There must be something wrong with Zazzle. It’s easy to use. It’s free to open a store. And its products look like the sort of things you can find in every shopping mall across the country.
But while you don’t have to look far to find a mall store owner making a living — if not a great one — out of printed mugs, t-shirts and mousepads, how many people are paying the bills with their Zazzle products?
When you add in the fact that unlike a mall store, buyers can order their Zazzle products from anywhere, we really should be able to list a bunch of Zazzle zillionaires: talented designers and photographers who create unique products and make a packet selling them through the website.
After all, there are people who make a good living shooting for microstock. So why does it seem so much harder for Zazzle?
Who Needs Zazzle Products?
One reason is the nature of the buyers. Microstock buyers are businesses. They might be large design companies or simple bloggers, but they’re not buying products they want. They’re buying products they need.
Businesses need images and microstock is just one way of delivering a particular type of image at low cost.
That means that while marketing a stock portfolio can increase revenues, it can be enough to post an image on iStock and trust the site’s own marketing to bring in buyers. If the photo is good, it will sell… and keep selling.
The same isn’t true of Zazzle. No one needs a mug with a picture on it, however attractive, or a calendar showing twelve of your most beautiful landscape images. They might want those products if they see them, but relatively few are going to come looking for them.
Zazzle is a Place to Create, Not Sell
Zazzle then might best be seen as a place to create photography-based products, not a place to sell them. Although products do need to be tagged and organized well so that any browsers passing through the site can find them, the selling has to be done away from Zazzle, on your blog, your website and through offline marketing channels too.
“Marketing your product makes a difference,” Josh Elman, Zazzle’s Head of Marketing told us. “Photographers should connect with different communities that they are involved in around their interests and promote the fact they have photos for sale on their Zazzle store. Don’t be shy about having a link to your store in your email signature, on your website, your profiles, etc.”
Of course, it also helps to create the sort of products that sell well. According to Josh, the most popular products for photos are posters, cards, stamps, prints and calendars, but mousepads, mugs, buttons, magnets and photo sculptures can do well too. Clothes with photographs “modified with special graphics and design effects” can also sell well.
If marketing to communities — whether Democrats, Republicans or vegetarians — is a good strategy, then clearly focusing on a niche could be one good idea. The images might be limited but finding the market should be fairly easy. Among the more general photography subjects sold through Zazzle though, nature images, travel, architecture and historical photos are particularly popular.
“For instance, with nature, many contributors take flower photographs and see interest,” says Josh. “Anything will sell, it comes down to whatever you like and that will help you find your audience.”
It’s the finding the audience that’s really the point on Zazzle. Successful contributors don’t rely on their Zazzle incomes to pay the mortgage. Nor do they rely on the site to bring in all of their Zazzle customers.
But they also don’t depend on the site to provide their only source of photography product income. Just as microstock photographers put the same images on different sites, so product creators can spread their goods across other sites like CafePress and RedBubble.
No less importantly, they can also sell them offline at fairs, shows, markets and even retail stores.
The best strategy for Zazzle then isn’t to put an image on a product and wait for the money to roll in. It’s to put an image on a product and send people to buy it. And once those people start buying and you can see the product sells, to start rolling it out to as many outlets as you can find.
Have you used Zazzle? Tell us what you think.
[tags] zazzle, photo products [/tags]