If you’re thinking about taking your embroidery business online or optimizing your online presence, there are compelling reasons why you should. Forrester Research says U.S. consumers will spend $327 billion online in 2016, and much of the growth in U.S. e-commerce sales will come from online retailers improving websites and services. Your website is open 24/7 and is accessible locally, nationally and globally. Taking your business online allows you to save time and money by easily showcasing your products, sharing testimonials to gain consumer confidence and allowing customers to self-serve. The real challenge in going online lies in the technology, setup, and unique embroidery selling and production process.
Above: Some e-commerce solutions created for decorators create a real, usable embroidery file after a customer placed an order online, saving the business owner valuable time and money.
Most small businesses choose to use one of the well-known e-commerce solutions, such as Shopify or Volusion. Using an image to represent embroidery is easy to achieve, either by taking a photograph of the actual embroidery stitched out or using stitch-simulation software. However, creating images of embroidered products or designs leaves no scope for customization, and doesn’t create a production-ready embroidery file, so this method will be inefficient and potentially error-prone. Instead, it might be wise to investigate one of the dedicated platforms developed specifically for the decoration industry.
An embroidery design database is one of a firm’s biggest assets. Therefore, it makes sense to upload your existing embroidery designs to your website to be displayed on pre-decorated products ready for reorder, or as embroidery designs available exclusively for the clients they were created for in their own Web store or secure login. The caveat is that taking an existing embroidery design collection, stored in native file formats that contain stitch and machine functions, and displaying them as stitches on a garment on a website is no easy task and isn’t a supported function in off-the-shelf e-commerce solutions. Some embroidery software suppliers offer an application program interface (API), which offers a variety of functionality, but can also be costly to implement.
Another challenge when taking your business online is mastering embroidery personalization cost-effectively. Communicating a customer’s requirements, quoting accurately, creating a visual for approval and then creating a file to run on an embroidery machine often make the process a loss for many businesses – it’s too labor intensive.
One way many businesses have tried to overcome this problem is to allow customers to self-serve online. It’s common practice on many sites to allow customers to choose a garment and then use a basic text field to type the required wording for the personalization. This is simple and easy to implement. Once the order is placed, the text file is saved with the order and must be translated in an embroidery software package to create an embroidery file for use on the embroidery machine. Although this is a simple solution, it’s also simplistic. It doesn’t create a visual to give customers a true representation of what they’ll receive, and because it doesn’t create a stitch file, there’s a significant part of the process that must be done manually, which is costly.
The real solution is to generate an embroidery file on your website; the file is generated by an embroidery application running on the cloud using an online designer tool. There are online designer tools that support embroidery. Not only can your customers select from a range of garments and accessories and type in their own personalization, they can also see realistic embroidery in their selected thread colors. But the real winner here is you receive a real embroidery file that the customer has created for you (complete with pull compensation and underlay) that you can download and save. This is the only way to make low-quantity embroidery personalization profitable. The good news: There are affordable, fully hosted e-commerce solutions created for the decorated-apparel industry that support embroidery. Do your research to find the online designer that best suits your business’s needs.
Martin Kristiaman is the CEO and managing director of DecoNetwork, www.deconetwork.com, which provides an online design, e-commerce and business management software solution for decorators.