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   Author  Topic: Cafepress eliminates store links...  (Read 1030 times)
David
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Cafepress eliminates store links...
« on: 07/29/04 at 03:34:44 »
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Hi Marty,

I thought you might know why Cafepress has suddenly eliminated shop logos, descriptions and links...  this is a disaster to big shop owners sales numbers because now the Cafepress search engine is essentially just one big shop of its own and all identity and links to our shops have been taken away.  

I'm sure Cafepress thinks that buyers may be drawn away from the general Cafepress search engine if they visit shopowner's actual sites...  but sales are down for the serious shopowners who have real sites and are responsible for sucking outside buyers into Cafepress.  I feel betrayed from this.  

In the beginning of the new search engine, sales were up because the searches went well and many buyers bought direct through the search engine or were directed to my sites...  Now half of that is gone and the other half is limited to small exposure with the million-plus products on the engine.  

It seems to be much smarter if Cafepress brings back individual store identity and adds  more linkage to some of their own tools;  ie the shopping cart could have promotional text/links to the general CP search engine...  

This current strategy by CP is bad business.  It is putting up a wall to protect what buyers are shopping on CP to stay on the CP search engine, instead of encouraging growth from shopowner external sites to CP.  Right now CP buyers are probably mostly other shop owners.  

Personally, I do some pay-per-click marketing on Google and Overture...  I bring in new buyers to Cafepress.  I should be rewarded for that instead of punished by limiting my exposure to CP buyers who want to shop on my URLs.  Hey, all my products are CP products so CP gets all the sales from my sites.  What are they losing?

ULTIMATE SOLUTION:  I think the ultimate solution is for CP to start offering "Platinum shops."   Lets say the price is $149 per year.  This is then only interesting to the super-sized CP owners.  Platinum features could then include logos/links on all shops, plus a special category in all the searches therefore showing platinum shops first, etc.
Plus, most super-sized CP owners typically offer the better graphics, etc, helping CP maintain more visibility to the better-designed products available through CP.  Personally, I won't be turned-off by paying $149 per year with the added benefits because I will easily makeup for that with added sales.  Offering a platinum account will give big players something back for all the first-time buyers they bring to CP.  My conservative estimates for how many net users I will bring to Cafepress by year-out is 500,000!

Ideas (above) are WIN - WIN concepts.  The current change away from store identity and links is a clear takeaway by CP from many of your largest customers.  

Cafepress offers a real opportunity for people like me and my company, and it could be more with a different attitude to look for WIN - WIN concepts.  I own hundreds of URLs (all with product concepts already in place and under development now).  With wonderful products like your CPSHOP script and Cafepress' excellent product line, service, and set-up, this is a real opportunity for shopowners to strike it big!  And when this happens Cafepress strikes it big, too!

I will continue to build my hundreds of store/concepts...  and I hope CP will stay in the picture to offer quality fulfillment, but some of their policies makes me consider doing my own fulfillment as I grow my business.  I'm sure others feel the same.  

I know I'm discussing something different than CPSHOP, but this is the area to do it and I know you are part of the CP team, so at least I get a real team player to communicate with.  

Thank you for your open forum and great product!  

David
www.halfmyheart.com
www.bumperpower.com
www.bumprstickrz.com
www.redneckstickers.com

...and the list goes on....






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Marty
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Re: Cafepress eliminates store links...
« Reply #1 on: 07/29/04 at 04:47:05 »
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David,

I understand your concerns -- and they're concerns shared by a significant number of people.  I'm going to try to address much of what you've said, though, mainly because I'm pretty tired, I won't be able to address everything.

First of all, there are very significant reasons for why the directory is the way it is.  First of all, it was built for shoppers, not for storeowners.  Shoppers aren't looking for lots of individual store details, nor are they looking to learn a new navigation scheme every page they visit.  They simply want to be able to find what they're looking for, buy it, and go.

Of all the times I've received feedback regarding the lack of store-specific branding in the directory, 100% have been from storeowners.  On the other hand, the comments from shoppers have been nothing but positive; the common refrain is that it's incredibly easy to finally browse all products in a simple, non-distracting way.

That said, I do plan to make one significant change to the directory pages: I plan to add links directly to the stores within search results.  (Though the reason for this isn't what you might think -- it's to increase the coverage we're getting within Google and other search engines.)

I'm not sure what experiences you've had with sales recently, but, without divulging too much, I can say that sales at CafePress are phenomenal.  The search engine has increased sales significantly, with fantastic conversion rates.  Create & Buy has managed to open up a completely new market for us, and astonishingly hasn't negatively impacted regular store sales at all.  In fact, it seems like it's caused an increase in regular sales, if anything.  (Maybe due to an increased awareness in CafePress?)

I'd like to clarify a few things, as it's easy for random comments to be interpreted by others as defacto facts:
  • Sales are up across the board.  Many stores have seen a massive increase in sales due to the directory.  I'm sure some other stores have seen a decrease as well, though the general numbers are way, way up.
  • Storeowners comprise a significant number of sales, but they certainly come nowhere near qualifying as "most buyers."
  • The old search engine and directory system never came anywhere close to being as effective at converting visitors as the new system.  Not remotely close.

I'm not sure I understand what you're suggesting with the "Platinum Shops" idea.  I can say that we're working on redefining how we look at Premium Shops, and we're thinking about other potential modifications to the directory, but I don't know how that will compare to what you have in mind.

Finally, I'd like to address your belief that you should be rewarded for bringing sales to CafePress.  I think the biggest confusion is the assumption that the onus is on CafePress to drive sales.  The agreement with storeowners has always been "you get people to your store, and we'll make and ship your products."  The onus is and has always been on the storeowner to market themselves, and drive their own sales.  The directory, however, is an added bonus for storeowners, because we're driving sales to storeowners, free of charge.  If anything, perhaps we should charge storeowners every time we refer a sale, right?

Now, if you mean referring sales to other people's stores, then I think you have a point.  That's why we're developing the Affiliate Program, which will reward folks for referring sales to other people's stores.  When that's ready, then you'll be able to make money off those referrals -- and perhaps even focus on selling other people's goods in addition to your own.  (By the way, it will be an evolving project, and we hope to have the first iteration live in the next 2-3 months.)

The other fantastic side effect of the Affiliate Program is the increased exposure stores are going to get through affiliates.  You know all those awful stores that just have a single low-res logo that nobody wants to buy on 20 products?  It'll be great when great marketers with no design skills will be able to focus on selling other people's great products, instead of making their own ugly ones.  And the same thing works on the other side: designers with no marketing skills will have an army of potential salespeople hawking their goods all over the web.

Okay, I've got to go pass out, especially since I've got work in a few hours.  Hopefully I've covered at least a few of the things that you were thinking about.  Of course, I'm most certainly at the babbling stage, so who knows at this point.
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David
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Re: Cafepress eliminates store links...
« Reply #2 on: 07/29/04 at 08:42:52 »
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Thanks for your comments.  I think your perspective is good to mention from the buyers point of view, too, and I'm coming at this strictly from the shop owners view.

I didn't mean this as a total rant against Cafepress.  I've definitely prospered from the new search engine  but I felt certain sales slip from the loss of links, ie multiple product purchases from individual customers has fallen off dramatically, and I couldn't figure out why a carrot was waved in front of us then taken away.  

The affiliate program sounds promising!  I can't wait to see what happens.

The platinum shop is a concept to give additional marketing help to the bigger owners at a mild annual fee, which raises revenues for Cafepress and also separates the serious owners from the hobbyists.  I think this offers many good features to the owners and to Cafepress because few owners get to be big unless they have some level of success along the way.  Success comes from sales, so obviously they have some ability to design.  Hence, it is an easy way to bring some of the better designs (whether old or new) to the top of the search process without passing a judgment on people's work, which may hurt their feelings and motivation.  

I don't understand how the search by popularity works because when my products come up on that it is usually my products that have never sold, and many of the other designs ahead of me seem questionable as big sales items.  Maybe this is still under development.  

Last, I think it is important for shop owners and Cafepress to realize they need each other to survive.  I'm happy that Cafepress benefits from my sales as well as any shoppers I attract into Cafepress.  I'm also happy in knowing that I definitely gain sales from Cafepress' new search engine.   More programs to build on this relationship will help both of us.  It sounds like your affiliate program may be another step in building this relationship.  Bravo!  I feel that a platinum shop is also a good idea as it gives shop owners more options for how to operate their business.  In a certain way it would be paying for clicks (like Google), since it could be designed to push platinum products to the top of searches (or just increase the ease to find them), and all for a minor annual fee!  I would jump on an offer like that.

Keep up the great work!

David

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