on metal, plastic, glass, and many fabrics. It is a new answer to how to create a memorable experience in a store.

Retail trends tell us 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 technology 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 Day 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 want more personalization in their shopping experiences.

Why not use a 3D printer?

Have you ever witnessed a 3D printer? Watching paint dry is quicker. A 3D printed coffee cup takes about 24 hours and runs probably $50-75 – 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 talked 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 sale

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 an item.  

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 and not as 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 a faster, simpler, and 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.

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 if you price each personalization at about ten dollars, and each costs you about 25 cents, that’s about $9.75 in profit per piece. 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.

You can see how quickly it printed my logo/name on a water bottle below.

See also, 5 Ways Brick and Mortar Retailers Should Prepare For A Better Future

In Sum

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 still need to do some retail sales training to get the upsell. A machine alone won’t provide the magic.

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 viewers know where to go.

Bob Phibbs, is the Retail Doctor; a speaker, author of 3 books and retail sales expert of choice for some of the most legendary retail brands including LEGO, Omega, and Hunter Douglas. With over 30 years’ experience beginning in the trenches of retail and extending to senior management positions, he has been a corporate officer, franchisor and entrepreneur. He and his work have appeared on Fox, MSNBC, PBS as well as in Entrepreneur, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He is an IBM Futurist and American Express Global Merchant Advisor and listed as one of the top retail influencers in the world. Mr. Phibbs is a paid contributor to Xerox.

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