June 10, 2009, 12:00 AM

CaféPress makes its product-customizing platform more responsive

With the online marketplace for customized products adding tens of thousands of items daily, CaféPress.com has configured a new search platform that serves up more relevant results to shoppers, CEO Fred Durham says.

With the online marketplace for customized products adding tens of thousands of items daily, CaféPress.com has configured a new search platform that serves up more relevant results to shoppers, CEO Fred Durham says.

The new search platform became a necessity as CaféPress amassed a catalog of more than 150 million unique items since launching in 1999 as a marketplace for independent sellers, he adds. “Our focus has always been helping customers find unique products that allow them to express themselves,” Durham says. “In the beginning, this meant just having designs available on every topic imaginable. Today it means helping customers locate the most unique and relevant design among millions of choices.”

Although CaféPress won’t go into detail on how it rebuilt its search platform, a spokeswoman notes that it has developed an algorithm that considers multiple characteristics related to any one product, including the reputation of the seller, product quality and appropriate design, and ties them to what a shopper is looking for. “It’s designed to bring more relevance into what shoppers find,” she says.

“These changes are all about listening to our customers and using their feedback to launch the next generation of the CaféPress marketplace, streamlining how customers find products and investing in a quality experience,” Durham says.

CaféPress, No. 117 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has also developed new pricing and seller commission terms. The company lets sellers set up basic online shops free of charge. Premium shops, which provide more customized designs, range in subscription fees from $6.95 per month to $59.95 for a full year.

Whether selling through basic or premium shops, sellers earn their revenue by charging a premium over the base price kept by CaféPress. For a T-shirt with a base price of $8.99 and a retail price of $13.99, for example, the seller would earn $5. CaféPress charges a 5% fee for any premium amount over $15.

CaféPress says that each month it averages 11 million unique visitors, adds 2,000 new online shops and introduces 45,000 new products. Shoppers can buy either finished items or use online tools to personalize products with words and images.

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