Whether you’re a decorator yourself or a branded product marketing professional who outsources your decoration to other printers, an online design tool can increase customer engagement and orders—literally from day one.

Consider how $400 million CustomInk has cornered a large part of the market for personalized goods with an easy-to-use online design process. Guess what? You can emulate the success of this DIY business model by adding an online designer to your website.

An online designer allows customers to conveniently self-service their purchases: They select products, custom-design the artwork, and then place their order with full payment up front. When you add this type of interface to your existing site, your brand appears more professional, giving customers a great buying experience, so they’re more likely to return—and recommend you to others.

That’s why an online designer can help your business hit two major goals:

  1. Score more new customers, without a ton of effort on your company’s part
  2. Compete with the bigger companies, immediately.

In this primer, we’ll break down the benefits—and business opportunities—available when you offer customers an online designer experience. 

Is an online designer right for your business?

First, ask yourself these important questions:

  • Are your customers sending you screenshots or printouts of designs created in another company’s online designer?
  • Are you losing business to competitors that offer online designers?
  • Are you and your prospective customers frustrated with the endless back and forth on designs?
  • Is your sales cycle longer because you go back and forth with customers trying to get design approval?
  • Are you  in the “creative hot seat” trying to predict what graphics will excite your customers?
  • Are your customers asking to be more involved in the design process?

If you answered “yes” to most, if not all, of these questions, your company is a great candidate for an online designer.

Your online designer puts your customer in control–freeing up your sales, art, and customer service departments to focus on improving your business.

What are an online designer’s key functions?

If you’re new to the idea of an online designer (or you just need some good talking points to pitch your boss or partner), we’ve got you covered. Here are some critical functions you should look for in an online designer:

Precise Product Selection

Your online designer gives customers an opportunity to browse all the products you’ve made available for self-service buying. You control the options you offer. Customers get creative within the parameters you’ve defined based on your production systems.

Spot-On Quotes

Your online designer will provide your customer with an accurate price in real-time.

Personalized Design

Your customer gets to be in the design driver’s seat, and can create a one-of-a-kind design using text, clip art, and even their own graphics. 

Social Sharing

Your online designer should allow your customers to share their decorated product creation for feedback with a team, a group, colleagues, or friends and family via social media and email.

The Magical “Save”

Letting customers save their custom designs makes it much more likely that they’ll return to complete their order when they’re ready to purchase. (The “save” function also contributes to your lead-generation efforts.) 

Ultra-Easy Checkout

Since your customer can securely check out online, they’re more likely to hit “yes” on their printed-goods order. 

What’s in it for you … and your customers?

There are so many benefits and potential positive revenue outcomes that an online designer can offer to your business, and to your customers. Let’s start counting the ways.

1. You can fully leverage digital marketing.

Serious-question time: Are you taking full advantage of the benefits of online marketing to drive new leads to your website? And does your site offer an amazing customer experience by way of an online designer? If not, you’re leaving money on the table, as prospects move to the next vendor site where they can easily browse products, add artwork and buy.

Similarly, are your online ads informational only? Can a customer click an internet ad (or search result) and complete a purchase via your site, or do they all dead end? Your ads should include a compelling call to action, leading clickers right to your site’s online designer. 

2. Enjoy your highest-profit-margin orders … ever.

Get ready to do the happy dance. Orders that come to you via an online designer will command the highest profit margins. One of the main reasons? You’ll charge retail pricing.

Plus, you’ll benefit from reduced overhead because you’ve automated your ordering process. That means minimal to no sales commission, art department involvement, invoicing and customer service interaction.

Research shows that when you enable your customers to design their own products, they’re much more likely to follow through on their purchase, and be satisfied with it.

3. Create an awesome customer experience.

Yesterday, customers wanted a great price, top quality and awesome customer service. Today, their expectations include all that, and more.

Buyers expect speedy order processing and delivery. In addition to top-notch customer service, they’ve upped the ante and want a fun, convenient and frictionless customer experience.  

When you use an online designer, you can meet and exceed yesterday’s and today’s buyer expectations.

4. Solidify your customer base.

We know that many decorated products are intended for groups: clubs, teams, organizations and companies, just for starters. When a customer designs a custom product and then shares it with their group via the designer, it helps create a sense of unity and approval. This makes it more likely that the customer will complete the purchase—and then return to reorder in the future.

In addition, you can review your customer and order types to identify additional companies or groups that you’d like to approach proactively for larger orders. Consider also that a one-time customer who’s used your online designer is now in your CMS, allowing you to market repeat retail business to them.

5. It’s convenient and engaging for your customers.

Your customers expect the highest levels of convenience—when and how they want to order. A well-configured online designer offers the most optimal self-service option, so when you develop an interactive online design experience, you’ll create a fun and engaging customer journey that makes it much more likely that customers will complete their order.

The stats (and industry experts) don’t lie

We’ve got some very insightful stats from a decade of InkSoft sales data about orders through our Designer:

  • Your order volume goes up: An average order via our designer contains 25 pieces.
  • Your per-unit price veers toward retail: Our customers’ average per-unit price is $26.87.
  • A discount code can spur orders: 14% of orders placed via the designer include a discount or coupon code.

But don’t just take our word for it. Lots of industry greats agree that it makes good business sense to give customers more control over their orders via an interactive online designer experience: 

“Our industry must keep pace with the enhanced buying experience other channels are providing to stay relevant.”

Marc Simon, president and CEO, HALO Branded Solutions

“Creating the best online purchasing and follow-up experience keeps customers coming back.”

Jana Miller Schmidt, CEO, Harland Clarke

“Customers expect and demand an easier method to order, faster delivery, better quality products and more spectacular imprints.”

Joe Fleming, president, HUB Promotional Group

“Younger buyers don’t want or need a full-service sales experience. They’d rather manage their orders online.” 

Sharon Eyal CEO and owner, ETS Express

Meet your new online designer tool

With InkSoft Designer, you can offer your clients a customized, fully functional ecommerce store to make everything run smoothly. You can customize our online designer to your brand. You can host it either on a custom domain or embedded on your website (and it’s mobile-friendly, too). We make it really easy to get up and running.

InkSoft Designer integrates with all of your important information and workflows:

  • Choose and display blanks from your favorite suppliers.
  • Set your pricing for every product iteration.
  • Manage your decoration methods and details to work with your imprinting methods.

You’ll eliminate art department headaches and inspire your customer design creativity with built-in art tools. That includes giving your customers access to more than 13,500 stock designs, along with the ability to upload their own logos and artwork.

Best of all? Your clients will love how easy and convenient it is for them to order their decorated apparel and goods from you.

Your new online designer will allow your customers to do everything on their own from their computer, tablet or mobile phone in three simple steps: select their blank product; get creative with designs, and purchase online.

Get ready to watch your sales start rising.

Take a virtual tour or request a demo of InkSoft Designer today!