Jefferson Graham
 
| USA TODAY
The on-demand website Zazzle has been churning out mugs, T-shirts and other products from people’s photos and images from partners like Disney, Harry Potter and Peanuts for years. Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit. And all of the sudden, personalized puzzles were red hot. “We’re talking a 4,000% increase in sales,” says Jeff Beaver, who co-founded Zazzle with brother Bobby. “We couldn’t keep up with the demand.” The same goes for on-demand masks, mugs and the like, which benefited from the stay-at-home orders. Instead of visiting retail stores, consumers could shop, and pick and choose, going to Zazzle artists and entrepreneurs to fine tune what they wanted. “We launched a whole line of PPE as fast as we could when the pandemic hit,” Beaver says.Paper products like cards and invites were always Zazzle’s most popular, but they took a hit when parties and events were canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis. The Zazzle artist community put out coffee mugs and masks that played on both the pandemic and how all of us were spending hours in video meetings. A cute coffee mug and mask that played on the times, “You’re on Mute,” became very popular, Beaver says.The masks range from $12 to $20. Streaming: Google tweaks cord-cutting device: Chromecast with Google TV will soon stream Apple TV+ video serviceMore: So you want a new iPhone? Apple’s got 7. How to choose the right one for youSales did initially take a big dip, down 50% when shelter-in-place orders first hit. But once the site’s designers began getting creative with pandemic and work/learn from home-themed products, Zazzle saw what Beaver says is a “remarkable” turnaround. Sales are now 50% higher than they were a year ago.Many people look to Zazzle to open their own storefronts, similar to Etsy, except they aren’t selling fully hand-crafted gifts, but instead products customized from their designs, such as logos that can be ordered on shirts or mugs and then manufactured on demand. Some 80 million units are made-to-order from Zazzle yearly.  They’re rare, but Beaver says there are several “Zazzle millionaires,” and 250 folks are earning six figures, all by putting Zazzle stores on their websites, or selling their wares at Zazzle.com. All told, Beaver says Zazzle has 30 million customers who have bought stuff from the website.Beyond COVID-related products, Zazzle also sells cards, leggings, socks, planners and even images that can be used as Zoom backgrounds. The success of Zazzle, which has been around since 2005 and is profitable, stems from a basic issue with retail, Beaver believes.”It’s hard for a merchant to perfectly imagine what demand will be like for every product that they’re going to offer in their store 12 months from now,” he says. “It’s tremendous waste in the supply chain, and that’s why our model is so efficient. Nothing is produced until somebody buys it.”Zazzle doesn’t need to have an after-Christmas sale to sell the excess inventory that didn’t sell.”From an e-commerce standpoint, this is a much more healthy way of the future,” he adds.  Headquartered in Silicon Valley – with offices also in Cork, Ireland, and Reno, Nevada –Zazzle partners with on-demand factories all over the country to get things made, and shares revenue with them, and the original designer. Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter. 


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