When you create a product, you have to dump a ton of money into the start-up costs. Since you have to factor the costs for the original design, the printing screens, etc over the cost of the entire run, the item cost goes down as your quantity goes up. This is great for companies who sell their shirts at Hot Topic but not so good for the gal who wants to make 10 shirts for the family reunion.
Enter CafePress. They went online in 1999 as a viable option for small runs. They had the technology to turn out T-shirt, tote-bags and coffee mugs on demand at a high but not too high price. That made it the perfect printer for the Shiny Shoes Bowling League, Patty’s Preschool and the Miller family reunion.
From there the site just took off with artists and fangirls and soon, people were making their living selling personalized items. Now CafePress has more than 2 million sellers with more than 135,000 new designs added every week.
Sounds good, right? But underneath, there was trouble brewing. Last year, Daily Finance reported a drop in stock value and it’s easy to find sellers complaining about the high mark ups and lack of sales. See, even though the site has 2 million stores – many never sell a single thing. I’ve set up CafePress stores in the past (it’s free) and I’ve never seen a dollar.
CafePress’ biggest problem is that building your own ecommerce store isn’t as hard as it used to be. There are other options online now from blog-based storefronts to Etsy to F-Commerce.
It’s time for a transformation.
First, they souped up their backend with what they call the “Smart Product Engine”. This system looks at your image and decides which items can handle that image based on size and quality.
The big change comes with the addition of public profiles. Now designers can set up their own space, introduce themselves to the world and develop a following. There’s also a designer dashboard with detailed information about which items are selling.
Now, when you follow a designer, their new works show up instantly in the user activity stream. Items and designers have social media links to encourage sharing.
The front page of the site also displays a dynamic grid of new designs.
To introduce CafePress 2.0, the company released a strange video hosted by the panda who created social media. (?) It contains a few passages that will be considered humorous by some but offensive by others – a panda on a toilet? And how about this?
Worthless poodle? Tasty Panda snack? It’s clear that CafePress is aiming their new release at a young, trend-loving audience. It will probably be good for sales but Nana Nusbaum is going to have to go somewhere else for her Boffo Bingo Night t-shirts.
Here’s the video: