Color Alliance: does print product customization at Amazon and eBay mean competition for print stores?

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Color Alliance’s new online designer enables you to customize print products on the Amazon and eBay platforms direct. Is it therefore making its own print store redundant?

In order to conduct a low-risk marketability check for a new product or to achieve greater market coverage as a print provider, use of the all-powerful eBay and Amazon platforms is no longer restricted to providers of finished products that are available in a choice of size and quantity. This is exactly the approach that Detmold-based Color Alliance is taking, and it launched its Smart Editor for use on both these mega-platforms at this year’s viscom show. I have taken a closer look at how the order process incorporating the additional editor works and at what opportunities the tool offers providers and buyers.

The CA Editor included at the berlinprint.de print store featuring advice about sufficient resolution; Source: berlinprint.de
The CA Editor included at the berlinprint.de print store featuring advice about sufficient resolution; Source: berlinprint.de

So as not to have to search for the Editor in every potential provider’s site on these two most-visited eCommerce platforms, I have taken a look at expo express, a seller profiled by CA in its videos, on amazon.com. This provider of vinyl banners, large magnetic signs and printed flags already uses the Smart Editor for design-it-yourself items.

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“eBay and Amazon are now the first port of call for many buyers trying to get a feel for product prices and quality. Color Alliance’s integration-capable Smart Editor demonstrates that more complex print products will also be a part of the eCommerce giants’ broad product offering in the future.” – Bernd Zipper

Anybody intending to purchase an editable print product on eBay or Amazon will first of all choose the product and then open the Editor, which can be accessed by clicking on a link on the product page. The user is then redirected to the user interface, where they can then design their product, e.g. a banner, in line with pre-defined options. Image material from a small database can be used in the Editor or alternatively users can upload their own photos and graphics. Given that several images can be used, the Smart Editor also allows you to create collages and other compositions, which can’t be designed using Amazon’s own customization program. Of course text editing is included as well and it even allows for text on non-linear pathways, which means that text passages can be typeset not just horizontally and vertically but also in curved configuration. Activatable gridlines can also help with alignment; as with most online editors rectangular and elliptical fields can also be created. A tool for generating QR codes is also included in the tool bar. Once editing has been completed, the user needs to fill in a small form, in which both the Amazon Order ID and the user’s contact details have to be saved. Then you verify that the configured product you have created is OK and place it in the shopping cart.

Providing contact details is mandatory and helps to match order to buyer; Source: expo-express-shop.com
Providing contact details is mandatory and helps to match order to buyer; Source: expo-express-shop.com

The similarity to Color Alliance’s Editor, which is embedded in other separate partner and customer print stores (except for eBay and Amazon, s.a.), soon becomes apparent. If you compare the range of functions, the Designer developed for eBay/Amazon can be downsized by taking out store-specific options, which can either be selected or are simply specified in the Item Description section on both platforms. I was already aware of Color Alliance’s standard editor – given its clear structure and the usual available keyboard commands (without an extra function having to be integrated in each case), it is in my opinion eminently suitable for use in conjunction with products on Amazon. Even buyers less experienced or practiced in online editing can therefore design their own print products in a reasonable amount of time on one of the platforms with the aid of the Smart Editor.

Given the immense market coverage that eBay and Amazon have now achieved across virtually all product categories, selling via the established platforms can be used for market entry and further market penetration purposes. It’s no secret that newcomers can and do try out their product ideas first of all on existing platforms, before launching their own stores – if successful and if costs that need to be budgeted for have been factored in. That’s even recommended at universities, because the stake plus the previously published fees are comparatively small.

Simple design of banners for digital print purposes using the Smart Editor at Amazon; Source: expo-express-shop.com
Simple design of banners for digital print purposes using the Smart Editor at Amazon; Source: expo-express-shop.com

And if you compare the CA Smart Editor with the rather more “frugally” equipped Editor with its tiny handful of design functions that currently (still) features in the Amazon customization program – I have already reported on this –, this more comprehensive and delightful-to-use Designer is a real gain for providers on eBay and Amazon.

 

My take: Color Alliance’s decision to provide a streamlined and at the same time effective editing environment to the major platforms too is ultimately a logical step to take. That’s because buyers mostly obtain the information they require about prices and rated quality at Amazon and eBay. And Color Alliance is not restricting itself at all just to LFP and advertising technology with its HTML5-based Editor. Since there is now a broad spectrum of different potentially customizable print products at Amazon and eBay, the Smart Editor and its range of functions can definitely help print providers, who use Amazon and eBay for their businesses, perhaps even alongside their print stores, increase their sales in the future.

Founder and CEO of zipcon consulting GmbH, one of the leading consulting companies for the print and media industry in Central Europe. The technology and strategy consultant and his team actively support practical implementation in a wide variety of customer projects. His work involves developing visions, concepts and strategies for the players active in the print production process across a wide range of industries. His areas of expertise include online print, mass customization, strategy and technological assessment for print, and the development of new strategies in the print and media environment. Bernd Zipper is the creator and chairman of Initiative Online Print e.V. and, in addition to his consulting activities, is an author, lecturer and sought-after speaker, orator and moderator. His visionary lectures are regarded worldwide as trend-setting management recommendations for the print and media industry. (Profiles also in Xing, LinkedIn).

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