Zazzle has been growing and changing rapidly lately and striking partnership deals left and right. They have wasted no time spending their (unconfirmed) second round of funding. The site has undergone a major face lift and Zazzle finally started listening to users who demanded changes to certain policies regarding the image licensing and the commission structure. The long overdue changes did get some previously skeptical designers to test the waters at Zazzle but I don’t know exactly what result has been. However, there doesn’t seem to be enough shopkeepers over at Zazzle. How do I know? Well…
Apparently part of the current Zazzle strategy has been to quietly (attempt to) recruit Cafepress Shopkeepers. Cafepress shopkeepers have reported getting phone calls from Zazzle representatives offering them one-on-one meetings and possible trips to the Zazzledome in California to talk “business”. What business topics are unknown but because they are targeting Cafepress Shopkeepers it is fair to assume that they are trying to get them to defect to Zazzle.
Is it necessary to recruit from other companies and are phone calls and meetings the best way to grow your business? What happened to recruiting shopkeepers by having the tools/system that made it so designers and entrepreneurs couldn’t resist opening an account, telling their friends and doing business with your company?
Shopkeepers are critical to the business model of to the big 3 POD’s (Zazzle, Cafepress, Spreadshirt) and they each have had different ways of getting new clients. Cafepress has a referral program that pays the referrer 5% of every sale the recruited Shopkeeper makes. This system influences folks who are passionate about Cafepress or those who just want to make some money to recruit their friends or web site visitors to open stores. The Cafepress model has been extremely effective in getting people to spread the word about Cafepress and building up a solid membership in the millions.
Spreadshirt never really had an open recruiting scheme but last year they had a brilliant logo contest that attracted thousands of designers from across the web who may or may not have ever designed a t-shirt or other product. They were just folks who love design and brave enough to enter one of their designs into the Open Logo Project in hopes of getting a bunch of prizes and fame. But what Spreadshirt was really doing was attracting 2000+ designers who would soon (hopefully) open up a shop at Spreadshirt. The best part of the contest for Spreadshirt wasn’t the logo, it was the exposure of the company to a potentially untapped design community. Spreadshirt put in about 550 hours and €19,650 to make the project possible (see stats). My guess is that was far more efficient, effective, and less controversial than Zazzle’s current recruitment techniques.
As always, tell us what you think: Is Zazzle’s method of recruiting Cafepress Shopkeepers unethical or good business? Or is there just something bigger going on that we can’t see.