Think about the last thing you purchased from home. How did you do it? Were you on-line? Did you use the phone?

What did you buy? How long did it take to get your purchase? Three days? A week? Did you get it overnight? What did that cost?

What if I told you that in the near future you will be able to shop from home in a way that will provide products to you instantly, will be fully customizable to your needs and will be as easy as printing concert tickets? Would you believe me? What if I told you that many are shopping this way today?

Today’s topic is a true game-changer. 3-D printing represents a paradigm shift in how consumers will “shop”.

But first, what is 3-D printing? Wikipedia’s definition does a good job of explaining. “3D printing is a phrase used to describe the process of creating three dimensional objects from a digital file using a materials printer, in a manner similar to printing images on paper. The term is most closely associated with additive manufacturing technology, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material.”

For the visual learners, a video:

From the video it’s not hard to imagine how 3-d printing will change every aspect of the shopping lifecycle. Imagine. No longer does a toy maker need to manufacture and warehouse plastic action figures. All a shopper must do is download the 3-D file and print the toy at home. The shopper can also customize the action figure (or wrench or model car or phone case) to exactly what they want.

And that is the true game changer. As prices of 3-D printers drop, they range from $500 to $20,000 USD today; the shopper has the ability to create their own product. Much like wood toys were created and given to children 100 years ago, the 3-D printer gives the end user ultimate control and creativity in regards to the end product.

Now the 3-D printer is not the death nail of retail, at least not for the next 20 years, but it is a call to action for retailers. Products that are currently homogenized will fall by the way side as consumers search for, and spend for, unique creations and bespoke designs.