In the business of selling personalized business products, it’s no longer good enough just to be the long-time veteran with decades of expertise.
“We’ve been in this personalization technology for 20 years, and when we started there was an arrogance that we knew what customers wanted before they did,” says Becky Norum, a director of technology for Cimpress N.V, whose flagship Vistaprint brand has long been at the forefront of online personalization of business products ranging from business cards to pens to apparel. “But the tide has turned. To be successful with whatever products customers want to build, we need to be flexible in order to meet needs we never expected.”
One of the shortcomings Cimpress realized it needed to address involved the time it took online customers across all of its brands to upload personalized product designs and get confirmation from Cimpress on the feasibility of seeing their actual designs printed on products become “production ready”—a process that would typically take hours. “Customers don’t always get their artwork right, so the feedback used to be hours,” Norum says.
By quickly ensuring that customized products will appear as customers expect, Cimpress not only helps business customers place orders—it also helps them apply their customized product images in their own scheduled email marketing messages and website and mobile promotions, she adds.
From hours to seconds
In the past year, Cimpress developed a new mass customization platform that has slashed that pre-production time to seconds. The customization platform was designed in-house by Cimpress’s software developers on teams led by Norum and Vikram Khemka, who is also a director of technology.
Cimpress designed and built the new platform with extensive APIs to connect the product customization tool with online studio tools for rendering images. It also designed the platform so each of Cimpress’s more than a dozen branded businesses as well as third-party users can apply it to their particular needs.
Pixartprinting, a Cimpress web-to-print business serving customers across Europe, for example, has used the platform’s Pre4Print prepress and file-readiness services to cut from hours to seconds the time it takes for Pixartprinting customers to upload their designs and receive assistance to make the designs production-ready, Norum says. “Before, it was hours, now it’s seven to eight seconds,” she says.
Another Cimpress unit, France-based Exaprint, is using a similar CheckIt tool to cut to 30 seconds from 3-5 minutes the time it takes its professional staff designers to review customer artwork.
Cimpress is also using its technology platform to extend capabilities once limited to Vistaprint. When Vistaprint first deployed scene-rendering technology five years ago to let online customers preview their customized products before making a purchase, it led to a “significant increase” in conversion rates and sales, Khemka says. Other Cimpress businesses are beginning to do the same, he adds.
Light reflecting against a gold finish
Norum says Cimpress designed its technology platform to let users apply it to their particular needs. With more personalized business products made of metal rather than paper, including business cards, scene-rendering must be able to show such features as “how light reflects against a gold finish” on a metallic card.
Even with all its experience in personalizing product designs, Cimpress realizes it must continue to develop its technology, addressing such needs as 3D visualization of products ranging from desks to pens and coffee mugs, Khemka says. “We have a lot of room to grow.”
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