A few days ago we discussed the emergence of a new market for recreational marijuana and how this can be viewed within Product Life Cycle (PLC) theory. Well, today we have another example of a product form that is poised for growth – 3D printers. Unlike the recreational marijuana market, which most people fully understand, 3D printing technology is less understood and, consequently, few non-technical people currently see a reason to investigate this for a potential purchase.
However, this lack of interest should not be viewed as a reason why 3D printers will not be successful. This same mentality proceeded many other significant technology products such as personal computers, cellphones, flat panel television and tablets. People knew so little about these technologies they initially saw no need to purchase. But once they learned the benefits these products provided, their interest rose significantly to the point where they became buyers.
As discussed in this 24/7 Wall St. story, the parallel between 3D printers and other technological innovations suggests all the elements are in place for 3D printers to jump from the Introduction stage of the PLC to the Growth stage. We can see this in two ways. First, there is an increase in the number of competitors offering products. Second, there has been a notable reduction in price compared to the high price skimming approach used in the early Introduction stage.
While price may still seem quite lofty for the average consumer (e.g., $999 for low-end model), if this product can successfully cross the technology chasm, expect to see rapid price drops over the next year or so. Also, expect to see advertising that appeals to a much wider audience than just commercial product designers and the medical community. For instance, we are likely to see promotions directed to artists and craft people as well as educators. And soon we may even see an ad that targets 3D printers as a fun activity for kids.