Will We Ever Be Allowed To See What Sells?

Discussion in 'Shapeways Shops' started by Colin, Apr 22, 2016.

  1. Colin
    Colin Member
    Before I spend hours and hours designing a bracelet I can't afford to print for my own tests, it would be really, really helpful if I could see whether any such object has recently been sold anywhere on the Shapeways site.

    I'd very much like to know if the tiny model ships, tanks, airplanes or other vehicles are popular.

    Are large objects printed in ceramic materials selling at all?

    Is there somewhere on the Shapeways site that some of these numbers are already available?

    If not, is it possible to make such numbers available?
  2. leonoudehand
    leonoudehand Active Member
    Agree! It would be great to understand what items and shops are doing well. To learn from and get inspired.
  3. stonysmith
    stonysmith Well-Known Member Moderator
    In a word, No.

    There are designers here that do not want their sales information made public, and Shapeways is committed to keeping the sales data private for such individuals, which also includes not presenting that data in the "gross totals" figures. Without the inclusion of all products, you're never going to know what is selling "best".

    Let's say that I make a thing that is known as Widget_137. It goes viral, and I sell a million of them for $100 markup on each item. It's not a ring, it's not dice, it's "something else". But, I've requested that Shapeways NOT include publish my sales data. If Shapeways was to publish annual sales, you'd get something like this...

    Category Sales
    Model Trains $5m
    Rings $3.7m
    Dice $1.2m
    Other $113m <==== my product would be here

    Since you don't know what "Other" is, it's not going to help you to guess what kind of product to try to produce.

    The key here is don't produce a product just to try to copy or compete with what someone else is having success in.
    I know this sounds a bit like a chinese fortune cookie, but:
    Find what you have a passion for, then pursue your passion, and you'll be successful.
  4. Colin
    Colin Member
    Please don't let discussions of competitiveness or "copying" detract from this question--"Do ANY large objects sell AT ALL?"

    I don't care what they are, whose they are or how much they sell for.

    I want to know if I'm wasting my time designing a large, heavy bracelet, or hairpiece or gadget.

    It appears to me that customers rarely purchase anything bigger than a ring, earring or miniature ship/tank/airplane.

    Consequently, I stripped all my large designs out of my shop and am pursuing home 3D printer solutions for those projects.

    The utter silliness of even trying to sell large "gadget" objects printed at Shapeways was never more clear than when a potential customer asked what it would cost for him to print a slightly bigger version of my buckyball hub. It takes 60 of those hubs to create a full buckyball. I have ONE fully assembled test model at home, with the tiny hubs, and that cost rather too much for my budget. I accumulated the necessary parts over several months, as I could afford to add a few to other orders.

    Just to see what a larger hub would cost, I created one with a 12mm hole, uploaded the STL to Shapeways and set up an order for ONE part in the inexpensive White Flexible plastic material.

    Then I cancelled the order and informed my potential customer of a much more sensible approach for his project, involving nuts, bolts, washers and short pieces of garden hose. No sale, but a happy customer.

    So, to rephrase my question in more non-competitive and neutral terms, I want to see a report that indicates how many OBJECTS are printed, by VOLUME.

    1 cc ### objects
    2 cc ## objects
    3 cc # objects
    4 cc # objects

    And for that matter, I don't really need to see the actual numbers. A report that informed me there are less than ten sales of objects larger than 20 cc per month would tell me all I need to know.
  5. MrNibbles
    MrNibbles Well-Known Member
    I don't think Shapeways wants to reveal their sales distributions in any way to their competitors either. I doubt they would ever release such information, but it would be nice if they did ;)

    The parameter of "size" is rather nebulous as well. Material volume? Machine space volume? Both? Some models in porcelain are going to be a lot cheaper than the same model in wsf or steel. And with materials such as wsf their geometry can have a huge impact on price for the same material volume, particularly because the machine space calculations can vary a lot.

    You're probably correct that large objects don't sell well. The larger you go the faster the price rises due to the classic radius^3 problem (ignoring the vagaries of pricing calculations). Double the size of something and it could increase in price by a factor of 8, so the wall you hit gets very steep very quickly. Really big items are probably specialty items such as custom light shades or experimental garments by fashion designers and probably sell in low quantities per month. I would consider something like a bracelet to be considered a small item actually. A bracelet that is "twiggy" is going to be a lot cheaper than something "chunky", perhaps by a factor of 10 or more. It's really hard to gauge price and volume variations even within one type of product.

    Whenever they get the variants thing set up it will be easier to offer several directly scaled versions of the same object. That may ultimately give you a feeling for where the pain point becomes severe for a customer. Of course statistically speaking it may take several years to generate enough sales of that model to get a meaningful number, and the desirability of the model design also factors into that time frame.

    Ultimately the question might be better put as to what's the average or medium sales price for all models sold, assuming that price points are primarily what drive a customer's selection. That might also be a more benign number that Shapeways or designers themselves might be willing to share.
  6. stonysmith
    stonysmith Well-Known Member Moderator
    That's an interesting way of looking at it..
    Here's that information from my shop.
    The last number there should be 1000cm3
    Last edited: May 8, 2016
  7. leonoudehand
    leonoudehand Active Member
    Still it would be nice to see what shops are successful/doing well. Not to copy/steal their products, but to learn from and get inspired. As in, what are they doing well? And how can I further improve my shop?

    Personally I wouldn't be so interested in the exact numbers but more in what shops/items are doing well. Of course the shop owner interviews and bootcamps help there as well.

    I've only recently started selling on Shapeways and am eager to improve.
  8. czhunter
    czhunter Well-Known Member
    Technically, the wall thickness doesn't have to rise when the outer size is doubled.
    From my experience with scale models, when scaling the outer size the model to 200%, _while keeping the same wall thickness_, the volume of part rises 3x.
    Just the WSF is little bit unpredictable, when you are moving closely around that "40 mm machine space limitation" which can really kick the price up or down with very small size change (sadly, as a scale miniature modeler I can't just make the model "little big bigger to make it lot cheaper" :) )

    Yes, that's the main point.
    Size, volume, surface, machine space, wall thickness ... whatever ... is a problem of seller - customers mostly don't care.
    They care about price.
    Last edited: May 8, 2016
  9. Colin
    Colin Member
    Thank you, Stonysmith.

    Those are encouraging numbers.
  10. UniverseBecoming
    UniverseBecoming Well-Known Member
    Having asked similar questions for years and not seeing a satisfactory response has lead me to looking into starting my own version of Shapeways. I like Shapeways and I feel Shapeways can continue to carve out and existence into the future, yet I'd like to do things completely different from how Shapeways is doing it. In my view Shapeways is sticking to what moves make the most money, which is what any business should do, but it's boring to me. I would like to start where Shapeways will be getting to in the distant future.

    Some things I want to do are:

    Forget 3D printing! I'd leave that to Shapeways and the Shapeways clones. What I would do is manufacturing using mostly 3D printing, but 3D printing would be hidden in the background. You wouldn't be able to get anything 3D printed, such as for rapid prototyping for example, there are hoards of services for that. More along the lines of a traditional manufacturer using traditional manufacturing methods in addition to 3D printing. Mass production and storage, so customers don't have to wait, while avoiding production methods that require expensive tooling. And assembly too! Assembly of multiple materials in addition to off the shelf components!

    It would be invitation only. The idea of opening a business online and having every software based robot on the planet invade the place is crazy to me. So, I'd have some kind of extensive approval system put in place.

    I'm more of the philanthropist type. I wouldn't be so much interested in building a business that rakes in millions in profits, just a business that kept employees comfortable while the designers would be the ones who would collect most of the profits.

    I wouldn't let designers do any work either! HAHA! :D All they would do is design, nothing more. They would be provided with the latest research on what's selling in the world. Not just what's selling, but also, what profits they could expect for their efforts. All financial transactions would be kept private, but everybody would know of what products were doing well. Product development, photography, shop management, brand development, advertising, product customer service and so on would all be available to each designer for little or no charge.

    Selling on Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Walmart and the like would be handled for the designers as well. Why should they have to work? They are the ones doing the conceptualizing and that's hard enough in my opinion.

    Oh and, I'd have a voting system in place that would shape the business exactly how the majority wanted it. ANDDDD!!! There would be financial penalties to employees for not getting things done on schedule! HAHAHA! :D

    Lots of other things too, but that's the basic outline. :)
  11. bengabel
    bengabel Active Member
    I'll second that. I'm sorry, but I'm just not buying the 'its for privacy' argument - to be honest that's just feeble.

    I find the advice 'don't copy other people just do what you have a passion for' deeply patronising.

    We, the designers, are collectively putting in millions of man-hours designing things - things Shapeways makes money from - and it would be useful for us to see what sells and what doesn't.

    And millions of dollars in test-prints.

    We don't have unlimited resources, so its not reasonable to expect us to create stuff flying blind as to whether it will actually ever sell or not.

    No-ones asking for personal financial data! Just some basic stats on whether its worth carrying on with a type of product - it takes a week or so to design one of my pocket sculptures, plus test prints in plastic and then metal.

    And when deciding whether to keep on with this, it would really help to see what sort of numbers a successful similar item ships.

    When you look on ebay you see "17 sold" or whatever next to a listing, and a total number of transactions against that persons Ebay ID as well. No-one tries to argue that this is an invasion of privacy.

    People could opt-out if privacy was a real concern. But truly, how many people actually will say 'oh, my super-successful model, I don't want anyone to know about that'? Honestly?

    Until Shapeways can address this with a proper reply, there will be the continuing suspicion that its business model actually just relies on profits from test-prints by all the designers and that the whole public-marketplace actually generates very little income for anyone.
  12. MrNibbles
    MrNibbles Well-Known Member
    I have seen one or two people here over the years that would update sales numbers for a model as a selling point, sometimes by placing the number on an uploaded default image. Not sure if it helped their sales or if it became a pain with unexpected rejections after many sales. I could see an option to show such a number automatically on a product page assuming it is tracked within the Shapeways system. But a good common format spreadsheet might make it easier for shop owners to compare relevant statistics if they wanted to share info. Maybe the csv pricing spreadsheet could be updated with sales numbers and info extracted from that, but I'm not sure how complete that spreadsheet is. Does it include machine and material spaces? A lot of information may need to be added manually.

    Gaining knowledge of what widgets sell the best could also be a bit misleading, or at the very least skew development of new designs to that area which could then kill sales numbers within a store that had previously done well selling those things. It can quickly become a thorny subject and may already be covered by the EULA agreement. I think Shapeways already publishes the top ten selling model list each year. Some of those make sense and others are like who the heck buys that? But there is a whole class of items that may be embedded as components into other products with large sales numbers but with no apparent function when looked at in isolation.

    The easiest number to generate might be the test print purchase to general sales revenue or mark-up ratio. That would give you a quick idea as to whether your shop is a business or just a hobby. My shop is most definitely a hobby!

  13. stannum
    stannum Well-Known Member
    3x? 30 * 30 * 1mm to 60 * 60 * 1mm, 900 to 3600, that's 4x.
  14. MrNibbles
    MrNibbles Well-Known Member
    Doubling the size while maintaining wall thickness can convert the radius^3 problem into a radius^2 problem (4x material increase instead of 8x). But some models can or need to be be scaled directly without wall thickness modifications, such as scale model parts or things that will benefit from thicker walls as they are enlarged. Anyway, if you use the scaling tool on the model edit page then you're stuck with a straight scaling procedure.

  15. Colin
    Colin Member
  16. UniverseBecoming
    UniverseBecoming Well-Known Member
    I think you linked to a personal email in your Microsoft Live email account. Can you make a screen cap?
  17. Colin
    Colin Member
    Easier to just grab the URLs of a few that impressed me most.

    http://www.shapeways.com/product/PFRST57SD/gooische-stoomtra m-18-leeghwater-in-1-45

    and -- https://www.shapeways.com/product/4U2ZTTF9C/ho-scale-whitcom b-65-ton-loco-shell

    and -- https://www.shapeways.com/product/723T4K364/n-gauge-japan-ra il-freight-research-cabin

    finally -- https://www.shapeways.com/product/U9TTZ8JAU/n-scale-drgw-014 00-series-caboose

    This gives me some ideas about possible projects for Shapeways.

    Not railroad models, but some other gadgets I might enjoy.

    We shall see....
  18. panguver
    panguver Well-Known Member
    I think SW should repeat Etsy business model, including sales info, but without 0.2 $ fee for placing items to shop. More over, SW could develop some automatic means for placing SW items to ETSY/AMAZON listings for some money if designer looking for such abilities...

    SW is not shop-based business yet, but with "business model actually just relies on profits from test-prints by all the designers" at present time. You cannot make brand boutique here because core of SW platform has no goal to do it in my opinion.
  19. Oskar_van_Deventer
    Oskar_van_Deventer Well-Known Member
    I have not seen any correlation between price and sales in my shop. My best-selling item has been the huge world-record Over The Top 17x17x17 twisty puzzle for a while, selling one per year for four years in a row. Conversely, my puzzle rings do not sell to well. And those rings that sell, are the more expensive metal ones.

  20. rurala
    rurala Member
    What they should to and this would benefit all shop owners is to just list sales of primary and sub categories for example:

    Miniatures = Total sales of primary category
    Then they should provide quarterly and yearly data to track performance over time in graphical form so it can be analyzed with ease. This would not interfere with individual shop owners ideas and would provide guidance on where to focus designs. Additional information could be provided like average cost of category and sub category item, and unit volume. This would give a designer a good idea of what categories to focus on and when to do it to take full advantage of market situations. As far as individual designs are concerned, best practice is to go thru the shop see what is there and if your design doesn't stand out that much rework it or start something completely different. If it is unique people will want it because it is different.