Fifteen years in the fast-moving world of online business can feel like a lifetime. Spreadshirt has come a long way since the early start-up days, and there is still a lot to be done to make your experience as enjoyable as possible. As we celebrate our fifteenth year of business, we take a look back at what got us to where we are today.
Spreadshirt launched in 2002, riding the crest of the first wave of ecommerce. And make no mistake; the internet was a different place in those days! Amazon only sold books, Google took a backseat to search engines like AltaVista and Yahoo, and the chalkboard-scratching sound of a dialup modem echoed off the walls of homes and offices everywhere. Social media, YouTube, and marketplaces like Etsy were still a twinkle in the eye of their creators.
Spreadshirt’s founders had a vision: to make ecommerce easy for artists, brands, and organizations. To quickly and easily turn consumers into creators. To help anyone offer their ideas on top-quality merchandise in their own online shops. And thus, the cornerstone was laid.
For five years, Spreadshirt’s white label shop services provided a simple and easy merchandising solution for notable partners like Doctors without Borders and Coca-Cola. But, as with any ground-breaking idea, a learning curve is an inevitability. It wasn’t long before we discovered that a shop service, alone, did not suit smaller partners with low traffic and minimal marketing capabilities.
A growing and undeniable market of consumers was only interested in creating a t-shirt for themselves or as gifts for friends— not shop selling and ecommerce. So, in 2007, Spreadshirt launched a create-your-own tool and a design marketplace for individual and one-off orders, adding a buying element to an already well-established selling platform. The create, buy, and sell model was born, providing both creators and consumers a single platform for peddling and purchasing expressive ideas.
Since the expansion of our services, Spreadshirt’s #1 goal has been making your designs available to the widest possible audience, paying you the highest commission in the industry, and helping you express yourself on a huge variety of top-quality products. With this goal in mind, and with the continued growth of the internet, 2011 marked an expansion into new markets such as Australia and Switzerland and exposure in burgeoning marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.
From the printing of only a thousand items in our first year, to the more than 5 million that will be printed in 2017, an increase in factories and production space became necessary. Our growth and market share could no longer be supported by the trusty silk-screen printer in our founder’s bedroom! We hit the real estate market and expanded, opening five factories across Europe and the United States, and hiring more than 500 printing specialists.
As we all know, growth has its challenges. Our rapid expansion posed a big problem to our small-scale systems and aging technologies. Picture powering a jet with a lawnmower engine. And so, in 2015, we embarked on a four-year program to scale and upgrade our technologies. Thanks to our tireless and talented crew of designers, developers and software gurus, we replaced our entire shop system in 2015, released updated versions of both our marketplace and Partner Area in 2016, and have our eyes on drastic platform and partner developments by the end of the four-year endeavor.
As of 2017, Spreadshirt has become an active player in 18 different markets, shipping products to more than 150 countries worldwide. Some 70,000 active partners have helped turn our Marketplace and SpreadShops into a hotbed for creative ideas. And we’re proud to have payed out commissions totaling more than $70 million dollars.
The recent development of the Designer Showroom gives our Marketplace Designers the chance to connect with fans and followers on a more intimate level. By adding some personal information, your social media links, and some details about your designs, customers can now experience a much closer connection with the genius behind the work. We’ve added model images to display your designs on our best-selling products, enabled international publishing to increase your chances of international sales, and put watermarks in place to help protect your designs.
Here are some Marketplace facts & figures:
Mareike, our Director of Marketplaces, fills us in on what to expect in the future:
We want to cast the limelight on the designer and enhance the Designer Showroom. The Showroom will become the designer’s own personal Hall of Fame, showcasing their profile picture and product previews. What’s more, we’ll be introducing a rating system, giving customers a chance rate each product.
We will also be driving the consumer experience with features that allow them to follow their favorite designers from the marketplace.
The continued development, growth, and performance of the Marketplace will allow Spreadshirt to increase its marketing, driving more new customers to your designs.
We’ve been working hard to improve the responsiveness of your SpreadShop. Promotions are now automatically displayed in your Shop, and we’ve added the capability to integrate our T-Shirt Designer in multiple languages and currencies. You can link to your social media accounts with icons in the header image, and avail yourself of extensive tracking and analysis tools.
Here are some Shop facts & figures:
We asked Michael Johannes, Director of Merchandising Services, about what’s in the pipeline:
Right now, we’re focusing on improving our Shop Owners’ ability to give more exposure to their designs, products and brand. We will be fully reworking the Shop’s product/design list and detail page, paying great attention to optimizing and improving the Shop’s overall appearance.
New Partner Area Release
We released the new Partner Area in 2016, adding a whole new level of speed and efficiency to product and design management. A more modern and streamlined interface gives newly-registered Partners the ability to quickly create products, manage multiple designs, add and adjust tags, and edit pricing in no time.
In the near future, we’ll be giving you even more control over your products by introducing a color filtering option (deciding for yourself which color products you offer) and providing you with statistics updates directly in the Partner Area. A new Partner app is also in the making that will give you a much more elaborate look at your sales and statistics.
The Continued Pursuit of Improvement
Looking back at the last 15 years, we are proud of where we’ve been, and excited for where we’re headed. The journey, to this point, has had its fair share of ups and downs, but if we could go back and do it again, we wouldn’t change a thing. We’re super excited about what the future holds, and look forward to another fifteen years of shared success.