But the real reason I started today because I really feel like talking about some business issues I'm experiencing, and I thought the shop hop would be a good chance to share with some other sellers who maybe can relate.
Both Zazzle and CafePress offer shops where you can present your own product to customers, and a marketplace where customers can shop all the products of all the shopkeepers who sell there. I've been with both both these for some time now, and have seen head in different directions. Starting in 2008 CafePress made a series of changes that were bad for shopkeepers.
- They first became more vigilant about restricting links from their sites to any other POD (print on demand) sites (oh, maybe they always did that).
- They changed their volumn bonus system so that marketplace sales didn't count towards the amount you had to earn to get a bonus (and lowered the amount you had to get to get a bonus...that at least was nice).
- They removed all the links to shopkeepers private shops in the marketplace, and made it so that THEY chose what products showed up in the marketplace (shopkeepers could opt all their products out, but CafePress choose to take some products out).
- They removed all the shopkeepers product descriptions from their marketplace.
- Worst of all for most shopkeepers, they changed their marketplace structure so that they had control of prices, not their shopkeepers (though shopkeepers could still set their own prices in their shops), setting all the CafePress marketplace prices at the same set price and giving shopkeepers a flat 10% of marketplace sales. This put some shopkeepers (like me) in a place where marketplace customers were paying more for yourmany of your products, but you were getting less for them.
- Sales on marketplace products stopped applying to shops, and thought they eventually did start offering shop sales again, they were piddly ($3 off of $40 sales and such, compared to 20% off and Buy one Get One Free and such in the marketplace).
- Zazzle used to only let people have a flat 10% commission on all their sales, and not long before CafePress' changes, they changed that so YOU could set the percentage you got (with a price increase for higher percentages).
- They used to not allow much customization of shops and they added complete customization options.
- They added the ability for customers to customize products.
- They added a volumn bonus program with a minimul volumn just as low as CafePress', but that counted not only all your sales (from marketplace and shop), but also your affiliate sales (but not sales from your shop referred by others).
- They've started randomly giving shopkeepers $10 off $10 purchase coupons.
- Just recently, adding a Zazzle black program which allows customers to pay a yearly fee and get free shipping, taking care of their high shipping for multiple items problem.
But now, I'm seeing the reverse possibly start to happen. In the past year CafePress has been making some very positive changes:
- More shop sales (even if they're still piddly).
- Lots of giveaways on blogs
- They made an easy way to make your shop products match the marketplace (which I just realized can work for individual products...so I'm going to start changing the few products that are generally lower in the marketplace to match that!)
- They've added the ability to move and resize your images on products (thought I still haven't figured it out...it either doesn't work on my browsers or it's just not intuitive).
- The ability to offer product customers can customize (good, but again, not intuitive...or maybe its just my browser).
- Changing their premium shop pricing sow you can choose a montly fee, or have them just take 10% not to exceed $10. (Which means I might be moving to a premium shop soon, in stead of the gobs of basic shops linked from GalesGiggles.com
- Before, there was a link under each product in the marketplace which showed who made it, and when you clicked on it, it took you to their shop. Now, when you click it shows your products, but doesn't take them to your shop. I don't like this as it makes it harder for customers to join your fan club (only linked through your shop), and see your bio (where you can include outside links), and such.
- They just made us limit our tags to 40, and only the first 10 of those will be used in marketplace searches (though I'm not certain of that, because it seems like some of my later tags still work). I'm mixed on this, because it does seem to make the marketplace searches work better...but it's a pain to go in and change all of those. They didn't give us enough time before the change happened, and I'm still not even half way done. It would have been nice if they had implemented some sort of way to change tags in bulk (not go into each product to change them, like we have to do now) when they did this.
- They also limited us to only one category...which I think is a big mistake. So many products can easily fit into two categories. If they thought too many people were putting their products in the wrong category, they should have dealt with this some other way. Perhaps just make all secondary category listings come after people who had listed that as a first category.
While the Zazzle changes aren't TERRIBLE...I really hope this doesn't mean that they are heading down the same trail that CafePress did in 2008. What concerns me most is the separation of the shops from the marketplace, because that was the pre-curser to CafePress's changes back when. But, I'm hopeful that CafePress might be becoming more shopkeeper friendly again.