June 17, 2009, 12:00 AM

How Zazzle’s made-for-me platform produced dazzling results

Zazzle’s e-commerce model solves retail’s inventory woes by letting consumers create the products they want, founders tell IRCE. Zazzle.com has grown traffic by 900% and sales by 1,600% over the past four years.

Zazzle.com has grown traffic by 900% and sales by 1,600% over the past four years with a retail business model made possible by the Internet: Create a web-enabled manufacturing and sales platform for others to use, and share in the proceeds of that activity. Zazzle co-founders, brothers Bobby and Jeff Beaver, were featured speakers at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Boston this week.


The brothers, who share the title of vice president, described Zazzle as ”a technology company that delivers on the promise of mass customization.” Consumers can use the online platform to personalize more than 3,000 products representing 27 product lines and then instantly visualize how the finished product will look before ordering. Once ordered, the products are created at Zazzle’s contract manufacturing facilities and shipped out within 24 hours in most cases.


”We provide key solutions for amateurs and professionals and bands to sell products on demand,” said Bobby Beaver who spoke with his brother at a session on ”How a small retailer harnesses the new power of the web.”


Driving that growth has been Zazzle’s investment in developing tools that let customers visualize the products they are creating online. For example, it developed an animated tool called the Stitch Player that responds to user commands, showing in close-up the process of how embroidery would be added to a product and how the product would look when completed.


Partnerships with major brands such as The Walt Disney Co. have also helped drive Zazzle’s growth. A partnership with shoemaker Keds that launched in July 2008, for example, has led to the creation of 250,000 shoe designs at Zazzle.com.


Jeff Beaver made the point that building trust in Zazzle’s ability to protect brand image on the customization platform has been crucial in forging partnerships with marquee brands. ”For them, it’s incremental sales with no investment of cost,” he says. ”They can upload everything to our platform and let consumers decide what they want to buy.”


Zazzle is No. 195 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.


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