Success with Shapeways

We have started to see some real spikes of heavy traffic on Shapeways Shops based around a handful of really successful designs.  The products do not have much in common in themselves other than being clean, simple designs, but the presentation of each is impeccable with great images and descriptions that are easily shared in articles and blogs.

Over the past month, these four designs have had over 32,000 combined hits due to being picked up by a combination of blogs, press, Twitter and Facebook.

All four have fantastic images that not only describe the product, but also express an attitude or emotive element that sets the mood for the design. 

All four of them are shown in context of use so the design can be immediately grasped for what it is, the scale of the object and it’s use.

Three of the designs have great descriptions of the product detailing it’s function, ordering or assembly instructions.  The other has a playful brevity that continues the mood of the design.

The Road Popper was designed by Chromoly for themselves with no real intention of commercializing the design.  The design links a hot but niche market of Fixie bikes, combined with a broad interest (beer), with a hint of laconic irreverence that makes it a perfect for sending to your friends, or posting as a fun friday blog post.

The Pod à porter by Michiel Cornelissen is a simple, iconic design that solves a problem everyone who has ever worn earbuds has experienced.  The images range from an overall shot, to close details to the product in use by both male and female models, with all images looking professionally shot, with stylistic consistency. Even though the iPod shuffle may be seen as the lesser cousin to the iPad and iPhone, there is still enough interest/obsession with all things Apple to garner an extra segment of interest.

The Canvas Wrap by jbare design also manages to gain interest with an Apple related product but enters the market with a refined elegance missing in many third party apple products.  The images have a soft light that reinforces the feminine patterns and the YouTube video closes the sale when you see how perfectly it fits, and how flexible and robust it is for a 3D printed product. The design also garnered attention for being a perfect example of single person with a 3D printed product can now compete with mass produced objects. (something the Shapeways community knows and practices)

Sharky by Noodle-Labs is so playful you smile as soon as you see it.  The presentation with the hand drawn sketch perfectly reinforces the mischievous design, while at the same time humanizing the 3D printed object.  The design takes on the most mundane of objects linked to domestic drudgery and makes it fun.  No description is needed (except to say you need to provide your own spring), perfect to catch your eye when scrolling through the thousands of images we wee on our screens every day.

So, once you have your perfect design, 3D printed and photographed to perfection, you have written a description and made sure your shop has a logo and description as well, you put it on your Shapeways shop and wait?

No, now you need to Promote Your Design!

Each one of these designs was promoted online by both the designers themselves and by Shapeways.  We submitted the images, text and links to a number of design blogs, posted to our friends on Facebook, tweeted about them and basically attempted to get as many links as possible to point to these designs.  This is something we can do to a certain scale, but we do not have the resources to do this with every new design, we need you to promote your designs in the same way to keep bringing attention to your outstanding designs.

Submit to some suitable sites, post it on facebook, twitter about it, post it on the ‘it arrived! forum, put the image with a link on Flickr, put a video on YouTube, email it to your friends, explain it to your mother, StumbleUpon it, Digg it, Reddit it, do everything you can to get your design seen.  Once you have laid the seeds of awareness in a few places online others will pick up on it and do the same thing, get your friends to post it on their Facebook page, to retweet it and show it to their mothers too.  The more places online that link to your page, the more chance you have that someone from BoingBoing, Gizmodo or Notcot will stumble upon your design and deliver an avalanche of traffic to your design….. Keep on trying, it may take time, and your first design may not get picked up.  There are no garuantees other than it will not happen unless you try….

If you have any questions, suggestions or compliments, please feel free to contact me duann(at)shapeways.com

Good luck……

11 comments

  1. Dizingof

    It was a pure enjoyment reading this blog post ! :)

  2. Michiel Cornelissen

    Thanks for this post, and featuring P.a.p…! Views are great of course, but I was wondering though, do you guys have benchmarks of the rate of views to sales for other sites? Because, although sales have been great and I’m not complaining, I was wondering if we’re actually converting relatively few viewers to sellers? If true, it would be interesting to find out why; could be the relative unknown-ness of Shapeways and 3d printing, something in the sales process, the terms and conditions – etc etc.

    1. Dizingof

      I second that – if you do a search on the forum i’ve asked some time ago if shapeways could add something like Google analytic code for the shop owner to check traffic sources, conversion ratios etc.. i even suggested that if a product sells well with a regular traffic, a shop owner will be encouraged to even buy targeted traffic for that product while testing different sources of paid traffic and their conversion ratios. It’s a win win scenario.

      I think Pete said it’s going to happen sometime soon.

      Cheers,
      Dizingof

    2. Michiel Cornelissen

      Yeah, I remember that thread – would be great. But I’m wondering if traffic is the only question here, since some products get plenty of that; I’m wondering what we can do make the visitors into buyers a bit more often. A quick googling told me that conversion rates should be at something like 1% and up; we’re nowhere near that. I’d be rich :)
      But then I again I don’t know if that’s a fair and realistic comparison?

    3. Dizingof

      Look at one of your best seller product’s page – see how many “people viewed” that page and divide that number by the number of sales – that’s a crude way to know your sale’s ratio without an accurate counter.

      As for why you’re not rich yet :) that’s because 3D printing cost “few” times more than what an average consumer is used to in terms of plastic or metal products.

      I got this phrase from talk-backs at some iphone related website while they review some of my shops’ products: “that’s too expensive for a piece of plastic”…

      So unless you go “Retail steps” like Ibec, i don’t think you’ll buy us a round of drinks anytime soon on your first $ million made at shapeways :D

  3. Michiel Cornelissen

    Well, I think it’s too quick to say that price is the only reason. For ‘a bit cross’ e.g., I’ve even had people mail me to say they thought it was a great price; for a jewelry design, many people expect that kind of price, especially if you consider the free shipping. I’m pretty sure for some of my products it is, for many others it isn’t so much of a factor.
    I personally think there is a whole combination of factors that a) make relatively many people check our products out of curiosity only, without (much) buying intention and b) make relatively few of the viewers buy. If SW can get to the bottom of especially the last part, I’m sure we can get many more buyers, even with the current prices.

  4. Duann

    Hi Michiel & Dizingof,

    These are all points we are aware of and working towards to increase your conversion ratios.
    I also do not think prices are always the issue, especially with jewelry which is often sold by Shapeways users at very reasonable prices (and sometimes given away).

    We are looking at analytics encoding and average conversion rates, but looking at a websites (Shapeways) conversion rate vs a Shopowners conversion rate is very different with complex issues including the trust of the design as much as trust of Shapeways.

    Perhaps we need to introduce a feedback system for buyers and sellers in the same way Etsy and Ebay do to help encourage this trust. This to we are investigating how and if it should be implemented.

    As people separate 3D-printing from Rapid Prototyped, and understand it as a Product Material, we are also likely to see greater uptake. Remember you are all some of the first people to be doing this for commercial products and being in front of the curve means that you are better poised with a better understanding of the processes to make the most of that.

    Please keep telling us what you would like to see, and if you have any ideas or experience in converting clicks to sales. We are intently working on this and are seeing continuous growth but are eager to learn more from you.

    Duann

    1. Dizingof

      A Buyer’s feedback system resulting some kind of a shop owner’s ratings (1 to 5 stars?) like on Ebay will for sure increase potential buyers trust.

      As a buyer on Ebay i do check the feedback always and the seller’s ratings before making an order.

    2. Duann

      Hey Dizingof,

      The buyers feedback is just one way to build trust.
      Product photo’s instead of renders also make a big difference.
      As much as the rating system works for Ebay where you are dealing with random people, with Shapeways the buyer is really making a transaction with Shapeways with a product designed by you. Shapeways ensures the quality of the 3D print is delivered and is therefore accountable to the buyer.

      as an aside,

      Have you tried selling anything, your iPad stand for instance on Ebay or Etsy? Seeing the reaction/conversion rate you get there? I know you can embed analytics into an Etsy store.

      I have seen 2000 hits in one week on Etsy that resulted in one immediate sale, a few blog mentions (my favorite being leopardmilkshake.com) and a request for more info from a print magazine.

      There are a few Shapeways sellers on Etsy already mainly jewelry (http://bit.ly/bMH8yQ) so you may have a nice niche?

  5. Dizingof

    Hey Duann,

    Very interesting… i see many Shapeways designs on Etsy. Nice!
    I personally never tried selling anything on Ebay or Etsy.. certainly could be an extra niche market/sales platform for Shop owners.

    I think i’m still at that stage where i enjoy more of the design process , the time and energy put into it and not much into the sales/traffic/marketing portion..

    Perhaps i should find the time to make a call to my buddy GoogleBot and say Hi..;)

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