Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Zazzle: The Make Machine

For this week’s blog post I've decided to focus on an e-commerce called Zazzle, a company that allows users to design, customize, manufacture and ship products through an interactive online platform. Back in college I’d once used Zazzle to design invitations for an event and was pleasantly surprised by the ease with which it lets you pick materials, colors, designs, and shipping through one integrated service. The founders of Zazzle call it “The Make Machine”—their motto is, “To Enable Every Custom On-Demand Product in the World on Our Platform.[1]” Zazzle’s use of technology to optimize supply chain is indeed impressive! It provides a marketplace where people can sell product designs and product options. These products are usually designed by people across the globe.  To facilitate this, the website proves design tools, the ability to upload images, easily modify styles, interactive media etc.

What sets Zazzle apart is its sophisticated integration of technology, innovation and design.

Customization— In class we talked about the importance of providing accurate information in supply chains. Zazzle incorporates this strategy and shares key product information with customers. It employs several engineers and scientists who are in charge of designing all the software the company uses. This is especially important because their main selling point is the ability to provide users highly customized products. As a result, most of the technology and design interfaces the company uses are designed by in house web-designers and software engineers. In fact, the company has even secured patent rights for some of its software.[2]  This software gives users the option to design products that exactly match specifications—the customer knows exactly what they are buying and what their ordered products looks and feels like.

Advanced Design—The website provides advanced visualization technologies that enable users to design products in 3D.[3] In addition, their website employs computational photography that helps customers differentiate between different material textures, designs and surfaces.  This gives users a realistic representation of their designed product. In addition to 3D visualization, Zazzle has approximately 50 design tools customized for over 3000 product categories.[4] Again, this increases customers’ access to information about products, which in-turn increases user engagement and drives sales.

Real-Time Updating— Zazzle continuously updates its transactions and products, by the millisecond. This ensures that the website’s response to customers is almost instantaneous. This goes back to the concept of sharing information in supply chains in a timely manner. Zazzle’s real-time ability to process close to 25 million transactions every month, offer cutting edge design tools and provide a marketplace for products, makes it appealing to customers.[5]

International Buying and Selling Platform—Zazzle increases visibility in its supply chain by operating localized websites around the world. These websites give region-specific information on product designers, suppliers and even shippers. This tailors user experience by locale and region. Zazzle produces and sells over 150,000 new products around the globe every day![6]

Since Zazzle’s USP is its ability to integrate technology with everyday sales, it’ll have to continue investing in R&D to foster innovation and remain tech-savvy. With the technology landscape changing so rapidly, how can an e-commerce maintain a sustainable competitive advantage?

[1] Zazzle.com, The Mission, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.zazzle.com/about.
[2] Zazzle.com, Our Technology, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.zazzle.com/about/technology.
[3] Zazzle.com, 3D Product Visualization, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.zazzle.com/about/technology.
[4] Zazzle.com, Design Tools, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.zazzle.com/about/technology. 
[5] Zazzle.com, Real-Time… Everything, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.zazzle.com/about/technology.
[6] Zazzle.com, Marketplace & Seller Platform, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.zazzle.com/about/technology.

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