Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cafepress vs Zazzle: Why I've Moved to Zazzle

Today, July 1, 2009, is the start of a new era for me. I have closed my Cafepress shop I've had for 7 years. I have moved all of my artwork, photography, and designs to Zazzle.Com. Why? Because the features and benefits of Zazzle seriously outweigh those of Cafepress - for both the artist and consumer.

Both companies are print-on-demand companies (POD). A POD company gives an artist the opportunity to put their art and designs on products and offer the products to the public. You know when you're shopping in a store, and you see cool art or cute sayings on a mug? And you realize your designs would look great on those kinds of products as well? These companies give you the ability to do that - without having to go through the excruciating process, long wait times, and sometimes huge expense of production, marketing, and distribution.

At a POD company, you art is not placed on the product until it's ordered by the customer. It's *shown* on the product, thanks to amazing advances in technology - but the product isn't made until it's ordered. And you can publish your art on a product instantly. No long wait times.

Up until June 1, I was a die-hard Cafepress artist. For 7 years I've been placing my art on products using their service and selling my art to the public. Cafepress and Zazzle have "base product prices", which are charged for each product. The artist marks up the price of each individual product to make their "royalty" when a product sells. This is how the artist makes a living.

In May, however, Cafepress made an announcement that they were only going to pay their artists 10% of the retail price (a price they set, rather than the artist). This new plan was going to only be in effect for their "marketplace" - a common area on the Cafepress website which shows millions of products by millions of artists. If a customer purchased direct from the artist's shop itself on Cafepress - and not through this "marketplace" - the artist will still receive the markup he/she set. But if the product was sold via this "marketplace", the artist's income was now dropped to only 10% - not to mention the product price is also set by Cafepress in this marketplace.

Let me show an example of how this affects the artist's income:

Let's say the base price of a framed print is $35. I decide I want to sell my framed prints for $50. This would mean that every time a print was sold, I'd make $15.

Under the new plan, let's say Cafepress sets the price of a "framed print" to $39 in their marketplace. They're going to pay me a generous (ahem) 10% of retail, meaning I would make $3.90 instead of $15.

That's a huge drop in income. Of course, if the customer comes into my store itself - directly - NOT from the Cafepress marketplace - I'd still make my $15. This means I'd have to get my store in the search engines DIRECTLY, which is virtually impossible, since almost every Cafepress link appearing in the search engines brings the consumer to their "marketplace" rather than direct to my shop.

In order to make sure the sale came to my shop, I'd basically have to duplicate my shop in its entirety and have it on my own website so the search engines could pick it up there. There are programs out there to help you do this - but they all cost money. Not a lot of money...but with the extreme drop income I've had since this all came about, it's a lot of money to ME. Not to mention the time involved in setting it all up, and doing all the search engine optimization. And time is money to me as well.

Still, even with doing all that, Cafepress's marketplace links which also appear in the search engines can get in the way. I've even done searches for my exact products, seen a Cafepress link and clicked on it, only to be led to a page with hundreds of other designs by other artists, and mine nowhere to be found. So basically they were using my search tags and descriptions to draw people into to pages which didn't even include my art.

For a period of time, I tried setting up my Cafepress items on my website myself without the help of other software. Needless to say, it was exhausting, and I really thought it was stupid to have to duplicate all the work I'd already done on my CP store originally.

Due to these changes, thousands of Cafepress artists are losing thousands of dollars. The company's response? NONE. And it was that specifically - the lack of response - which helped me make my decision to move to another POD.

This decision by Cafepress reminds me of the decisions Ebay has made over the past couple of years. I think Cafepress will go downhill as a result, just as Ebay has for so many. I no longer sell on Ebay due to their decisions which seem to not take into account at all the people who made them what they were. Cafepress's recent decisions are clearly detrimental to artists. Even though I didn't come close to feeding my children with the income from there, several artists did and are now having to face financial ruin just because of the decisions.

A print on demand provider should be attempting to help their artists succeed - not be competing against them. My income at Cafepress - which has steadily increased to several hundred dollars a month over the years - dropped to under $20 for the month of May after the announcement of these changes. In June, my income was ZERO for the entire month. Why is this? I think it's mainly because people shop where they sell. I have no doubt several of my sales were probably to other CP artists. Since many artists are leaving or already have left, those artists will shop where they sell NOW.

I've had a small Zazzle store for many years. I haven't worked on it much, but being Zazzle is a great POD, gaining huge strides in the market over the years, I decided this was my best bet. In fact, in the 3 weeks I've been moving my art, I've made what I made at Cafepress in the month of May. I expect that to steadily increase as I continue to upload my art, photography, and designs, and as I network within their community.

And in moving my art to Zazzle, I discovered a lot of benefits, both for artists *and* consumers - that Cafepress just doesn't offer. I'll cover these in my next post! In the meantime, I invite you to stop in and take a look at my Jai Johnson • Art | Photography | Graphic Design Zazzle store.

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