Jim Nicol and Rob Goleniowski discuss how to engage customers and win orders by adding a countertop DTG printer in a retail outlet

Personalisation is on the rise in the high street as bricks-and-mortar retailers realise that to compete with online stores they need to offer their customers more than simply good quality, affordable products – they need to offer an inviting and memorable shopping experience too. “Over the past three years we have seen increasing demand for personalisation within the retail sector,” reports Jim Nicol, managing director of TheMagicTouch (TMT), which sells the TMT/Oki printers as well as the Ricoh Ri 100 DTG printer. “We have good experience with many customers operating as concessionaires within department stores such as Selfridges, Marks & Spencer and Harrods, which at selected times operate very successful personalisation services. These have included the production of Santa sacks, eco bags, mugs, babywear and garments in general. However, there is an increasing demand for more events and occasions – Valentine‘s Day, Mother‘s Day, Father‘s Day etc.”

Rob Goleniowski, head of sales for UK and Ireland for Roland DG, which has just introduced the BT-12 DTG printer, comments: “In almost every consumer setting, customers have come to expect a level of tailored experience. With the current unpredictability of the retail arena, businesses must use everything in their power to create spaces which attract customers and offer something unique.” He adds that the growth of personalised products is largely due to the good return on investment potential of the equipment. “Customers see a lot of value in tailored products and they’re willing to pay a premium to have something unique. Since this additional value costs the seller very little once the initial investment has yielded a return, they can easily increase their margin.” Jim notes that retailers all emphasise the need to improve the ‘customer experience‘, which he sums up as “basically finding ways to keep the customers in-store longer and spending more money”. He adds: “It‘s very clear that personalisation ticks all the boxes in that department.”

On-site opportunities

Decorators can take advantage of this trend in a multitude of ways: they can set up a small DTG print kiosk in their own retail shop, take on a concession in a shopping centre, sports arena or retail store, run a DTG experience for a local boutique or tap into the trend for pop-up shops by setting up a temporary customisation station – the opportunities are wide and varied thanks to the introduction of ‘countertop’ DTG printers with small footprints such as the Ri 100 and BT-12. “Today we have the perfect direct-to- textile product with the Ricoh Ri 100 for the retail sector, offering simple and easy production which is scalable due to the low entry-level cost and offers good margins being achieved across the product range,” explains Jim.

“The Ri 100 with its small footprint is perfect for any low space restrictions and, more importantly, its built-in heat press removes any health and safety issues, which have in the past been concerns for many retailers. The other great advantage of the Ri 100 is the simple operating process for producing the printed item, which enables stato very quickly become experts in producing the products.” Similarly, Rob reports that the BT-12 is “perfectly suited” to retail environments for several reasons. “It’s very compact, which means that it can be operated without needing a lot of space. It’s also very uncomplicated and doesn’t demand a lot of expertise from the user. Not only does this mean that the staff won’t need extensive training, it’s so user-friendly, it’s possible to let the customers customise T-shirts or tote bags by themselves.”

How to set up

When setting up these DTG printers in a retail setting, there are a number of factors to consider. First, says Rob, establish what level of interaction you want to oer your customers. “If you want to give them a hands-on experience, the printer should be the centre of attention and the focus of the installation.“ If staff are going to operate the machine, position it so customers can still see it printing, but only staff can access it. He continues: “A great way to add value to the product is to consider it not only
as an item that is bought and sold, but as a collaborative experience that the customer can feel a part of. In this sense, it pays to install a kiosk or booth that lets the customer add their own artwork within an app and then send it to the printer.”

Rob confirms that safety risks are “relatively low“ as there is no risk of customers being burned by an external heat press – like the Ri 100, the BT-12 contains a built-in heat press. He also recommends displaying examples of printed items to give customers an instant impression of what‘s possible. “Always ensure that your examples are of the highest quality and ensure that they’re relevant to the customers you wish to attract,” he says. “Whatever the product, if it’s developed in line with the demands of the local market and the current setup of the business, they’ll stand a better chance of selling. T-shirts for special events like birthdays will sell well from a pop-up shop platform in a busy shopping centre. If the BT-12 is installed within a larger retail business, it’s best to keep the designs relevant to that business – for example, a bookshop could sell tote bags customised with covers of classic novels.”

When it comes to setting prices for the customised products, Rob points out that there will be a lot of competition in the form of online sellers who don‘t have the overheads of a bricks-and-mortar premises. “However, you can justify a higher price by offering a walk-in, while-you-wait service that the customer can interact with,” he adds. “It’s always best to study the local competition too and tailor your prices to best fit the expectations of your clientele.” He also warns decorators to consider that if their business depends on one device, they need to do all they can to mitigate any potential downtime. “One of the main benefits of the BT-12 is that every unit is sold with a RolandCare Original Warranty, which covers the user against the most common faults and technical issues.”

Driving success

Jim advises linking the experience with social media campaigns to help increase awareness and demand. The success of the in- store personalisation is also dependent on good point of sale together with on-screen ordering software to help make the process easy and manageable, he points out. “Current software oerings from specialists such as Custom Gateway and YR Live make that side of the business easier and very user friendly. This also has great advantages when it comes to adding a host of images and designs which in many cases are licensed to major brands and characters.” Identifying your customers‘ needs is also vital. “As you might expect with a personalisation service, tailoring the service to the needs of your customers is what will ultimately make the venture a success,“ says Rob. “Listen to your customers, find out what they’re most interested in and develop an offering that best meets their needs.” 

In-store personalisation using small footprint DTG printers is a highly attractive prospect for those in the retail sector as they continue trying to counter the appeal to customers of buying online. It also offers a valuable opportunity for decorators to increase sales of personalised products within their own stores. Both opportunities make this an ideal area for decorators to explore. Jim believes the future is bright: “Whilst the retail sector has seen some radical changes in customer trends, the personalisation factor with continue to grow and will eventually incorporate personalisation with specific fashion brands oering options to personalise garments to individual requirements.”