Do-it-yourself home improvement? More like make it yourself. Lowe’s new 3D-printing stations at a New York City store mark the chain’s bid to unlock the profit potential of products that reflect a shopper’s distinct imprint and tastes.
Dubbed Bespoke Designs, the 3D-scanning and printing service — with products designed exclusively for Lowe'sLOW +0.08% by 3DShook, and in partnership with Voodoo Manufacturing — now being piloted in the Lowe’s store in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood enables shoppers to design and produce customized products, from lamps to doorknobs, and hard-to-find replacement parts to “make your home uniquely yours,” the retailer says.
These days, 3D-printing, whereby a physical object is “printed” from a three-dimensional digital model, is rapidly moving beyond industrial prototyping into the consumer market, turning up novelties like 3D-printed designer food and customized running shoes from brands like New Balance.
Retail’s Personalization Push
By placing product design elements into the hands of consumers, retailers are betting on 3D-printing as one path to personalization, a big industry push these days — from make-it-your-own Hallmark cardsto shopper designed stilettos from Shoes of Prey.
According to Accenture research, 40% of retailers say a personalized customer experience is their top priority, and 61% expect personalization technologies to generate a meaningful return on investment.
The personalization trend is one offshoot of the maker movement: Goods with a handmade, homespun vibe continue to pique consumer interest, evidenced by the rise of sites like Etsy.com, which sells the work of independent artisans, to homebrewed craft beer. Chalk it up to shopper ennui: An appreciation for one-of-a-kind product coincides with the digital landscape’s dizzying array of shopping choices and a backlash against cookie-cutter, mass-produced merchandise.
Lowe’s ‘Bespoke Designs’ Touts Promise Of ‘Personalized Home’
With Bespoke Designs, the home-improvement chain views itself at the forefront of the digital manufacturing revolution.
Shoppers can choose from a variety of services at the 3D kiosks such as “customization,” which involves picking from more than 30 templates like home décor, storage and organization and “desk trinkets.” Customers can alter the shape and colors of an item, engrave text, and choose from various materials. The 3D-platform can also personalize cabinets by creating custom-designed looks.
Other 3D-aided services include “restoration,” whereby broken or out-of-production product parts are scanned and repaired in-house and can be printed in over 10 different materials, and “preservation,” whereby shopper heirlooms and antiques are scanned into a digital 3D-printable file that can be saved or printed in a different material. In-store Lowe’s technicians are on hand to help shoppers carry out their projects, offering services like 3D-modeling and CAD cleanup.
The Bespoke Designs concept was hatched in Lowe’s Innovation Labs, the tech hub also responsible for the robots that will service shoppers this fall in a handful of Lowe’s San Francisco Bay area stores.
It’s one of several innovation labs to debut in recent years from chains ranging from Sephora and Sears to Target and Kohl’s. A good chunk of these labs are based in Silicon Valley, as retailers feverishly work to tap into the region’s high-tech bonafides amid digital technology’s disruptive influence on modern life, including how we shop.
With Bespoke Designs, Lowe’s is no doubt also courting millennial consumers, who place a premium on merchandise, services, and experiences that help them showcase their personal style.
“They are a generation raised on self-expression about everything, including their own skin, which has become a canvas for personal expression and creativity in the form of tattoos,” says Pamela Danziger, CEO of Unity Marketing, in her report, “What Do The HENRYs Want?”
That ”emotional drive for self-expression” is showing up today in home products, like the Sactionals collection of customizable upholstered furniture from Lovesac. Shoppers, she says, are looking for ways to “create their own luxury.”