The Maker Movement is having a huge impact on today’s economy, and not in a way that is necessarily good for big business. This article explores what makers are, how the Maker Movement trend is affecting business and what smart companies are doing about it.
What is the Maker Movement?
One of the most commonly cited definitions of the Maker Movement comes from Web strategist and industry analyst Jeremiah Owyang, who describes it like this: “This Maker Movement puts power in the hands of the people to fund, design, prototype, produce, manufacture, distribute, market and sell their own goods.”
In other words, the Maker Movement is essentially a trend in which, rather than purchasing items from businesses, people are making those items themselves. As a result, instead of buying mass-produced goods, consumers are choosing to purchase items from individual do-it-yourselfers (DIYers) at events known as Maker Faires and on websites like Etsy.
The Maker trend is far from small. It’s estimated that about 57 percent of the adult American population are Makers. According to this infographic from “The Grommet,” by 2025 the market for crowdfunded investment (e.g., projects on Kickstarter) is expected to hit $93 billion. If you think this sounds like something that should be making big businesses nervous, you’re right.
How big is the economic impact of the Maker Movement?
The Maker Movement is both ushering in new technologies and impacting both businesses and local economies. Business technology trends including 3D printers, open source software and hardware, and computer-aided design programs are all gaining interest thanks to the Maker Movement.
On the economic side, the Maker Movement is estimated to contribute almost $30 billion to the economy every year. In addition, for every $1 spent in independent stores, $0.68 is returned to the local community, compared to $0.43 spent at a national chain.
Brian Solis summarized the impact of the Maker Movement on businesses thus: “Essentially, consumers are becoming creators. Manufacturers are becoming suppliers. Businesses now face disruption and competition from the very people they used to sell to up and down the supply chain. With the barrier to production hitting new lows, this threat is only materializing … and accelerating.”
How are companies reacting to the Maker Movement?
With the huge amount of money flowing through the Maker Movement and more than half of U.S. adults classified as Makers, companies can’t successfully resist this trend — at least not companies that want to stay in business. Instead, smart companies are exploring ways to get along with the DIYers and independent newcomers.
Here are a few ways innovative companies have embraced the Maker Movement:
- Hosting Maker events. Companies including Autodesk, GE, Intel, and even the U.S. government have hosted Maker events and provided workspaces and tools that allow Makers to tinker.
- Investing in Maker products. One of the main reasons, of course, to hold these events is so that the big companies, as well as venture capitalists, can get the scoop on investing in promising new ideas and products.
- Adopting Maker methods. One of the technologies enabling the Maker Movement over the past year or so is 3D printing. With 3D printers becoming more affordable and available, anyone can design and create new products. Large companies are also starting to explore the possibility of using Maker methods. For example, GE recently announced a plan to use 3D printing techniques to build a new type of fuel nozzle.
Many firms today still see the Maker Movement as a threat. But smart companies — and the ones that will be the most successful — are embracing the new generation of DIY designers and creators and seeing the new economic reality as an opportunity to innovate and grow.
Sameer Bhatia is founder and CEO of ProProfs, a leading provider of online learning tools for building, testing and applying knowledge. ProProfs Knowledge Base Software is used to create highly-searchable online FAQs to improve customer service and reduce tickets. It helps centralize access to organizational files, documents and how-to articles ensuring they can be accessed across multiple devices and platforms. The site hosts 1,000,000+ pieces of content in 90+ languages. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter.