Feedback on changes to the Spoonflower marketplace
To the Spoonflower Leadership team:
As Spoonflower artists, we welcome change and improvements to the Spoonflower marketplace. However, we also have some concerns about some aspects of the plans you shared in your email on Wednesday, 15th November. We believe we share the same aims as Spoonflower: to provide a marketplace where customers can easily find and buy good quality designs, which in turn generates the income to make Spoonflower a viable ongoing business, and a space in which artists like us have the opportunity to build a viable business of our own.
Below we share our thoughts and concerns in response to the planned marketplace changes, our suggestions to address these issues as you move forward with the changes, and finally propose longer-term changes to the marketplace to support artists and provide a better experience for customers.
Response to the planned marketplace changes
Firstly, we welcome the move to digital proofing. However, to support artists in understanding how their designs work with fabric, and to ensure the market place isn’t flooded with low-quality designs, we suggest there should be a requirement for a new artist to physically proof a certain number of designs before moving to digital proofing.
With the introduction of digital proofing, we can see the benefits of limiting the number of made-for-sale designs, and also feel that the idea of de-listing older designs to prompt a review makes sense. However, we feel your current plans for the implementation of this will have a significant negative impact on Spoonflower artists.
Many Spoonflower artists invest significant time in designing well-planned collections, and within those collections may have designs that haven’t yet sold, yet are integral in their marketing. The changes being implemented from 31st December, 2023, will affect long-term and newer Spoonflower artists in a variety of ways.
Recently you celebrated your 15th birthday by recognizing long-term Spoonflower artists who have been core to the success of the platform. However, the plan to de-list all designs over two years old without a sale or 50 favorites disproportionately affects those artists, who could see hundreds or thousands of designs de-listed, leaving holes in their collections, with no way to reinstate them in any reasonable timescale due to the 25-a-week limit. It will take years - if ever - for them to be able to offer those as complete collections again.
In addition, some artists have voiced concerns that they have invested a lot of money over the years to proof their designs to make them for sale, and are effectively losing “for sale” listing spots that have been paid for. For artists who have been on this platform for many years, with thousands of listings, that can represent a significant investment in their business that they could now lose overnight, with a large percentage of their “for sale” listing spots wiped out.
Anecdotally, many successful Spoonflower artists have said how it has taken them three years or longer to build up enough design inventory and develop their marketing to start seeing sales, including sales of older designs. Newer artists (e.g., those who joined between 2018-2021) will be managing the de-listing and re-listing of designs as they are still finding their feet with getting their business to the stage of being viable, including selling older designs for the first time and delivering a return on their investment (both in time and cost of proofing to date). In this case, they may be able to maintain their current collections within the 25-a-week limit, but lack of data on their designs and uncertainty of when de-listing could happen makes it much harder to plan ahead in management and marketing of their Spoonflower shops.
One of the biggest challenges for Spoonflower artists in marketing their business is directing people to shop at a website that currently has poor functionality for searching and filtering, especially within a specific artist’s designs. Yet many of us persevere despite these challenges, and to take away “for sale” spots we have financially invested in securing for our designs, before providing us with functionality to make it easier for our customers to shop, seems unfair.
Many Spoonflower artists have invested significant time and money in proofing up until now, in developing what they hope will be a long-term business and income stream from Spoonflower. De-listing in itself will force artists to review designs, weeding out designs from accounts that aren’t being actively maintained, and prompting those who do have active accounts to invest time into reviewing and re-listing. That will have a big impact on the quality and quantity of designs in the marketplace, before any made-for-sale limit is applied to re-listing.
In your email, you mention that roll-out of de-listing will be slow and that there are no guarantees whether a design meeting these criteria will be de-listed or not. As mentioned above, this level of uncertainty around de-listing, especially as we have a lack of data and analytics about our designs, will make it increasingly difficult for artists to manage and market any designs over two years old, as there is a risk that they will be unavailable for sale without warning. There are artists who will be planning to promote older designs for specific events (e.g., Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc.) or marketing an older collection, but without advance warning of de-listing, they will not know if the designs they are marketing will actually be available for a customer to buy when they visit Spoonflower.
While we understand that those designs could theoretically be immediately re-listed within the 25-a-week limit, with no data on when their designs were originally uploaded, nor reasonable notice ahead of a design being de-listed, they cannot plan ahead for how they will use their 25 weekly slots each week.
Ultimately, we do recognize the need for change on the Spoonflower platform; making it easier for customers to find what they are looking for and to shop benefits everyone. In order to do this, we feel the priority should be for Spoonflower to invest in listing, search, and filtering functionality to make it easier for customers to shop, and to give us the best chance to market and sell the designs and collections we have invested so much time in creating for the Spoonflower platform.
Immediate mitigation and ideas to support Spoonflower artists in continuing to develop successful businesses alongside these changes
As mentioned above, we are generally in favor of the move to digital proofing and introduction of a weekly listing limit, and we hope you are open to feedback and making changes to the implementation so that it can be a positive change for Spoonflower artists and provide a better experience for our Spoonflower customers:
- Introduce a threshold of physical proofing (e.g., 100 designs) before digital proofing is enabled for a new Spoonflower artist.
- Consult with active Spoonflower artists (both active in selling and/or regularly adding new designs) on how de-listing will affect their shops, ensuring you have feedback from artists who have been on the platform for various lengths of time and have various sizes of shops. Based on the feedback, evaluate alternatives to including re-listing within the 25/week limit.
- Provide data on designs uploaded in the design edit view, including date listed for sale, whether the design has ever sold, and the date it is marked for de-listing.
- Provide Spoonflower artists with the option of being notified a minimum of two weeks ahead of a design being de-listed so they can plan ahead for re-listing, especially if a limit applies to the number of designs that can be re-listed (e.g., email notifications for all designs due for de-listing within a specific week). Even better would be the ability to confirm you would like a design re-listed before the de-listing takes effect, ensuring there’s no gap in availability of a particular design.
- Provide better analytics to Spoonflower artists (e.g. sales of each design by product, no. of views in search results, views of design page, views of different products). Consult with active Spoonflower artists on what analytics would be useful and how to present them, so they can make better decisions about re-listing designs and marketing their Spoonflower shop.
Longer-term changes to support Spoonflower artists and improve the customer experience
In addition to the changes you are bringing to Spoonflower at the end of December, there are additional changes we believe would significantly improve the customer experience and support artists in better managing and marketing their Spoonflower stores.
Building on the tests you’ve been doing on linking color variations of one design together, it would be a significant improvement for both Spoonflower artists and customers to see all color and scale variations linked to one design. Giving Spoonflower artists the option to manage this at the back end in their Design Library, customer search results that indicate multiple colors are available, and adding functionality for customers to choose the color and scale of the print within one listing, would improve design management for artists and reduce overwhelm of search results for customers.
In addition, where a designer does have a whole collection, improving visibility of this for a customer could help with upselling, making it easier for them to find coordinating fabrics and home decor items.
There is also huge opportunity to consult with Spoonflower artists and customers to improve the presentation and search facilities within an artist’s individual shop front and collection pages, making it far easier for customers who come to Spoonflower through our own marketing efforts to find what they are looking for, make purchases, and be encouraged to come back and purchase more in future. The functionality described above is available on other print-on-demand sites, and it would be great to see Spoonflower moving in a similar direction.
Thank you for taking the time to review our response and concerns about the changes. We appreciate the opportunity Spoonflower gives us to sell our designs, but we also know that Spoonflower doesn’t exist without artists creating designs for the platform. We hope you will take on board our feedback and use it to help further develop your plans for changes to the marketplace so we can continue to work together to make Spoonflower a sustainable and viable business for everyone.
Helen Clamp (unicornfactoryuk) Contact the author of the petition