Cimpress Open (https://open.cimpress.io/) is currently in a beta-testing phase, and has not been actively promoted yet by the $1.5bn (£1.1bn) turnover group, which owns brands including Vistaprint, Exagroup, Pixartprinting, WirMachenDruck, Druck.at and Dundee-based Tradeprint.
It harnesses the Mass Customisation Platform (MCP) that grew out of the original Vistaprint business. Cimpress said that developing the MCP had involved a $1.4bn investment in technology and manufacturing know-how.
Some 46 million items were customised using the technology last year.
There are two aspects to Cimpress Open. The ‘merchant’ offering allows firms to embed Cimpress Partner Fulfilment APIs into their own web storefronts or apps.
Cimpress then manages fulfilment, production and delivery, which is in white label packaging.
While the product range available through Cimpress brands is vast, the Cimpress Open beta offering is currently restricted to a limited product catalogue comprising mugs, posters, business cards, t-shirts, tote bags and phone covers.
It has provided step-by-step details to merchants about how to seamlessly integrate its APIs.
Some of Cimpress’ own brands are already using the platform, with the Vistaprint, Pixartprinting and Druck.at logos appearing on the website.
The second aspect of the system is the ‘fulfiller’ option, which has potentially huge ramifications for the industry if it takes off.
Via the fulfiller route, specialist printers can make their own products available via the Cimpress merchant network.
“A worldwide network of merchants order products from our catalogue. When you add your products to Cimpress Open, you reach them and open up a whole new world of potential customers,” the firm said.
Cimpress founder Robert Keane has previously spoken about a future for the print giant that involves embracing “coopetition”, such as partnering with competitors.
One web-to-print expert said: “Theoretically rivals could be tapping into Cimpress technology and services. It’s a very ambitious and audacious offering.”
Cimpress subsidiaries including Exagroup and WirMachenDruck are already engaged with a network of third-party suppliers.
In a statement, Cimpress told PrintWeek that the beta-testing was at “a very early stage”.
“We have made good progress on its [Cimpress Open] development and have begun bringing Cimpress-owned businesses onto the platform. We are also in the very early stages of exposing the capabilities of the platform to companies not owned by us; companies that want to offer a diverse set of customised products to their customers, expand their reach or even enter new markets,” the firm said.
“We have a handful of partners who are working with us and are providing feedback throughout this beta phase which will continue for at least the next six to twelve months. The product set we’re testing is limited at this point. Over time, we intend to expand this because we know customers want access to a massive selection of products so they can meet the needs of their own customers.”
The group also recently added additional know-how to its senior management team when Christian Maas, the former chief product officer at Flyeralarm, joined Cimpress as vice-president of e-commerce.