Personalization and Globalization Represent the Future of E-Commerce
It's not just a tech blogging sensation — actual 3-D printer stores are popping up in major cities around the world. For example, New York City-based MakerBot already has three store locations, one each in Manhattan, Boston and Greenwich, CT. But are brick-and-mortar 3-D printing stores just a marketing tactic, or can they become a primary business model?
It's easy for the naysayer to doubt whether 3-D printers will ever become mainstream. At the advent of the world wide web more than 25 years ago, however, few people could have predicted its impact on nearly every aspect of our lives. And when Steve Jobs and Bill Gates started building hobby computers in the mid-1970s, almost nobody imagined PCs would become a modern home fixture. The cell phone's journey from brick-sized car accessory to pocket-sized computer? Fairly unpredictable.
With this in mind, it no longer seems so far-fetched that a technology like 3-D printing will make a similar journey from a niche luxury to a mainstream consumer product. In fact, 3-D printing, with its potential to build customized products tailored to the user, is just one example of a much bigger e-commerce transformation that's shifting power to consumers. This shift is primarily driven by two forces — globalization and personalization.
In one form or another, globalization has always been a challenge for companies operating in international markets. The e-commerce phenomenon has just intensified this. Consumers around the world expect the same experience on e-commerce sites, regardless of their location, language or device they're using. For example, a consumer shopping via smartphone in Bulgaria needs the same experience as one sitting at their desktop in Vancouver, even if there are no on-the-ground sales reps to localize the transaction. It's not just distance, language and culture that are barriers to international online transactions, either. Local policies, regulations and infrastructure limitations all add to the globalization puzzle.