Design To Sell: DIY Design Stores Review Part II

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zazzle_standard_black_250pxIn our last installment, we looked at Cafepress.com, Mysoti.com, and Ninjazoo.com. In this one, we’ll look at the other three DIY design sites on our list: Spreadshirt.com, Threadless.com, and Zazzle.com.

Spreadshirt.com This site markets towards the more JC Penney/soccer mom crowd and has features aimed at that audience. The fashions include items you’d expect for them: t-shirts, hoodies, baby bibs, canvas messenger bags, and so forth. The site loads quickly, is very easy to use, and gives a professional appeal.

While it’s cheap to set up shop here, the base prices are fairly high in relation to similar sites. Given its audience, this is not surprising. Many of the designs here (other than those featured on the front page) are for local soccer leagues, localized grassroots organizations, and so forth. The site’s appeal is definitely to the upper-middle class soccer mom crowd.

  • Pros: easy, free to set up, lots of product choices
  • Cons: expensive base prices, not well known, somewhat limited appeal

Threadless.com This site definitely shoots for the younger, trendier crowd with real-world models and art deco/neo-modern designs being featured with humorous quips printed with them. Unlike the other sites on this list, this one does not necessarily allow DIY design-and-sell setup. Instead, it’s more of an online t-shirt competition—a sort of “Hot or Not” for t-shirt designs.

This means that you can’t just set up a design and start selling it, but it does mean that a design that wins makes pretty good money: more than you’d probably make setting up shop somewhere else. Big “if” for many, though. The site is on this list merely because of its popularity and its unique plan. Despite the limitations the site has, it’s become quite popular and enjoys good traffic and a fair number of submissions to each competition.

  • Pros: fun, well known, designs are user-scored
  • Cons: not really DIY sales, your designs become their property, can be confusing

Zazzle.com This is nearly the most well-known of the DIY t-shirt design sites on our list, second only to Cafepress. The site is popular for two big reasons: it’s very easy to use and it’s free to set up a store there. That latter part is what puts it above Cafepress for many. Marketing integration with Facebook and Myspace make it easy for people to use their existing social network to sell too.

Zazzle’s strength is definitely in their marketing tools (mentioned above, plus others) and their ease of use. Their base prices are comparable to Cafepress, so they aren’t the best, but aren’t priced out of range to make a profit either. This means that your margins will likely be based on volume sales or designs so unique that you can charge a premium for them.

  • Pros: easy, fast, well-known
  • Cons: somewhat expensive, some marketing tools require technical knowledge, low base royalties

Sum Up Those six sites are the most popular in the DIY t-shirt design and sales arena according to both Google and Yahoo! Search. Of the six, Cafepress is the most popular and well-known.

The pros and cons for each site define whether they’re right for each individual’s needs, but overall the best choice in our book is Zazzle. While Cafepress owns the name recognition amongst these sites, Zazzle owns the marketing power and puts it squarely in the hands of its users. Despite low profits per sale and a few other limitations, Zazzle gives its users the ability to effectively market their designs through both social networking and traditional means. They also have a robust affiliate program that can be utilized.

The biggest winner in this genre of websites, however, are the users themselves. These DIY design sites are one of the greatest enablers the Internet has produced so far. That is one of the core things that makes business online great: the ability to level much of the playing field, allowing those who otherwise would never be able to try their hand at a business to do so.

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4 Comments
  1. fortytwo

    January 13, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Maybe there will be a worstpizza.com store one day?

  2. Craig (lapp)

    January 13, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Yes where you could buy worstpizza shirts! You can be the first buyer, excellent idea!

  3. fortytwo

    January 13, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Maybe there will be a worstpizza.com store one day?

  4. Craig (lapp)

    January 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Yes where you could buy worstpizza shirts! You can be the first buyer, excellent idea!

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