3D printing can radically change consumer habits and open the doors to a revolution in the retail sector

As an expert in marketing and entrepreneurship, I always try to identify or imagine future scenarios based on clues.

Since the emergence of the first 3D printers I thought they could generate a very important change in buying habits, in the way of producing and distributing, but especially in retail.
There are many ways to innovate, but it is also evident that for an innovation to have an effect and generate a change in consumption habits, many factors must converge.

From my point of view at a time when retail needs to reinvent itself and adapt to the new consumer that is looking for experiences, 3D printing and virtual reality can be its best allies.

Several factors at play that favor this scenario

From my point of view, I identify several technologies and values ​​that come into play and can modify in depth the way we know about buying.

Besides the technology of scanning, design and 3D printing, we have the fact that consumers interact more and more with companies and products. Many sectors have long since introduced customization into their sales processes (automotive, sports shoes, etc.)

At a global level, the transport model based on internal combustion is being questioned and, in this type of transport, Diesel is the main fuel used in road and maritime transport. This makes foresee, in the short term, an important cost increase of the transport and to medium a prohibition of the use of this fuel, which will modify the panorama. These two factors will have an impact on the final prices of the products. To this must be added the difficulty of delivery in large urban centers (unless it is not with electric vehicles)


And finally we have virtual reality. What does this technology paint in this article? Well, from my point of view it would give the retail the possibility of showing the customer to see and «touch, test and experiment» with many products that in a non-virtual environment would be impossible to have in their store.

As I imagine the store of the future

I imagine stores cleared, in which there will be very little product and instead there will be a lot of technology at the service of the client. First benefit, reduction of stock, reduction of financial leverage, reduction of risk of theft, reduction of obsolescence of the products by consequent reduction of sales campaigns in which the shopkeepers drastically reduces their benefits. In this 3D store, bright, with space to move and be comfortable there will be scenarios and means to experiment with virtual reality.

There will be 3D printers, 3D scanners and powerful computers where the plans are prepared to print the product, or connected to a database of predesigned products by the main brands.

The shopkeeper will be an expert who will help and advise the client when concretizing YOUR product, the product that is 100% adapted to the needs of each client.
The shopkeeper will have new functions, expert in the use of 3D, help customers with virtual reality and above all will be responsible for finishing the product (assembly, accessory, finishing, color, and polish the final details, etc.)

Production KM «0» and Just In Time in the store.

As a customer I will enter a hardware store because I need 3 screws to finish my DIY project, besides I want some handles and some rivets
specials that I have designed

I will give all the information to the hardware dealer. The hardware dealer will enter the database to find the screw I am looking for and will print. It will take my sketch of handles and rivets, it will design it in a 3D program and it will also put it to print.

While I wait, I can take advantage of the virtual reality glasses and get to know the new catalog or brochure of the cooperative, tools, decorative elements, paintings, or elements to make my DIY. If I like something I can order it or give it directly to print.

All this will avoid the phrase «go back, I have to ask for a warehouse». It will prevent the shopkeeper from having to buy 100 units to sell 3 and hope to place the remaining 97 in the future. It will prevent the shopkeeper from telling me I do not have this shooter, but I have one that looks like it.

Another example, an interior design studio that is carrying out a project to decorate and make sense of a space. You will have at your disposal the possibility of giving personalized solutions almost 100% producing your drawings in a unique way without having to adapt to what is produced and is in the market or catalogs and integrate it into your project. Shelves, tables shelves, decorative objects, frames. In addition, they can make the customer experience live and approve the project beforehand thanks to virtual reality.

Ruche es la colección de luminarias de suspensión creada por la firma Plumen

Also the decoration shops will be other businesses that can benefit 100% of 3D technology and virtual reality. How many times we look for that vase or a frame that we have in our heads. With the perfect measures to fit on a shelf, or on that wall or on that piece of furniture. Well, thanks to 3D printing we can obtain it and to the exact size. And thanks to virtual reality we can place it in our living room and see how it is, before buying it

And what about the construction sector? To be able to build a customized house, adapted to the plot and to the clients, in record time. It can be extended according to the evolutions of the owners.

Infinities of applications, infinities of opportunities so that the retail revindique in its role of customer service, but above all, a radical change in understanding the relationship customer, seller, brand, the limits? Technology, of course, and our imagination.

Once my purchase is finished, I can assess the experience in social networks.

The same I imagine that it can happen in a store of bikes, of cars, of shoes, of imitation jewelery and because not a pastry shop or toy store …

New scenarios for designers and creatives.

On many occasions, the designers or creatives had a hard time moving their ideas to the production limits imposed by the production, the minimum units. If they achieved or invested in producing came the second problem, place it in the sales points. Many of these objects end up in online stores, but reach a small audience.
3D printing opens an interesting field since it allows creatives to sell the designs directly to customers who can go to print it in the nearest store or offer their designs to specialized stores to include it in their database and include the object in the virtual catalog so that the client can experiment with it through virtual reality.

This opens up a world of possibilities for commercialization that transcends borders, physical barriers and limits imposed by profitability and economies of scale.

New scenarios for mechanical workshops, spare parts companies and repair shops

Another area that will benefit from 3D technology will be mechanical workshops, spare parts and repair workshops.


It will no longer be necessary to have the pieces waiting for you. With access to the parts database or scan the original part can be printed in the same workshop at the exact time that is needed. This will make repairs much easier, generate a predictable significant savings in time and resources as well as reduce errors.

What can we expect for companies in the 3D retail scenario?

This scenario is a scenario in which the retail and the customer are the center of the buying action.

Companies will no longer have to invest huge resources to produce products that are just stored for sale in the future (almost never 100% and therefore the existence of outlets). They will no longer have to invest to transport their products throughout the world eliminating the term delivery factor. Companies will have to fully develop their R & D and design capabilities. They will have to develop solutions that allow their products to be adapted to 3D printing and virtual reality. The companies will bring to the center the experience of their clients. They will be companies that will have to develop materials to shape their products with 3D Printers, they will have to feed product databases so that their network of specialized sales points can shape the wishes of their customers and produce the dreamed product. Companies will have to strengthen social networks, Brand Content so that the customer links with the brand, look for a point of sale / production and end up buying the product. Companies will have to strive to develop experiential content in the virtual environment so that the client can experiment with the product, experience sensations, touch it virtually and understand what exactly it needs.

The Customer Experience will be the key.

In this new scenario, three key elements are the customer experience, the point of sale, the brand / customer link. Because most of the buying process will be purely emotional. The client, satisfied, will tell his experience, will tell how he has lived and known the product. As the brand has been at all times provided inputs to help you choose the product. As has been the visit to the point of sales and how the product has been confirmed the expectations generated.

All this will modify the Customer Journey Map, the way to generate demand, the way of managing the expectation and the way to retain the customer.


In short, thanks to the potential of new technologies, the new environmental values ​​of millennials and 3D printing, I imagine a world in which the customer, brands and points of sales will interrelate in a very more «intimate» and will be accomplices in the production process of products adapted to 100% to the needs of the client at all times