Last month, 3D Hubs communicated to its suppliers via the Changelog and via email that it was going to carry out a US Express Checkout experiment in order to simplify the checkout experience for customers. As a result of the experiment, 3D Hubs has decided to provide customers with the option of Automatic Hub Selection. Customers can still select a Hub manually if they wish to. Below is some more information on the experiment and the team is continuing to innovate and test in order to improve the customer experience and benefit the community as a whole.
Why is 3D Hubs running the US Express Checkout experiment?
There are two main reasons:
- The number of prints ordered has doubled over the last year and the number of Hubs has grown even faster. To improve the reliability of the platform for customers, 3D Hubs prefers to direct them to Hubs that perform well according to our performance metrics captured in the “Hub Score”. The Hub Score includes metrics such as customer ratings, average response time, decline rate of orders and several more. Customers do still have the option to select Hubs manually should they wish.
- Our customer research has shown two key things. Firstly, that customers want certainty when it comes to their part quality. Secondly, the ordering process can sometimes be overwhelming for customers due to the number of options presented to them. Customers need to consider the printability of their models, determine which material to print with and then decide which Hub to use to manufacture their parts. By fully separating the material choice and automating the Hub selection, we’re hoping to simplify the customer experience and eventually also standardise the part quality. The Express Checkout experiment has already shown a positive impact on the amount of orders now arriving at Hubs.
Which Hubs are selected for Express Checkout?
For the majority of the Express experiments, 50 American Hubs have been pre-selected based on Hub activity level, Hub Score, the materials they offer and if they have a business registration (as this is often required by our professional customers). We also give preference to Hubs that offer flat-rate shipping and have “instant order” enabled as this supports a simple Express Checkout experience and increases customer satisfaction.
As this is an experiment, these criteria will continue to evolve and the number of Hubs will probably increase based on the data that we collect. If a Hub has been left out of the initial Express Checkout experiment, this may change as::
- We optimise our Express selection criteria
- We expand the total # of Express Hubs to keep up with demand
- Your Hub Score improves
- Your Material offering expands
How do Hubs get selected for order fulfilment once they are included in Express Checkout?
Over the last week, we’ve run several experiments with this to measure impact on conversion:
- Picking the highest ranking Hub based on Hub Score
- Picking the best value Hub based on Hub Score + price
- Distributing orders among the top few ranked Hubs for each request
In the long run, we want to factor in a combination of price, Hub Score and location to make sure customers get high quality, fast and cost-effectively.
One of the initial issues with Express was that the customer location wasn’t properly captured. This resulted in many orders going to just a few Hubs as the distance was no longer factored in. This issue is currently being resolved and is the number one priority for our development team.
Why did some Hubs started getting less orders?
A key reason is that part of our customer base now has the option to select Express Checkout and currently t only 50 Hubs have been selected for this as we continue to test and improve the service. Another reason is related to settings in the new material selection flow which are currently being updated:
- The new material selection is clearly better understood by our customers (15% increase in conversion) but in the initial, current version niche materials are not shown. We’re currently working on a database migration that will allow Hubs and customers to select from all 3D printing materials on the lowest, brand level. This should go live next month.
- By default the most popular color was already selected for each material. Hubs not offering this color did not show up in the listings. The default color setting will now be changed to “no preference”
- By default the most popular layer height was selected for each material. Hubs not offering this layer height did not show up in the listing. We’ll now change this so that Hubs offering a lower layer height will also show up.
Why is there a waiting list for Hubs?
Due to the reasons outlined above, the number of Hub signups is growing so fast we cannot provide enough orders for all Hubs signing up. Since July, we’ve only be onboarding new Hubs where we have a shortage of supply for certain geographies or materials.
Where did 3D Hubs communicate about these Express Checkout changes?
We’ve communicated these changes twice on the 3D Hubs Changelog and via email to all Hubs selected for Express.
The combination of iterating fast and keeping our Hub base happy is a delicate balancing act. We realise that the Express Checkout experiment could have been communicated better and apologise for any confusion. In the future, we’ll ensure that all big experiments and transitions are communicated not only via our Changelog but also by an email to all Hubs. They are key contributors to our ecosystem. With great Hubs as our partners, we can provide customers with a consistent, high-quality and professional experience to help us in our mission to decentralize manufacturing worldwide.