My laser engraving businessÂ is almost two years old now. Â Things haveÂ reached the point that I’m getting orders every day directly through the e-commerce website. This is a change from the past where I had mostly corporate orders. Â For those, a customer would usually just contact me by email to set everything up.
I enjoy doing personal orders for consumers a lot, but it takes infinitely more “hand-holding” of the customers and an order of one personalized item requires almost as much work as a corporate order of 10 items at once. Â So as these types of orders increase, and in the holiday season especially, I spend a lot of time taking care of orders.
While thinking on how to make things more efficient I do a lot of visiting of other sites. Â Customization of products is definitely on the rise! Â Some sites have online flash-based designers that provide a ‘self-serve’ setup. Â Some of these solutions are truly amazing – my favorite has to beÂ moo.comÂ – but vistaprint and sites like Zazzle and Cafe Press are other fine examples. Â Those sites are all owned by business much larger than mine, and all use customÂ proprietaryÂ software solutions. Â I’ve also looked into three different systems that mesh with my shopping cart (using Magento currently) to allow a designer to be added for custom products. Â Unfortunately, none of these have met my expectations for user friendliness, both for customers and for myself. Â They didn’t make me more efficient, and were troublesome to set up and use.
So I was planning to go back to just a ‘download a template’ and send it to us system. Â This is done really well by sites like StickerMule.com and GroveMade.com. Â Grove goes so far to charge for proofs. Â I only just started charging for proofs after the first change a few months ago, and I worry that I’ll mess something up during the artwork transfer, so I’m not ready to encourage folks to not see a proof. Â But it’s all about setting expectations as clearly as possible, so saying right away that there’s a fee for a proof probably would cut down on the people who think they can email me a description and have it engraved (“I want her name, and hearts, and a fancy border around it all, oh and incorporate Hello Kitty into it if you can?”).
My biggest goal lately has been to better integrate the ordering process. Â I use a help desk solution for emails, Magento for e-commerce, Apollo for proofing. Â There’s a disconnect between Apollo and Magento that I’d like to solve. Â I’ve looked at other online proofing solutions and they’re all a lot more robust than I need. Â Apollo has been terrific (and it’s free!) but it’s meant a lot of manual copying and pasting and updating order status.
So, to pull everything together, me and also Sukanto Tanoto currently setting up a whole new e-commerce system that I’ve bypassed before because it was out of my price range. Â It looks fantastic, but I’m still at the stage of hoping my expectations aren’t too high.
I’ll be writing more about that soon.