A brilliant idea and a three-room apartment were enough in 2003 to establish Posterlounge. Today Mandy Reinmuth, Falk Teßmer and his brother Florian employ approximately 40 people for the online shop and the in-house production of posters and murals.
The mission of the company headquartered in Leipzig: to bring a tidy blob of color into everyday life with murals and art prints! Classical works by Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Monet, Klimt or van Gogh are being given new life, and contemporary artists and photographers who want to sell their art without elaborate marketing strategies are being offered a platform with Posterlounge. Bernd Zipper wanted to know more about how such a business model works.
Bernd Zipper: If you google the term “poster”, you get about 5,960,000,000 results. You certainly don’t need all of them. Posterlounge can already be found on the first result page. How are you achieving this?
Florian Teßmer: On the one hand, we are constantly working on increasing the awareness level of our brand, which pays off on the organic search – both nationally and internationally. On the other hand, we are always working on the on-page optimization of our shops by means of technical SEO. First and foremost, we want users to find in the first place, and then they should find what they are looking for in our shops.
It is important that our pages are very clear. We manage this with categories and various filter options, with which customers can click their way through our portfolio of designs.
Bernd Zipper: Your shop currently has 1,354 pages with 60 designs per page – that’s 81,240 different designs. How are you able to come up with such an impressive number of different images? And how was the shop actually created?
Mandy Reinmuth: In my work as a display designer and illustrator, I have decorated poster lounges, among other things, with self-made large-format pictures that were so well received by the customers that they wanted to buy them. So, the idea was born to offer art for everyone with an online shop.
We started in 2003 with lounge-style designs from the 70s. These were my personal favorites at that time – my illustrations were also the very first in the shop. Since we wanted to offer our customers a wider range of art styles with the increasing number of orders, more and more national and international artists were added.
Today, we work with renowned image and artist agencies such as Bridgeman Images and National Geographic, as well as numerous contemporary artists. This is how our large portfolio of artworks has come about.
Bernd Zipper: Each of the posters on offer can currently be selected in eight versions (as posters, gallery prints or wall stickers, on acrylic glass, aluminum, wood, hard foam or canvas), in various sizes, with or without frames. If I have not miscalculated, that’s 11 million variants. Nevertheless, it is not really an individualized product – or do you see it differently?
Falk Teßmer: Our products are quite tailor-made. Our claim is “Art for every wall” and that’s exactly what we offer. Whether a romantic old master or an abstract contemporary artist – customers get their favorite design from our portfolio – exactly on the material, in the size and with the frame of their choice. We produce it especially for them according to their wishes.
Bernd Zipper: Others advertise a selection of 100 million posters. How honest and useful are such statements actually?
Mandy Reinmuth: Of course, such numbers are difficult to grasp or imagine. We have a large variety of designs to create as large a selection as possible. With us, everyone can find something. But we also want to avoid an oversupply of similar designs. The balancing act between avoiding design redundancy and still satisfying customer demand for certain designs and styles is narrow, but so far we have managed the balancing act well.
Bernd Zipper: Your shop has to compete against some tough competition. I’m thinking, for example, of Lumas, but also of furniture stores, DIY stores and big ships like Ikea, which offer standard posters – printed in large quantities. How, by contrast, can your expectations be defined?
Florian Teßmer: We are distinguished by the quality of the base materials and the print results. For example, we print posters with a 3 mm wide white border on 250 g thick premium paper. Not only are they appealing to the eye, but they are also a pleasant experience to the touch because they have a noticeable color build-up. You can’t get such high quality in a furniture store or DIY store. In addition, these stores only offer a very limited number of designs, sizes and materials – these products are virtually “off the shelf”.
In contrast, we are very broadly positioned, producing in-house and on-demand according to customer requirements. This allows us to work in a resource-conserving manner and to subject our products to continuous quality checks. We can react quickly when it comes to product optimization or motivational trends. From the office into our production it is only a few steps and the connection to our external artists and agencies is very short. Coordination loops do not take long with us.
Bernd Zipper: Now printing is one thing. The finishing or framing of the images is completely different. How important is the technology in the overall process? And what technology is used?
Falk Teßmer: Efficient and modern technology is essential if we are to be able to supply our customers with a high-quality product. For the printing of our images, we rely on roller and plate printers from Canon. We currently use two Océ Arizona 6170 XTS and four Océ Colorados 1640. The latter are used to produce our gallery prints as well as acrylic glass, hard foam, canvas, wood and aluminum pictures in sizes up to 180 x 120 cm.
The result is brilliant, scratch-resistant colors and perfect color transitions. The only exception are our wood pictures, which depend on their comparatively bright color result. We chose birch wood because it has a beautiful, natural grain.
In addition, we have two ignition cutters, two EasyFrame systems and machines for framing and packaging in use. In 2018, we started to manually frame posters and plates on request. In the meantime, we have an extensive range of real wood and aluminum frames in various designs. Depending on the material, our customers can order almost any picture framed, get a hand framed product with plastic glass, MDF back wall, suspension and a glued back.
Bernd Zipper: But the shipping might not be any less expensive?
Falk Teßmer: Since we want to make sure that our murals reach our customers undamaged, we rely on sturdy cardboard boxes, envelopes and sleeves made of recyclable cardboard. We provide panel prints with edge and corner protectors made of foam and send them in a protective cover and custom-made picture boxes.
Despite this effort, it is our goal to minimize waste and to dispense with as much new filling material as possible. That is why we work with a recycling solution that shreds old cartons from returns and recycles them as padding material. In the near future, we will pack plate prints and framed images on a wrapping machine that offers even greater protection and allows us to pack them regardless of shape. With this system, we can once again dispense with the majority of new packaging materials and reduce our use of materials.
Bernd Zipper: You work together with the mail order company Otto. Are there any other partnerships?
Florian Teßmer: We started at Otto in 2018 with 10,000 designs. Otto now accounts for around six percent of our business. We launched our multi-platform activities at the same time as the launch of the German platform in 2003. Back then, we started with product listings on eBay. Shortly afterwards, the majority of our products went online on Amazon. As we have already positioned ourselves internationally with these platforms, it was only logical for us to extend our feelers to other marketplaces beyond our national borders. So, we sell in France at Cdiscount.
Bernd Zipper: Irrespective of the partnerships mentioned, what about your own internationalization?
Falk Teßmer: We laid the foundation stone for our internationalization shortly after the launch of our German site by going live with a UK shop. The Spanish and French markets followed at the end of 2017.
We now have seven country shops, including one for Sweden. The trend is rising and in a few months more countries will follow. We are already shipping throughout Europe, and since the international potential is very great, we want to offer our international customers an improved user and shopping experience in their local language.
Bernd Zipper: According to studies, every sixth order in online retailing is returned. How do you deal with this problem?
Falk Teßmer: Our average return rate is between two and four percent. It is therefore very low, which we attribute to the fact that customers already have a fairly precise idea of the products on the pages in the shop. In this way, we try to prevent returns at an early stage of the ordering process.
Bernd Zipper: “Art for every wall” appears on your website like a claim. Here, too, you are in competition with companies that market their customers’ favorite photos as murals. Or is this a completely different market?
Mandy Reinmuth: These are not our direct competitors, as this type of print-on-demand is a completely different business area. We are not a photo service provider and therefore do not print private photos. Our goal is to decorate empty walls with art. We have designs from various classical and modern artists, including unique photographs, which is why we see ourselves more as an art-on-demand provider.
Bernd Zipper: A certain consolidation can be seen in photographic services. We also see takeovers in your segment, such as the recent acquisition of WhiteWall by Cewe. How do you assess the situation?
Florian Teßmer: Generally speaking, the printing industry has many opportunities and a lot of potential. Of course, many people want a piece of the cake, which is why we have been observing for some time now that more and more print and especially art-on-demand providers are appearing. We continue to rely on our quality and on satisfying our customers’ needs.
We have been around for 16 years now and during this time we have managed completely without financing rounds and outside capital. Our goal is to continue to grow healthily by our own efforts. We did not set up the company to share or sell it. A takeover is out of the question for us. As founders and managing directors, we want to work in the company ourselves for many years to come.
Bernd Zipper: We had already talked about the huge range of image services. Isn’t the market already exhausted?
Falk Teßmer: We still see a lot of potential in our segment, because the focus here is on the uniqueness and quality of art rather than the mere expression of a picture motif. For us, the cooperation with artists and photographers is an almost infinite source of creativity and countless new ideas arise from it. The trends of the coming years will require new themes, designs and images.
Bernd Zipper: The younger generation is said to be increasingly enjoying tangible, visual experiences. Can you share this impression?
Mandy Reinmuth: That’s true: It seems that the “digital natives” are more interested in analog again – perhaps because it has become something special due to the mass of digital data. Of course, we are pleased that the demand for art for one’s own four walls is increasing, even among very young people.
It is exciting to see that they are also interested in comparatively more traditional art movements and motifs – both those of the old masters and those of contemporary artists. Vintage and retro are still the buzzwords. More modern designs such as illustrations and typographies are of course also very popular. As far as materials are concerned, framed posters and wooden pictures are particularly popular with younger buyers.
Bernd Zipper: In Germany, over 70 percent of all pictures are already ordered from a computer or smartphone and delivered to the home. User requests for even more intuitive and smarter user experiences require new service offerings. What can you contribute?
Florian Teßmer: Our list of ideas is long and there are many things that could be implemented to give the user an even better shopping experience. Ultimately, however, in our case it is also, as so often, a question of budget. Our family business has no shareholders, so we don’t have the same budgets as some of our competitors. We do everything on our own and cover a large part internally, from IT and marketing to production. As this will remain so in the long term, we are concentrating on constantly developing our shop.
Bernd Zipper: What’s the next step with Posterlounge?
Falk Teßmer: What sets us apart is the large and balanced variety of products and the good price-performance ratio. We are one of the largest suppliers in our field in terms of product range size and range of materials. We are very proud to pursue our founding idea to this day and do not let ourselves be distracted by our vision: Art should be accessible and affordable for everyone.
Bernd Zipper: Thank you very much for the interview and for “Art for every wall”. We wish you continued success.