Invest in an Online Designer

Growing ever more popular, online apparel design tools empower clients to create stitchable and imprintable logos and graphics on a decorator’s website – and to then order the wearables on the Web. Is an online designer right for you? To find out, do the following:

1. CONSIDER THE BENEFITS. An online designer enables you to capture sales you may otherwise not get. Some shoppers prefer a Web-based ordering experience, and if your shop doesn’t offer it, they may go to a competitor that does. With a new generation of Internet-era buyers coming of age, the interest in online ordering is only likely to increase – something backed up by a Forrester Research Inc. report that reveals e-commerce spending in the U.S. will reach $370 billion by 2017, a 10% compound annual growth rate from 2012. Beyond helping to equip you for this buying reality, an online designer can reduce the time and cost you spend taking an order, says Brenden Prazner, product manager for DecoNetwork, an e-commerce solution that includes an online designer.

2. ANALYZE YOUR SITUATION. While the macro trend toward e-commerce is clear, you still have to determine if a Web-based designer is a good fit given your current and desired clientele. Start by asking clients if they’d use the tool. J.P. Hunt, marketing director at Inksoft – which offers an online designer solution – suggests that you also ask yourself questions like: What are the costs associated with investing in a design tool, and what’s the break-even point? How are companies using online designers successfully? How will the designer be promoted and deployed? What opportunities would be missed without the tool? “If your analysis shows that time and cost savings are reduced to a level where an online designer is paying for itself, then it would be a smart investment,” Hunt says.

3. SHOP SMARTLY. Trying to develop an online designer in-house or paying a software company that’s not specifically focused on the apparel-decorating industry to develop one for you can cost lots of time and money that ends in frustration. Instead, consider selecting a quality tool supported by a customer-friendly e-commerce platform that’s provided by a reliable software maker focused on this industry. Prazner says to look for a tool that allows for design in multiple mediums – embroidery, screen printing, direct-to-garment printing and so on – and that isn’t Flash-based. “With more mobile devices not supporting Flash, traditional Flash-based design tools aren’t effective,” he says. When analyzing designer options, Hunt says to “be sure to review what art is included and what costs are associated with adding art. Also, be aware of transaction fees.”

4. MARKET. If you invest in an online designer, you have to market the capability to generate business. Start by telling existing customers and prospects about the new tool. “Promote it on your business cards, flyers and e-mail signature,” Prazner says. Get information out on your social media channels, too; if the online designer supports social sharing, encourage your customers to use the capability to share their personalized designs with their social networks. Additionally, utilize online pay-per-click advertising, says Hunt, who further advises creating T-shirt design competitions involving customers and the design tool.