Update On Fine Detail Plastic Pricing

Discussion in 'Official Announcements' started by avim, Apr 23, 2019.

  1. avim
    avim Shapeways Employee Product Team
    We have heard the complaints, but our hands are tied. While we know that releasing the full details of our pricing algorithm will be great for our designers, it will also enable our competitors to directly undercut us on comparative quotes. We are charged with running a net-positive enterprise that will be around for a long time. So unfortunately at this time we can't publicly offer the full details of our pricing algorithm, aside from what we have already shared - including the pricing components.

    That being said if you have any specifics you would like to know more about, please feel free to message me at avim+pricing@shapeways.com with the specific info you are looking for and I'll see if I can help you get the information you need (no promises).
  2. czhunter
    czhunter Well-Known Member
    In reality, knowing the pricing formula won't help you much.

    I know exactly the pricing formula for my models (it is pure machine volume * dolars per ccm - as for all the "thin-walled-bathtub-like" models) and still the sales fell to +- zero (they were never in hundreds, rather in dozens per month) and I have no possibility - and to be honest also intency - to do anything with it.

    I guess little bussiness is dead here.
    So I bought Photon S last week.
  3. ComradeWave
    ComradeWave Member
    MikeyBugs95 likes this.
  4. TinyDemon
    TinyDemon Member
    Thanks for taking the time to reply, Avim.

    We don't have to like the answer to appreciate getting even a partial answer.

    The biggest problem, however, seems to be the implied answer to the second question: do you care about the effect of your policies on makers? The answer we're hearing in the silence is a resounding "No."

    I think the fundamental issue is that the makers/shop owners are both customers and partners. If we were only customers, then everything that's happened the last year makes sense. From a strictly capitalist standpoint, you want the customer to spend more, not less. You want every item to be at the upper limit of what the greatest number of people are willing to pay, granting you the greatest profit margin possible.

    The issue is that it cannot be just about Shapeways profits, however. If shop owners cannot profit at the same time that Shapeways profits they will take their business elsewhere, strike out on their own, or just quit. Already a number of well-known members have essentially called it quits because they haven't been treated as a partner or, if we're brutally honest, as a valued customer.

    You have to understand that with the economies of scale, it's absolutely necessary for makers to be able to trim off every penny and get cost down to what their customers (who, remember are also Shapeways customers) are willing to pay and where their usually meager markup rewards the intellectual and creative labor that Shapeways is profiting from. Customers and partners all have to feel like it's a good deal.

    Otherwise all the new materials and all the new platforms integrated are, perhaps ironically, a complete waste of time and money.
  5. avim
    avim Shapeways Employee Product Team
    We certainly care about the effect our pricing policies have on makers. I think what isn't being understood by some in the community is that we had to take this step. Making hard decisions doesn't mean we don't care about the impact.

    In a perfect world, we would do everything we could to keep our costs as low as possible for makers. I'm a maker myself and have personally spent almost 20 years creating tools and communities for other makers.

    But we can't continue to subsidize other businesses or give out our exact algorithms and stay in business ourselves. As a management team charged with making Shapeways viable, we had to end the practice of allowing investor money to be used to subsidize our maker's businesses and have to do what is needed to stay competitive.

    Unfortunately, many makers in our marketplace relied on Shapeways artificially low pricing to create businesses of their own over the last decade: Some were businesses that could not have otherwise existed if the pricing had not been investor-subsidized, because they target cost-sensitive customers. We realize that these businesses are hurt by the pricing changes here and in some cases will no longer make financial sense without completely rethinking their product line. Sadly, that's not avoidable.

    We want to make sure Shapeways itself remains in business, so we can continue to support businesses of all sizes, including makers. We want to make sure our pricing is set with healthy margins that allow us to thrive as a business, and properly support businesses that use our platform. And we DO want an ecosystem of businesses and makers to develop on top of the Shapeways platform.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
  6. TinyDemon
    TinyDemon Member
    No one else is going to take this on? So be it.
    Once again, Avim, thanks for taking the time to respond.

    What I don't think is being understood by some at SW is how essential the tools and communities are. As a maker who designed both, I'm sure you know this, but it doesn't seem to be filtering up.

    Pricing transparency is just a tool for being a better maker. It is not about giving us the specific algorithm and destroying SW's competitive advantage, but about allowing the maker culture to thrive at SW. You want people to take the time to design and print something rather than going out and buying something pre-made? Give us the tools to do so. There are ways of providing us tools while also hiding the algorithm, including using the back-end software to help optimize designs. No matter what, though, makers should not have to make and upload test-cubes (with and without sprues, oriented in a half dozen ways, etc.) to figure it out. I should add that they do so without knowing whether the algorithm is working as intended or if the price they see is an error.

    But there's also the matter of community. That's why the marketplace used to be so important. It allowed designers to show their work and, hopefully, make a little money. More importantly, however, SW was showcasing creativity and selling a vision of becoming a maker. The marketplace allowed customers to find something they liked. If they did (or even if they didn't), it encouraged them to design something new and exciting all their own (labor that neither SW nor most makers include when calculating the cost). Some did it for the vanity. Others on the off-chance that other people might like the work they had done enough to want a printed copy. A few had enough of the latter to build a solid customer base and make a business out of it.

    Each aspect of that built community has suffered this last year, and it is a community that cannot exist without the core of experienced makers. If the makers feel like they do not have the tools and are being denied the capacity to realize their designs, they will try to work around it. Then they will complain. And then they will quit. No one will see their designs. Fewer people will make their own. Customers will go elsewhere. Businesses will close up shop. Once they go, especially with the lower cost of small-scale 3D-printers, will they come back?

    That's why announcing expensive new materials has fallen flat (at least among many in the maker community). That's also why it seemed so ominous when you indicated that you did not want to respond publicly to the community but instead wanted individuals to email you privately. That's why locking threads prompted so much hand-wringing. That's why policing language without acknowledging the frustration that motivated it caused outrage. I do not doubt that SW never intended to slice out the core of the maker community, but that is what has happened.

    Communication is the first step to build community and restore trust, so again, your responses are appreciated. It will take a lot more than that, however. To have a vibrant ecosystem built on the SW platform, SW needs to come to see makers as more than an asset or a source of income. I – we?— hope you do.
  7. avim
    avim Shapeways Employee Product Team
    We do, and I hope that with the changes we have made, and intend to make will help Shapeways benefit makers for years to come. I do welcome your feedback. Thanks for sharing it.
  8. mike962
    mike962 Active Member
    I'm in the same boat inasmuch as sales have dropped off to zero 2 months in a row. Prior to the algorithm shuffles sales were steady for almost 2 years; I was hitting the minimum, and then some usually, each month. But then the algorithm changed and then nothing since July. But here's the weird thing, only 2 of my models' price changed so drastically to make them non-viable. The rest are about where they were before. So what's to explain that?

    And I know I'm not the only one.

    I too bought a Photon. I initially made that purchase with the intention of speeding up the prototyping phase, reducing the timescales on that, as Shapeways had really slowed down their turn around. With the drop off in sales entirely I've completely lost my interest.
    Sparkshot likes this.
  9. rolsen01
    rolsen01 Well-Known Member
    My, how things have changed since the price change.. losing interest quickly.

    CapHerlock and mike962 like this.
  10. TrentTroop
    TrentTroop Well-Known Member
    I think it might be beneficial to discuss with the community what changes are coming that might benefit the makers, and to start asking what sorts of things you could do that would make things better. I've been pushing a list of VERY simple changes for literally years, but the toy categories are still basically nonsense, there's still no customization variant option or color-variant option for FCS, there's been no forward movement on a "contact the maker before cancelling the order" print issue, and on the list goes.

    So far, there's been no spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. We've seen prices go up, access to our audiences crippled through removal of the marketplace, tools break with a "we're not going to fix it" response, and the only nugget I've seen tossed our way is ecommerce integration, which isn't so much a bonus as it is the offer of another batch of labors in the form of running and advertising a whole new web site.

    I can provide a full list of things that would help Shapeways boost its presence and trust in the toy customizing/indie toy markets on request. I want Shapeways to do better so all our boats will rise. I can't speak to anyone else, but that is why I've been so frustrated.
    Sparkshot likes this.
  11. rolsen01
    rolsen01 Well-Known Member
    I've been asking at all levels for years LOTS of things I'd like to see, and NONE of them ever come to fruition. Almost like Shapeways is fine with going down with the sinking ship.. again, lost interest back at the first of the year.
  12. avim
    avim Shapeways Employee Product Team
    Prior to this did you do any kind of direct marketing of your store to existing customers or were you reliant completely on general marketplace shapeways traffic to drive sales?
  13. adbinc
    adbinc Well-Known Member
    My sales are down dramatically and I do market on our website, on Facebook to our fans and fans who paint minis, and on exterior websites. Part of what I watch is how many people buy the Federation Heavy Cruiser (the one that most folks think of as the USS Enterprise). I'm not seeing the browsing sales that I once was, suggesting that perhaps it is harder to find.

    I *think* if you added MARKETPLACE up in the line with START MAKING and BUSINESS SOLUTIONS, it might help the browsing customers find cool stuff to buy. Now that you have made it so that Shapeways will turn a profit on items printed, an increase in sales numbers should help you as well. I have noticed that for most of my customers there seems to be no reason to ask for expedited printing as things are being printed promptly. That suggests that you could stand an increase in volume as well.

    TinyDemon, MANDELWERK and mike962 like this.
  14. gordonlardi
    gordonlardi Well-Known Member
    it's not about the designers anymore like it use to be up until about a year and a half ago. Not sure if we are in the new Shapeways business model.
  15. mike962
    mike962 Active Member
    Yes, FaceBook, Twitter, my website, relevant forums, and word of mouth.
  16. TrentTroop
    TrentTroop Well-Known Member
    I would also support this move. I can link people to my store, my search tags, my items all I want, but that doesn't drive eyes to my other items, or to the items of other makers. Just make it an option for people, make it easier to find. People aren't going to click on the search if they don't know what kind of things are there to search for.
    mike962 likes this.
  17. srnjm420
    srnjm420 Active Member
    They maybe printing faster but they sure aint shipping faster!!!!!!!!! I have been waiting for my 3 orders to ship for a week now. 11 new designs that are my test prints and about 3 or 4 older designs. Contacted customer service about it and was told that my ship by date is the 25th and that they are still within the time frame. Was also stated that they get many orders and can only ship so many per day so mine may need to wait...

  18. Model_Monkey
    Model_Monkey Well-Known Member
    @avim, great question.

    Until recently, I offered over 2000 designs through Shapeways. Customers routinely reported that they could not find a specific product using the Shapeways search function. The Shapeways search engine returned hundreds, if not thousands, of unrelated products.* From the customer's perspective, there were simply too many results to have to wade through to find a specific product frustrating the customer. Products were "lost in the sauce" among the deluge of Shapeways search function results.

    To help customers find the product he or she was looking for, I created an off-site catalog through Wix, put the catalog's link on the top of all of my Shapeways shop's product descriptions, and advertised the off-site catalog via various scale modeling websites to reach potential customers. That successfully drove sales.

    The off-site catalog was then no more than a simple list of product names each linked to that product's Shapeways product webpage.

    Customers also reported that if they used another search engine, such as Google, and typed in "Shapeways" and then the name of the product they were looking for, Google found it and listed it within the first 3 or 5 results.

    Based on this experience and customer feedback, I recommend Shapeways leverage Google's search engine as part of Shapeways' website functionality instead of its own search engine.

    *To illustrate that the Shapeways search engine returns too many unrelated products to be useful, type "monkey figure" in the Shapeways search engine. You will get an overwhelming and useless 10,000 results across 195 pages to have to search through.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2019
  19. ecs_norway
    ecs_norway Well-Known Member
    Has the algorithm changed again? I recently parted out several files to minimize parts-by-volume costs and the kit versions, despite minimizing height, were actually more expensive than the original model. Despite a previous version of the same model uploaded a month or so ago being the reverse.
  20. avim
    avim Shapeways Employee Product Team
    If you are referring to FDP it shouldn't have changed so that might be a bug. Can you please send the file to avim+pricing@shapeways.com?