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Zazzle Remakes Itself and Invents Competition in Print on Demand

Filed under Print On Demand

zazzle remakes itselfZazzle is certainly not a newcomer to the print-on-demand universe; they’ve been around for several years, and they have an attractive selection of products for designers to customize. But it’s always been hard to take them seriously as a profitable partner, and that was for two reasons.

1. Their terms of service (whether through design or error) seemed to state that once you’d uploaded an image to their servers for use on products, that design would remain available there (non-exclusively) forever, even if you deleted both the products and the image. It was possible to contact them directly to have the design removed – eventually – but this was a ridiculous necessity.

2. They didn’t allow you to set the markup on items you sold through their site. If you wanted to sell there, you were limited to whatever profit Zazzle had decided you should make on the products.

These two points have always left Zazzle as a non-starter. Even if they were simply bumbling their way through the first point, the second one was a tremendous barrier to anyone who wanted to actually earn a living through the sale of their work. Zazzle’s markups were not attractive, and you were stuck with them.

But as of this week, these two issues have gone away. (In fact the “we’ll keep your images forever” problem seemed to have been cleared up earlier this year, though their web site had conflicting information about the change.) As of this week designers who sell at Zazzle are able to set their own markups on their merchandise. This is a very interesting development and it comes late in a year when their largest competitor (CafePress) has seemed to do everything in its power to alienate and infuriate the shopkeepers who design the products whose sales line CafePress’ cubicles with gold.

The Zazzle site is in the middle of a revision and it’s a bit wonky at the moment – for example, a lot of important content is popping up in small, non-scrolling windows – but it’s well worth checking out.

While the roost is still ruled by Cafepress, print-on-demand designers have lately benefited from quality-oriented competition at Printfection, a much smaller (apparel only) rival*. These changes at Zazzle mean that CafePress is about to have a big competitor that has almost everything CP offers – with a slightly smaller and different selection of products, but essentially the same.

The last big feature that CafePress has exclusively is their volume bonus, with which designers get an additional tiered bonus based on their amount of sales. The volume bonus is so important to some successful CP shopkeepers that it’s the only real thing holding them there, lately. If Zazzle were to adopt a similar volume bonus, we would see a completely level playing field between them. And that would be a very good thing.

Like any monopoly or near-monopoly CafePress treats its designer/shopkeepers as though they have nowhere else to go. That hasn’t been completely true for some time now, but at this point even they must see it. This can only be a good thing for those who use these services. It’s called competition, and it means that you have to do a good job and offer good service.

Or not, of course. But as of this week, “Or Not” has really big teeth.

*Printfection rocks, actually. But in this context, they’re a smaller player whose products are limited to shirts, coasters, and cutting boards.

8 responses to “Zazzle Remakes Itself and Invents Competition in Print on Demand
Daniel M. Clark says:
October 31st, 2007 at 11:38 am

Great post, Bradley! Zazzle is making themselves a force to be reckoned with, for sure. 2008 is going to be very, very interesting. Zazzle took a HUGE risk reinventing themselves just before the holidays like this, but I think it’s going to pay off in a big way for them.

Witheld says:
November 9th, 2007 at 11:26 am

Very well written, Bradley. I’ve been with CP since 2002 and have just about had enough. It’s too bad the direction they’ve chosen to go, but it will only hurt them in the end. I stopped posting on their forums a few years ago due to all the nonsense, and have concentrated on using Marty’s cphop to do most everything, not wanting to waste time and effort on a premium CP shop. Now I’m glad I went the way I did. Wonder if I can get Marty to create a script for Zazzle… 😉

I’m just getting started with Zazzle now that they seem to have gotten their act together and haven’t tried Printfection, but plan to after the holidays.

Bradley W. Schenck says:
November 9th, 2007 at 11:54 am

I guess my favorite Cafepress feature is the same thing that isn’t a Cafepress feature – Marty’s CPShop, which does such a great job of allowing us to host the shops on our own domains. I guess it’s a bit sad that a third party add-on is the thing we like best.

Of course there are some other CP features that I glossed over here. What most migrating shopkeepers miss are Cafepress’ bulk editing tools for adding, changing and cloning existing products. It’s not that I don’t think they’re important. I just don’t think they’re the most important thing. When you add products or modify them you’re doing something once; those products remain on sale forever. So though it’s nice to have tools to make editing faster and easier, I just don’t see those tools as essential. Like you, I started there in 2002, before any of those features had been created, and I know that though they’re nice (when they work) I can get by without them – because I already have done 🙂

If most of your business is shirts, I do highly recommend Printfection. They offer free, highly customizable shops and great product quality. There’s a very early version of a system for incorporating PF shops into an external web site, but I haven’t tried it yet. The SEO that Printfection shops use is excellent if you write appropriate text for product descriptions and the names of sections and products. The most trouble that migrating CP users seem to have there is that the PF marketplace has much less traffic than the CP marketplace. You do need to drive your own traffic to your own shops. I really didn’t see any problem with that – it’s what I’m used to doing anyhow – but it does seem to come as a shock to some.

In this post I really concentrated on the bottom line, which for many includes CP’s volume bonus, and it does look to me that after the dust settles at the new Zazzle the volume bonus will be the one core thing they’re still missing. The other features can grow over time, I think.

Witheld says:
November 14th, 2007 at 9:31 am

Thanks for the followup info. I do strictly tees, none of the other stuff (well, once in a blue moon if it really fits I’ll throw in a bear or a bumper sticker, but very seldom and it wouldn’t kill me not to have them as an option. I think I’ve sold one bumper sticker, ever, oh, and a mousepad (the only one I ever offered – lol).

I also never went down the premium shop road for many reasons, so the extra options (that tend to not work more often then not from what I see) available to them I would never miss, since I never had them to begin with.

What is the system with incorporating PF shops into an external one if you don’t mind? I assume it’s third party, or not? that sounds great. That’s the one big issue I really see that stands out with going to Z and PF.

And to me the marketplace is no big whoop, so less traffic at PF is no biggie. A sale from the MP is great when it happens, but as you know you can’t rely on it for anything but a bonus sale. And with how spammy it has become of late it has very little value anymore at all. One of the great things that Marty has done with cpshop recently is the addition of hooks, and using a combination of hooks and tags, SEO with a cpshop has become such a pleasure.

And as for the volume bonus, well, just have to make up for that with more sales, I guess. 🙂 From what I see of the nicer, hipper, trendier, stylish, more requested products at both, that shouldn’t be too hard… 😉

Bradley W. Schenck says:
November 14th, 2007 at 10:27 am

The first pass at a custom site system for Printfection stores is mentioned here:


…I haven’t tried it myself yet. The core of what it does is similar to CPShop, I think – it’s based on a script that browses the store’s contents to get its data – but while it’s okay with PF at the moment they hope to have developers come up with a different solution once they’ve made their API available. So I haven’t been in a hurry to start depending on this one.

On the other hand the API is probably way out there in the future, so eventually I may give it a try.

Witheld says:
November 14th, 2007 at 2:25 pm


Myntra says:
December 26th, 2007 at 4:17 pm

http://www.myntra.com is a new website in India which allows users to create and publish their own designs. You can visit their start shopping page to choose from 1000s of creative designs. You can also visit their create product page to create your own designs. Please visit this site and give us your feedback.

luky says:
October 16th, 2008 at 3:16 pm

how order your printer ?(diydtg epson)

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