Vistaprint Goes Agency With Acquisition of Design and Advertising Services Platform 99designs
Despite strong mask sales, Vistaprint's 2020 fourth quarter earnings were down 32 percent year over year, while its fiscal year sales are down 11 percent. But that hasn't stopped the custom print and merchandise company from making strategic investments. The latest of these is its acquisition of 99designs, a global creative platform that connects customers to freelance designers.
The deal, announced today, will allow Vistaprint to begin offering design services to its 20 million customers. 99designs, based in Australia and backed by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Accel Partners, boasts a network of freelancers in logo design, custom apparel, custom printed materials (including packaging and labels) and a variety of other advertising and design services. The platform allows customers to hire a designer directly or open a brief to and select from ideas submitted by designers.
99designs' website features a robust search engine for customers to find designers specializing in their specific needs. Under "categories," for example, you can select "T-shirt," "clothing or apparel," "merchandise," "cup or mug" or "sticker," bringing up any designers offering those services and displaying previews of their work. The search engine returns more than 3,000 results in those categories. There are also separate dropdowns for other design categories and for various industries.
Up until now, Vistaprint's design capabilities were mostly limited to basic customization of products using logos and graphics customers had to upload themselves. The 99designs acquisition greatly expands those capabilities, positioning Vistaprint as a full-service creative agency able to execute far more complex projects and designs while still providing a full range of promotional products. That makes Vistaprint more of a direct competitor to promo businesses operating under an agency-type model or offering design services.
“In order to become a more complete marketing partner to our customers we are augmenting our internal teams with 99designs’ wide-reaching community of talented freelance professional designers who are experts for more sophisticated design projects,” said Ricky Engelberg, chief marketing officer for Vistaprint. “As businesses grow, the complexity and importance of their design needs also grow. To meet these needs as professionally and seamlessly as possible, we sought a partner that not only brings a scalable network of high-quality talent for design services, but who shares our vision for providing best-in-class solutions to business owners throughout their entrepreneurial journey."
It's unclear how Vistaprint plans to integrate 99designs' services into its platform, but both businesses will continue operating independently even after that happens. (Customers can continue using Vistaprint without using 99designs, and vice versa.) According to a press release published at StreetInsider, Vistaprint is planning "significant post-acquisition investment to expand the 99designs team."
“The driving force behind Vistaprint’s future with 99designs is our passion to help small businesses,” Robert Keane, founder and CEO of Vistaprint and parent company Cimpress, said in the press release. “We know how critical great design is for entrepreneurs on their journey. 99designs and Vistaprint have shared values and vision to be a trusted partner to business owners and creators, which lay the foundation for something bigger and more valuable than either of our teams could create alone."