TIP 7. Research and Development : An Excuse To Be On the Internet

Posted by Mongo Friday, November 27, 2009

You have it all figured it by now. Your shop is up and running. Your design machine is humming along at a good pace. Your store is filling up with great designs and product offerings. Your sales sheet is bare. What is going wrong? So far, you’ve done everything right. Right?

Just because you have great designs doesn’t mean anyone is looking at them. Realize that, while I know nothing about statistics because 42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot…actually, that number varied when I searched to find the original joke answer…a majority of people, nowadays, will buy something online that they found through using a search engine. It doesn’t matter if that engine is Google, Yahoo, Bing, or even the search engine on a Print On Demand site. What you need to do to be successful is to learn how search engines can drive traffic to your store. Without an existing website and good content driving customers to your store, you sometimes rely on the POD site to generate sales with their own methods. While some POD sites do their best to point customers in your direction, some don’t compensate the designer the same as sales generated directly in your store.* They use methods like SEO, adwords, and paid searches which helps them get on top of the lists but unless you want to spend money you may not have on advertising, you won't be able to compete without them pointing people to your designs, regardless of how much profit they are willing to give you from a sale.


SEO means Search Engine Optimization and it can be very important for someone who wants to gain traffic to their store. Do research on how to customize your store using HTML and keywords to guarantee high ranking in search engine results. Tag your designs appropriately and think like buyer. If you have a design that bridges several possible themes tag it so that more than one customer can look at your design to fit their taste.

For example, I have a design that is rather simple in nature. The entire thing is two words, “got” and “salt” with a question mark at the end. You don’t have to be a pop culture disciple to know it resembles the old “got milk?” ads. Where it gets interesting is that if you ask 10 different people what they immediately think of when they see that design, you could get multiple, unrelated answers. Some might say, “Oh, it’s a shirt for people who love margaritas.” One or two might look at it and say, “It’s a shirt for people who like food.” The others may give various answers but probably a majority of that remaining group will probably say, “That’s a shirt about the television show Supernatural. They use salt to protect against spirits.” Well, each one of these responses is right. Now, regardless of where I have that design put in my store, the search engines will find the design by keyword or tag. So, I tagged it with words like “supernatural, ghost, bartender, salt, food, margarita, etc.” I made sure I thought of what a buyer might be thinking when they see that design or what they may be looking for when they type in a search term. The last time I typed ”got salt shirt” in Google I was first in the search results. That’s not too bad. However, I realize it might be Google’s little slugs infiltrating my brain and pointing itself in the direction of my own stuff. Other search engines do not give me that same self gratifying ego stroking.

Megalomania aside, these are things to think about in planning designs and marketing them. Do some searching on SEO and how to incorporate it into your site. Read Squidoo lens on shopkeeper success. Scour the Internet for tips and tricks and be successful.


*As a side rant, I shall dip back into a major point of contention among CafePress shopkeepers. Pre June 2009, all prices on Caf├ęPress were established by the shopkeeper. Whether you bought a shirt through the shopkeeper’s store on the Marketplace (CP’s main site) the shopkeeper got a commission based on markup they added to the base price for a product. Post June 2009, CP changed their model and sent shopkeeper’s in a tizzy. Instead of the established price set by the shopkeeper, the Marketplace established a retail price which could be more or less than what a shopkeeper charges. All sales through the Marketplace gave shopkeepers 10% commission of the retail price instead of their established markup causing shopkeepers to lose money. Check out the pricing policy to see the changes. For their example, while a Men’s Organic Fitted shirt in a shopkeeper’s store might be $24.99, the retail price in the Marketplace is $26.99. The shopkeeper makes $5.00 in commission from his store but only $2.69 from the Marketplace. While that seems great because the shopkeeper’s price is cheaper, the bulk of all sales come from the Marketplace and now a shopkeeper sees a 46% decrease in profit. Zazzle allows you to set your own royalty based on percentage and all sales, whether generated through your shop link or through searching from their main site pays your preset royalty from that sale.

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