Amazon has launched a new T-Shirt printing service using online design software which will give you the opportunity to design your own t-shirts and other merchandise, and have it printed by a third party merchant, then delivered to your home. The service, called Amazon Custom, will operate in direct competition with services such as Café Press.
The launch of Amazon Custom could be bad news for Café Press, SpreadShirt and other similar companies, because Amazon has significantly greater reach than the other websites. Most people have heard of Amazon, and will eventually stumble across one of the custom product design options while browsing the website. Many people will never have heard of Café Press – unless they have a reason to seek out the service.
Pre-Approved Sellers Only
Amazon is running a pilot program for the printing service, with a limited number of pre-approved sellers. Buyers can customize the products that they are interested in from within the Amazon website, and then add the custom product to their shopping carts. Amazon will then deliver the product customization information to the printer, who will handle order fulfillment.
The technology behind the product designer is quite simple, right now. The Preview widget is based on a 400×400 pixel version of the image, and text-based customizations are handled by overlaying text over that image. Amazon is testing an image-based designer, but only with a limited number of sellers. In the past, sellers of custom products have found Amazon’s ordering system problematic. Technical issues can create a situation where the buyer requests a customization – such as their name engraved on a pen – but then the information about this is not passed on correctly to the seller, so they are required to contact the buyer before they can fulfill their order. This slower fulfillment process can be a serious issue and can lead to cancellations and refund requests.
Amazon requires custom product sellers to accept returns and offer refunds, and sellers are urged to offer fast fulfillment times so that there is less risk of buyers’ remorse kicking in with purchases. If the program takes off, Amazon will be one step closer to becoming a true “one-stop-shop” for every kind of product that you can possibly imagine, from groceries to clothing and entertainment, not just books and DVDs.