June 2, 2012

The Top 10 Mistakes Zazzlers Make

1.) Too few products
With very few exceptions, shops with only a handful of items will make few--if any--sales. If your shop has less than a hundred products in it, then chances are you probably aren’t going to see much business. Take the time to build up a shop full of quality designs and you will be rewarded for it, but be careful that you don’t fall victim to the mentality that more products will equal more sales! It won’t matter how many products you have in your store if they are of substandard quality or don’t fit well on the products they are on.

2.) Abuse of Quick Create

The Quick-Create feature is great, but if your products have white edges and empty space, most customers aren’t going to be interested. Be mindful also of designs that hang out of the “safe zone” on products. If text or important design elements extend into the bleed area, they will likely be chopped off when the product is printed.
Furthermore, you shouldn’t post EVERYTHING Quick Create puts together for you. By default, the Quick Create tool will put your design on several shirts, two mugs, two buttons, two postcards, etc, but all you need is one of each. Even on things like shirts and mugs--items which come in a variety of styles and colors--you only need one example of each posted in your shop. If a customer sees a design they like on a baby shirt, they can have that design printed on any shirt, from infants’ to mens’, without you having to post that design on every style and color first. The same goes for mugs and hats and other products that come in different styles. Take the time to delete redundant designs, and keep only what you feel will provide a good representation of your available products (A light shirt and a dark shirt, for example). Cull, adjust, or delete designs that just don’t work on certain products--not every design will fit on a bumper sticker or a mug, and if your shop is full of ill-fitting designs, your customers will leave.

3.) Stolen images
Every now and then someone joins Zazzle who doesn’t understand or appreciate how much work goes into art and photography, or they don't understand that just because something is on the internet, doesn't mean it's free for the taking. These are the people who grab images off of an image search and slap them on products thinking they’ve found an easy way to make lots of money. Not only is this unfair to other Zazzlers, it is often illegal, and it degrades the quality of Zazzle as a whole. There are plenty of high-quality, public domain images out there, so if you feel the desire to create but lack the ability, just make sure you’re using images you have the legal right to!
It's not always obvious what is and is not legal to use. For example, you can use images of politicians, but not celebrities, so while you can make a t-shirt about Obama, you cannot make one about Michael Jackson. Even if you created the artwork completely on your own, if it features the name or likeness of a celebrity, you cannot sell it on merchandise, because the celebrity owns the rights to their own name and image. Imagine how you would feel if someone was making money on a picture of your face, and you hadn't given them permission and weren't receiving any money for it!
You also cannot use any design that is trademarked. While it is true that you can use images in which the copyright has expired (laws vary on how long this takes), you still can't use a vintage image of something like Coca Cola or Pepsi because these products are still actively trademarked. You also cannot use copyrighted characters, like Superman, Betty Boop, or the Bratz dolls, because these character concepts are copyrighted. Even if you create the artwork yourself, the idea still belongs to someone else.
Copyright infringement is serious business--one instance of willful copyright infringement can cost up to $150,000! That means if you just put one copyrighted design on one t-shirt, you can be sued for $150,000. Really, is it worth the risk? If you have any doubts about whether or not a picture might be ok to use, err on the side of caution and don't use it.

4.) Too few keywords or the WRONG keywords
Keywords (often referred to as "tags") are probably the most important part of posting a product online. If you don't use the right tags, your product will never even be seen in the first place, because customers who are looking for your product won't be able to find it. Consider your product carefully, and think to yourself "If I was a customer looking for something like this, what would I type in the search engine?"
Remember, only the first 10 tags you use will be relevant in the Zazzle marketplace. This means if you create a design with a duck in it, but your 11th keyword is "ducks", then customers searching for ducks in the Marketplace will never see your products. Individual tags shorter than three characters like "of" or "an" won't show up in search results either unless they are used in your title or description, and quoted tags like "I love Chihuahuas" should be no more than five words long. There is a limit of 40 tags on each product, and while anything past the first ten won't show up in the Marketplace, it will be relevant in external search engines like Google. Furthermore, since titles and descriptions are relevant to search engines as well, make sure you use them effectively when describing your product. A strong title, thorough description, and relevant keywords could be the ticket to your product being found.
BEWARE OF TAG SPAM! Tag spam is when a shopkeeper chooses to use tags that have little or nothing to do with their actual product, like using the word "unicorn" on a skull, or tagging a wedding invitation with "birthday cards". The logic behind this is that if a customer can just SEE the product, they'll like it and want to buy it, but the reality is that this frustrates and annoys customers and makes them less inclined to buy ANYTHING on Zazzle. Tag spam not only hurts the person who does it, it hurts everyone on Zazzle, and is against the rules. Make sure you are using tags that are relevant to your products, and focus on attracting customers who are already looking for something like yours.

5.) Painful color schemes
Even though most customers won’t be browsing through your gallery to find something they like, your color scheme is still very important. If you use painful or clashing colors in your gallery, you will turn customers away. Customers that have stumbled across your gallery won’t have any desire to stick around and see what you have if your fonts and backgrounds hurt their eyes, so try to stick with color schemes that are easy on the eyes while still being suitable to your gallery’s theme. Furthermore, avoid color schemes that "hide" text--don't use the same color for the text as you do for the background. This would seem like a no-brainer, but still many shops make the mistake of concealing their descriptions and information from customers by making their text and their background the same color. If a customer is curious about your product, but has to work too hard to find out what they want to know, they will move on to a different shop and you will lose a potential sale.

6.) Designs are under-represented

Another mistake that lots of Zazzlers make is not putting their designs on as many products as they can. Since Zazzlers don’t have to worry about inventory or space, we have nothing to lose by creating something we don’t think will sell. If you create a design for a t-shirt that also fits on a coffee mug, mousepad, or bumpersticker, why not put it on these things? Be mindful that you do not put designs on products that don’t suit them--some images just don’t work for bumperstickers or ties--but don’t think, “Oh, who would ever buy THIS image on an apron?” A lot of my best sellers are designs I almost didn’t post because I didn’t think anyone would want to buy them on those products. Imagine what a loss that would have been! If it fits, post it.

7.) Low variety
As I mentioned above in Mistake #1, it doesn’t matter how many products you have in your store if you lack variety. If you have 2,000 products, but you have posted the exact same design on seven different greeting cards and twelve different shirts, you may as well have none at all. Take the time to create a variety of designs, and limit yourself on how many times you repeat that design in your store. You only need a design represented on one of each of the product types, so try to avoid bogging down your own store with unnecessary repetition.
Furthermore, if you’re an artist who specializes in a specific subject matter, you may need to branch out a little to bring in customers. Some genres and styles don’t bring in much in the way of customers, even if your work is really good. Styles like abstract or fractal art, for example, are really hard to find via search engines. Even if your designs are wonderful, they may never be seen, simply because people don’t know how to look for them.
Creating a variety of quality products with different subject matter is sort of like weaving a large net to catch customers with. When customers come to your shop to look at your get-well-soon cards or your football key chains, maybe they’ll browse a little more and see your other products as well.

8.) Easily discouraged
Zazzle is no get-rich-quick scheme--it’s a serious business that requires hours upon hours of hard work, talent, originality, and determination. It may be months before you see your first sale, even if your products are really great, or you could have a bunch of sales only to suffer a dry spell for weeks at end. Don’t be discouraged--most small businesses lose money for the first year or two they’re open, and the worst you can do on Zazzle is break even. Even if you sell nothing at all, you’re still doing very well. Patience and determination is rewarded, so keep Zazzling.

9.) Lack of perspective
At this very moment, there are BILLIONS of products on Zazzle, and it’s growing every day! If your products aren’t the best they can be, they’re going to be lost in the crowd. Take the time to create quality products that will stand out in the crowd, use strong keywords, and promote outside of Zazzle. Don’t expect people to come rushing to your store just because it’s there--you have to reach out to your customers, first! Take your business seriously, set aside a little time each day to promote or post new products, and remember always that you are up against some pretty stiff competition. You will have to give your very best if you want to succeed!

10.) Products aren’t customizable
One day I was browsing a Zazzle shop and found a few items that I just LOVED, but for whatever reason, the owner of the designs had opted not to allow customers to customize her products. She lost a customer that day, all because I couldn’t personalize the button I liked. Allowing customers to alter your products to their liking opens up a world of potential sales, so unless you’re totally opposed to the idea of anyone altering your designs at all, leave the option open. If you don’t want customers to be able to modify certain elements of the design, lock the design elements when you create the product and leave customization open. I do this on products where I don’t want customers to remove my shop’s web address on mugs or the back of greeting cards. This allows customers to perfect the design to their needs while still keeping my own promotional tool intact.
The exception to this rule would of course be any form of fine art prints where customization would detract from the original appearance of the design, but so far as buttons and magnets and key chains are concerned, what do you have to lose by leaving the option open?

Tips for a strong Zazzle store:

*Be professional
Set aside a little time each day to work on Zazzle. Make a habit of working on Zazzle at least a few hours every day. Plan brainstorming sessions and keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas or sketches. Pay attention to what people are wearing or buying around you, and make a note of trends.

*Be Organized
Keep your shop organized so that you know what you have and where to find it. If need be, open up separate shops if you cater to very different genres or subject matter (For example, if you design both goth/punk apparel and art for kids, you should probably have separate shops.) Utilize sections and sub-sections so that a customer searching your shop for something specific can find what they’re looking for.

*Don't go overboard
Too many shopkeepers think they have to put their products on every style of shirt or mug that they want it to be available on, when in actuality you only have to put your design on one shirt to make it available for all shirts and one mug for it to be available on all mugs. This is true for any product type that comes in a variety of styles, like hats and totes. Limit yourself on how many times you repeat the same design to avoid flooding your own shop with redundant products and turning customers away.

This article was written by shopkeeper – Customizables 
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