Create a custom store with Zazzle

How long have you been creating works of art or taking great photographs or how long have you had all those funny t-shirt ideas locked up in your brain? At some point, you probably wondered about the best way to get those items out to potential customers. There are quite a few websites out there that can help you accomplish this goal, but the one I want to discuss today is Zazzle.

I liked Zazzle after watching a CNN news report that interviewed the company’s co-founder, Jeff beaver. He talked about the company’s sales figures and how popular the site had become, but what I really got from it was just how easy it is to launch your own slew of products branded with your custom designs. Watch CNN’s Zazzle video to see what I mean.

What is Zazzle?

Simply put, Zazzle offers you a selection of over 50 customizable products that you can place into your own custom store using your own custom designs. From there, your products are instantly searchable through Zazzle’s main website as well as 15 other domains around the world. They claim to have over 20 million unique visitors across their websites, so there’s plenty of buying potential out there.

The selection of products include all the usual suspects such as tshirts and many other types of clothing, cards, stationary, postage stamps, coffee mugs and stickers, but Zazzle also offers a few of the obscure like phone cases, skateboards, guitar cases, speakers and canvas art prints.

Once you create a store, you start adding products into it by uploading all of your artwork, resizing it to fit on whatever you’re creating and then publish it to potential customers. The process is super easy and literally takes a few minutes.

Get paid!

Zazzle has preset prices for all of their products, but you have control over how much your royalty rate is. For example, if you have a poster print that you want to sell, the standard price for a glossy print starts at $24.95. You can then apply on top of that, a percentage you’d like to make ranging from 0% to 99%. This will be your profit. Note, any percentage after 20% carries with it a service fee.

Anyway, so you list your $24.95 product with a 10% royalty fee and your new sales price is $27.45 with you making about $2.50 in profit. Now in the case of posters, depending on how large of an image file you’ve uploaded, you could easily have prints available for your customers in very large sizes. The pricing can be further customized by a customer given the paper type selected and whether they want it framed or not.

All that for just one product! As I mentioned before, you can choose how many products you want and customize their look to infinity.

My two cents

This post is just a very light view of what Zazzle can offer to you and your products. Personally, I am not much of an artist, but I’m discovering that I do have some photographic talent that I plan to utilize with Zazzle. My goal is to take some of my photos and turn them into high-quality prints and sell them from my own website. With Zazzle, I don’t have have to go out to a print shop and have 50 posters made, keep them on hand and hope I can sell them to people.

This way, I just create the products I want to offer and let the world have what they want. Zazzle doesn’t make anything until it’s actually ordered. Of course, there are costs to be had, but that’s business. I’d rather pay a small premium to not have to deal with inventory. Plus, this could just be a small stepping stone…if my products got big and well-known, I could easily carry inventory later, knowing that I’ll sell everything and make even more money!

Check out the DigitizingLife Print Store to see the store I created and the products I have. At the time of this writing, I only have one. As a follow-up to this post, I have ordered a copy of my own product to see what the quality will be.

The Future of 'Big Box' Retailers

I started at Best Buy as a seasonal digital camera sales rep in 2002 and ended as an agent of the Geek Squad in 2010, just shy of eight full years. Among the many, many things I learned about retail, technology, people, customers and business, the one question I constantly asked myself (and still do to this day), is how much longer can outfits like these survive?

In our morning meetings, we often heard the latest reports about what our competitors were doing and how we were supposed to respond to changes in the market and I remember a specific statement that was said about Walmart. It was along the lines of ‘People are using [Best Buy] as a means to get informed and then taking this knowledge to Walmart to get the better price.’ What struck me more about this than its truth was that I was also doing that very thing! The difference for me, however was that I was spending my money online. What made me think about all this was I happened across an article about the future of Best Buy and in it, Don Reisinger said:

“For people, like me, getting more comfortable with online purchasing, I simply don’t know what would stop me from using Best Buy as a research center. I can go to the store, check out a new camcorder or surround sound system and then decide if it’s something I want. If it is, I’ll ask the manager if they can match Amazon’s deeply discounted price. If he can, I’ll buy it at Best Buy. If not, I’ll go home and order it online.”

The answer to the implied question is the only thing that would stop someone from doing that would be a price match. I doubt even great customer service can save them in the end.

Online Shopping

So what makes people shop in a store rather than shopping online for the convenience and cost-savings? The short answer might be trust. I think we still have a large group of people (mostly in the older generations) that don’t have a full grasp of the concept of the Internet and people are naturally fearful of what they don’t understand. You mix this in with the horror stories of online identity theft, items that ship broken or bad eBay experiences and you get a recipe for disaster.

In my opinion, it’s actually safer/more economical/better to shop online! There…I said it! Let me explain why I believe this:

  1. Credit Cards: Shopping online requires the use of electronic payments and therefore you’re not lugging around a wad of cash or an antiquated checkbook into a store that can target you for theft (or loss).
  2. Fraud protection: Check with your credit card company…I can promise you that if you use your credit card online and there is even the slightest hint of fraud, you will get your money back.
  3. Price: No or low overhead (stores, sales people, etc.) equals lower prices.
  4. Co2 footprint: Reduce your carbon emissions by not driving to the store and sitting in traffic.
  5. Convenience: Patience is a virtue and even though you have to wait for your items to arrive, the added bonus of being able to use your iPhone to make a purchase while you’re waiting for your kids to get out of school is much better.
  6. Availability: Sometimes online shops do go out of stock, but not nearly as often as a regular store.
  7. Selection: Try walking into Best Buy and choosing from over 13,000,000 songs like you can on iTunes.

Above all, the deciding factor for me is simply price. It’s very hard to find a product in a store that can’t be found online for less. Plus, online, you sometimes have the option of buying overstock models, discontinued items, lightly used items and refurbished products–all of which can knock off lots of dollars. In my case, I worked at Best Buy and they give all their employees an employee discount. In case you were wondering how much, it’s cost plus 5%. This equates to whatever the cost Best Buy paid for the item and an additional 5%. Anyone who knows retail knows that low margin items such as computers, anything made by Apple, music cds and older DVDs don’t give you much of a discount where as higher margin items like printer and video cables, accessories and some software can range dramatically.

Interestingly enough, I found that my discount actually cost more than some items online! In other cases, if something was on sale (like a new DVD release), I would end up spending more if I processed the transaction with my employee number!!

Anyway, having a brick and mortar store is nice because if offers these advantages:

  • Physical product you can touch and play with or test out.
  • Live human beings you can talk to and ask questions or hear opinions.
  • A real shopping cart you can stand on and fly down the aisles.
  • Instant delivery of product.

If all those matter to you, maybe shopping at an actual store is your style or maybe you just like to use a store to do research and then take your money elsewhere to get a better price like the rest of us! At any rate, I’m not proposing that Best Buy simply shut down and disappear, but I do think there’s something to be said about the convenience and selection of stores like

In fact, their new slogan is, “Earth’s largest selection.”

Site Creation – Memberships

You’ve seen them before–store memberships, clubs and mailing lists. It seems like you can’t go anywhere these days without being offered to sign up for this or sign up for that. As much as this might be irritating to you, don’t take it personally. These businesses are not out to steal your information or upset you in any way. They’re practicing a great business technique that really works!

Offer member incentives

When you run a business, especially one online, you have a unique opportunity to increase customer retention when you offer your them the ability to become members of your website or blog. They not only feel like they belong, but you are able to offer them the latest news, product updates, special discounts and everything in-between. As an example, on my site, you can sign up to the newsletter that I offer. This allows me to communicate just about anything I think you’d be interested in later on down the road.

The reason this is so important is that you may not come back to my site for a long time because you’re not a regular reader, but if you get updates through email, you’re not going to miss anything. Plus, I can offer you the latest tools right when I find out about them.

If you run an ecommerce site, you really want people to become members of your store because you’re inventory is most likely always changing, so it’s even more important for you to get those updates out. This will increase sales and make the customer feel more important. Offer people discounts, free stuff, special “members-only” items, etc. and you’ll win a customer for life!

Managing members

Every site structure is different, so managing your members can be everything from easy to difficult. What you don’t want to do is mis-manage them. This is especially true of email subscribers. You never want to given the impression that you send spam email. You also don’t want to have a huge list of members only to sit on it and not do anything for them.

Staying connected means sending out information, promotions and updates regularly. You’ll need to cater specific needs to your members based completely on the industry that your business is focused in. For example, if you’re in the clothing business, you’ll want to make sure that your updates and promotions are geared around style trends and seasons. You can offer great deals on summer clothing in the winter and vice versa.


I use a company called Aweber to manage all of my newsletters and mailing lists. Not only do they manage all of your members, but you can create any type of marketing materials you want! You can also setup automatic messaging to send out emails whenever you choose.

Do not waste any more time on this topic! You need to start turning your customers and web traffic into members of your business today!

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