Hi I’m Mike Talvensaari, or Mike T, and I’m here to talk to you about a design issue that I’m sure faces many of you, but definitely affects Zazzle. Zazzle is the world’s largest customizable products marketplace. In our marketplace, we have sellers trying to sell their designs and then like any e-commerce site we have buyers who, well, buy stuff,
Sellers on Zazzle are largely designers who are posting their designs on products like what you see here. When someone buys the product, Zazzle manufactures it, and pays a royalty to the seller.
Yes, it should be a match made in heaven, but sellers want to sell THEIR stuff and promote THEMSELVES, while Zazzle just wants to sell stuff period – we don’t care so much which seller makes the sale. So, when we recently made some major design changes to our site to try to increase conversion – something in everyone’s best interests – we got feedback like this:
And this is one of my favorites
And the next one makes me feel really good about myself and my team.
However, when we tally up the results of our redesign, we learn that.
The new design performed amazingly well. And we knew it would. Because we did extensive usability testing, did thorough research into what would be the best converting design, looked at dozens, if not hundreds of e-commerce sites, read white papers, talked to customers, did A/B testing and generally followed a pretty rigorous design process as a good designer should.
So this might lead you to believe that we should just ignore our sellers and focus on what is best for buyers. However, sellers are our secret weapon and are also our most passionate and vocal users. They are what make Zazzle special. There are lots of sites to get customized products and get family photos on coffee mugs. But consider this:
Prior to the launch of custom Keds by Zazzle in 2008 it’s hard to get an exact count of how many Keds shoe designs were in existence, but we think it is in the hundreds, maybe the low thousands. Two weeks after we launched custom Keds we had 20,000 designs. Within 2 weeks we had 10x more Keds designs that had existed in the previous 90+ years the company has existed.
Now we have over 360,000, enough to stack 11 miles high into the stratosphere. And this number went up by 10,000 in the few days it took me to work on this slide deck. This is an engaged community, they are driving traffic to our site. We need to design for their happiness
Same story with our launch of Avery 3-ring binders last year. Prior to going with Zazzle, Avery had their own custom binder program and they paid about $50,000 to get 70 binder designs to sell.
Now 1-year later they have over 180,000 binders designed by Zazzle sellers for free, enough to lay end-to-end and make a walkway from here to Napa.
And in the 5 years that Zazzle has been selling t-shirts we’ve got nearly 16 million t-shirt designs. If we printed every T-shirt design on the site on a Men’s Extra Large shirt we could lay them end-to-end and they would stretch 7900 miles from San Francisco to Egypt.
So, clearly, we need to keep our sellers happy. If we don’t keep them happy they’ll go to our competitors. But how can we do this, when we sometimes suspect that
Our sellers secretly hate buyers. When we look at some of the feedback and suggestions we get from our sellers, we sometime say to ourselves “why don’t the sellers want to sell anything”. But the real answer is that they hate it when buyers buy from other sellers, so they want us to tailor our designs to make it so that once a buyer lands on their page they are not led away. So, as is often the case when gathering design requirements, you need to listen to what they want, but give them what they need.
So, in a twist on an old classic, as designers we have to think about this.
Now lest you think this is only a problem a company like Zazzle or ebay or amazon that has buyers or sellers face, you should think again. Nearly every site has multiple types of users. Maybe it is the difference between a power user and casual user – every site has power users. Maybe it is the difference between a Tweeter and a follower, or a blogger and a reader. Before designing we need to think about the types of users for which we are designing.
Hmm, maybe Sellers are most important
Since I’m also director of product management and a shareholder, I’m going to tell you “the one with money wins”.
For other sites, it might a simple as “design for the masses, but keep your power users in mind”
We have many different tools in our arsenal to learn about buyers, and we try to use all of these at various times and depending on the project’s needs. But with every project, you must ask yourself, what will the seller reaction be.
Sellers have slightly different goals – they want to be a venus flytrap or roach motel for the buyers. Once a buyer lands on their product, the seller would prefer that was no way out except through checkout. This is an admirable goal for a single seller, but not really the best experience for a Zazzle customer. Still we can accommodate some of these asks, as long as it doesn’t interfere with overall conversion.
More so than buyers or browsers on a site, sellers and/or power users are easier to get in touch with. They announce themselves in forums and in blog posts. You can reach out to them directly and get feedback and run features by them. We have a weekly newsletter to sellers and a weekly phone call with random sellers, and there are some that I have personal lines of communication with via email and phone. Talk to the top sellers, the influencers and get their opinion and make sure they are on your sideUltimately, our goals are the same – to sell more stuff – and most of them are understanding once you explain why certain design decisions were made. Be willing to use their ideas when they are good.
Ultimately, if you made the right decisions, they either calm down
Or maybe they even start to like it once the reasoning is explained to them.
Warm Gun: Designing for Competing Interests: Buyers, and Sellers, and Designers, Oh My!