If you live in the UK and like to shop online then you’ve no doubt heard of Argos LTD. Argos is the UK’s leading digital retailer, receiving abour 430 million website visits annually, and serving around 130 million customers through a network of 740 stores. Part of the Home Retail Group, the UK’s leading home and general merchandise retailer, Argos reported sales near £3.9 billion in fiscal year 2012 and currently employs over 31,000 people. Their website alone is a site to behold, featuring a clearinghouse of over 33,000 products for home delivery or local pick-up, in a variety of categories, including: technology; home and garden; baby and nursery; toys; sports and leisure; health and beauty; clothing; jewellery and watches; and gifts. Now Argos has introduced a trial line of customizable 3D printed jewellery that promises to expose more of the public to the technology through its easy to use online customizing platform.
Currently offered on a trial basis, this new service allows a customer to choose from a range of jewellery options including bangles, rings, pendants, earrings, and cuff links. With a user-friendly digital platform powered by Digital Forming, a service offering “intuitive tools for product designers and retailers to publish digital product designs to the web and link these designs to a global network of certified Digital Manufacturers,” Argos has established an easy way for customers to access the benefits of 3D customization.
Take, for example, the Geometric Ring. From Argos’ main custom jewellery webpage, you simply click on the ring and you are led to the customizing platform that provides you with additional options. The first option is material choice: either gold plated or base metal. The second option provides you with two different ring textures. From here, you can visually watch the ring band morph as the platform provides you the choice between “Hexagonal Hole,” “Hexagonal Stud,” or “Ribbed.” Next you’ll get the same three options, plus a fourth “No Texture” option. Finally, you choose either small, medium, or large for the size, and voila! You are done customizing your own 3D printed ring.
All other jewellery choices, which range in price from £50 and £220, work roughly the same way. The “Minerva Bangle” comes in silver and is one size only, with the customizing feature of a personal message inscripted on its cuff. Two other rings, the Athena and Miami Rings, can be customized with names and fonts, four other pendants can be customized with names or initials, and Argos even offers a pair of customizable cuff links, with each supporting up to three letters. The site currently offers one pair of earrings that you can have printed in a variety of stages as they morph into flower studs at the end of the design spectrum.
Neil Tinegate, Argos’ head of Digital Innovation, summarizes his company’s excitement about this customizable jewelry trial run:
“There has been a lot of excitement about 3D printing and we are just beginning to explore the mainstream application of these techniques. We are launching the site this week with our partners in the consortium as a trial, to gauge how customers want to engage with it. We will assess results and learnings to inform future decision making in due course.”
There is one notable setback with this customizable jewelry plan. Argos is not allowing returns on items, unless the product is flawed, so customers need to feel comfortable paying for an item they can not return before they see it. This may prove to be a problem as ring sizes can be notoriously difficult to pin down unless you try them on. The trial run is a good idea to see if customers agree that the benefits of customization outweigh the risks of a non-returnable purchase.
If all goes well, we will be seeing more from Argos’ 3D printed wares, as the company has expressed plans to potentially expand its offerings to lighting and housewares. Since jewelry is especially personal, this is as good a place as any for the giant retailers to spring into the world of 3D printed goods. Let us know if you have tried this new service out and what you thoughts were. Discuss in the Argos 3D Printed Jewelry forum thread on 3DPB.com