February 14, 2014, 12:06 PM

Personal, social and mobile is the way forward for CafePress

With search engine query growth declining, CafePress president Sumant Sridharan says e-retailers must improve their communications with consumers through the channels that are growing.

Lead Photo

CafePress president Sumant Sridharan speaking at IRCE Focus

Sumant Sridharan, president of CafePress.com, took the long view on how consumer web trends will affect e-commerce during his keynote presentation at IRCE Focus: Web Design this week in Orlando, FL. He told attendees how the e-retailer is redesigning and refocusing its efforts to keep ahead of those trends, recommending attendees do the same.

With consumers increasingly finding e-retail sites and products through social communications online, search engine query growth, while still positive and rising year over year, is slowing. For retailers whose online marketing strategies rely significantly on search—as many e-retailers’ do—he said, “you’ll only grow as fast as search is growing.”

That’s why CafePress.com has redesigned its site with a great emphasis on personalization, social and mobile—three areas well attuned to how consumers interact with each other and e-retailers on the web, Sridharan said.

“You can’t have a conversation about one of these things without talking about the other two,” he said, noting how personalization, social and mobile are tightly interlinked. For example, he said, when CafePress considers social, it’s thinking about Facebook, where more than 80% of users are accessing the network via their mobile phones. It’s also where consumers are going to share and view product recommendations with their friends, which makes shopping more personal. CafePress pulls data from Facebook—like location and basic demographics—on consumers who interact with it through the social network to personalize what they see when they visit CafePress.com.

The social interactions also extend on the web site. There, consumers find numerous ways to connect with the people who create designs that CafePress puts onto the more than 650 base products it sells, including T-shirts, bags and mugs(CafePress has roughly doubled that product count since 2011, Sridharan said). For instance, shoppers can share designs they like with their friends through numerous channels, including Facebook, Twitter and e-mail. Since the site redesign last year, a consumer can also click to “follow” a designer she likes on CafePress.com. Then, the designer can send her a personalized or automated message.  The idea is that adding a level of interaction with the designers will spur more sharing, and ultimately sales, Sridharan said.

For designers, CafePress also provides code that they can use to display products they have for sale on at CafePress.com elsewhere on the web, such as a blog or social media “We consider social to be purely the act of sharing,” Sridharan said, noting that CafePress’ referral traffic from all social sharing channels is “growing substantially.”  CafePress is No. 56 in Internet Retailer’s Social 500, which ranks e-retailers by their referral traffic from social networks. It estimates CafePress generated 9.1% of its traffic from social networks in 2013, up from 6.3% in 2012.

All of these actions provide data that CafePress is analyzing to personalize CafePress.com for individual shoppers. “We have five variables [we’re collecting] right now. Tomorrow it may be 20,” he said.

CafePress is No. 110 in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Top 500 Guide.

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