1) 3-D Printing Didn’t Cannibalize Other Parts Of The Business
For a store that makes money mainly by shipping physical goods from one place to another, it could be shortsighted to bring in machines that help alleviate that need. But it turns out that offering the new service had no affect on existing services.
“The 3-D print sector increased by 21% between 2012 and 2013,” says the UPS Store’s Small Business Technology leader Daniel Remba. “The growth in our stores’s sales of 3-D print services has been in line with that trend, and continues to increase as more consumers become aware of our 3-D print offering.” In fact, it has actually acted as a gateway to offering small businesses other existing printing and mailbox services.
2) Users Are Frequent Repeat Customers
The initial assumption at the UPS Store was that small businesses and startups would create onetime 3-D projects–otherwise why wouldn’t they buy their own machine? But the reality has been different. “We’ve seen people from all types of different industries with the common denominator being people making prototypes of new products,” Remba says. And like most people who make things, they iterate. A ton. So many customers are frequent repeats, printing a design, taking it home, and coming back again to refine it.
Interestingly, the company has also seen some people who already have access to 3-D printers at their office, but the wait to use it is too long. These people especially are ones who benefit from having the professional 3-D printer available outside their office in a retail environment.
3) There Is Latent Demand (And How They Know)
“I can say we certainly learned we have some sophisticated customers,” says Remba. “We thought we’d have more customers needing design services, and [demand for] that’s been lower than we expected.” Apparently, there are many more 3-D-printing-savvy consumers in Southern California than the company thought. The UPS Store will continue to offer design services anyway.
4) The Printer Matters. A Lot.
There are a lot of different 3-D printer choices available. Picking the right one that balances price and capabilities can be difficult at best. Remba says they also get lots of inquiries about home printers from customers that come into the store.
“There’s a big difference between home printers and professional printers and it’s up to us to explain to our customers those differences,” Remba says. “How there’s a lot of maintenance that has to be done and that quality of the prints [on a home printer] aren’t always what you’re expecting.” The company doesn’t have any plans to switch manufacturers and says it has been happy with the results the current printers have provided