I’ve been using Redbubble to create shirts and other products for more than a year now. But there are a few things about Redbubble that have been bothering me, so I’ve started trying out Threadless Artist Shops to see if this solves some of the problems I’ve had. Here’s my experiences.
TL;DR Redbubble generally wins in most categories but I’ll continue to use both.
The biggest advantage Redbubble has is the ease of use for the creator. Uploading products is quick and simple, and the interface makes it easy to customize designs onto a range of products.
Threadless Artist Shops on the other hand, is a truly painful experience for the creator. The website is very slow, to the point of frequently timing out. I frequently encounter server errors at multiple points in the product creation process. I’ve had to delete whole products and start again because the product wasn’t processed correctly and showed as “broken”.
Choosing colours is like pulling teeth, as there’s a slow server call for every colour you pick from the swatches. Honestly it is all so bad that I am finding myself selecting less products on the creation page in the hope that it will mitigate the performance issues and server errors on the next step.
These are all fixable software performance issues. Maybe they could use my consulting help? 🙂
Redbubble also offers better customization for non-apparel products like stickers and mugs. But I like that on Threadless Artist Shops I can choose which t-shirt colours will suit my product and make the other colours unavailable. It means every selection my customer makes will look good.
Honestly if Threadless’ UX team got together with Redbubble’s software engineering team they’d probably make the best product ever. But in this case, Redbubble wins for creators hands down because it’s just too hard to get around the woeful performance issues of Threadless Artist Shops.
The other strong point for Redbubble is that there’s a much better chance of strangers finding your product and buying it. I get one or two sales a month from Redbubble on average without having to do any of my own marketing. Compare this to Threadless Artist Shops – I have had the same products there for almost a year now and had zero sales.
My most popular items are always stickers, and I’ve heard this from other artists who use Redbubble too. Threadless doesn’t offer stickers, but financially speaking this isn’t a big advantage for Redbubble because I make less than a dollar per month from stickers anyway.
Redbubble is very popular now and customers will often buy products from other artists in the same purchase to save on shipping.
To compensate, Threadless Artist Shops writes thoughtful articles with marketing advice and sends them to creators on a regular basis. They also send out occasional vouchers which creators can use as part of a marketing campaign, which I think is pretty cool. These are both really nice things, but as a creator neither of these has helped me with the bottom line so I have to hand this one to Redbubble too since it requires zero effort on my part.
This is where Threadless Artist Shops really shines, and I think this is where I can tell that these services are aimed at slightly different sales models. While both services let you have your own homepage for your products, the Threadless shop acts more like a closed system, whereas the Redbubble shop makes it clear that you are constantly browsing all of Redbubble.
This means that it’s harder to keep your customers looking at your own products on Redbubble, even if that’s what they’re trying to do! I’ve had many people ask me how to find my other products on Redbubble even if they are already looking at one of my products at the time.
The reason for this is that if you use any of the navigation menus, they are applicable to all Redbubble products. So if you go to Mens > Shirts, you will see all men’s shirts on Redbubble. If you do the same on Threadless, you will only see men’s shirts created by that artist – you stay in their shop.
From an aesthetic perspective, I prefer the Threadless shop as well. It’s less cluttered, and it focuses on the product design. It’s kind of nice that they show the shirts on a model in Redbubble’s store, but at the same time I kind of don’t care – I know what a t-shirt looks like on me by now and I don’t look like any of these models, especially the male one! (I prefer to wear men’s style t-shirts)
So Threadless wins this one for me, although I’m not convinced my customers feel the same way yet.
The shirt colours available from Redbubble are frankly kind of ugly. Most of my designs are tailored for black or white backgrounds for this reason.
I LOVE the shirt colours available from Threadless. There are delicious aqua and berry colours, as well as neon, beige, crimson…it really expands what I can do when I have a better choice of canvas. This isn’t even the full range below, it’s just what I customized for two of my shirts.
I’ve bought a lot of Redbubble products in the past and I’ve found the quality to be pretty hit-and-miss. The bad ones were the graphic tee (so much pilling), the tank top (pilling on back), the classic men’s tee (not durable), and the chiffon top (awkwardly short). The good ones were the tri-blend tee and the women’s scoop neck shirt. You do end up paying more for these but it’ll last a lot more washes than the others.
I haven’t received my Threadless Artist Shops tee yet so I have yet to judge. But I have bought Threadless shirts in the past from their main store and the quality has been good.
Pricing is pretty similar but there are some important differences. Basically Redbubble’s cheap stuff is cheap, and Threadless’s expensive stuff is less expensive. For comparison (in USD):
Classic / Unisex / Regular t-shirt:
Redbubble – $17.39
Threadless – $20
Redbubble – $26.92
Threadless – $25
Women’s fitted t-shirt:
Redbubble – $21.21
Threadless – $20
Premium (men’s and women’s):
In most cases, Threadless ends up being a little less expensive. However, the shipping costs are a different story.
Shipping to Australia (1 shirt):
Redbubble – $4.42
Threadless – $9.95
The special offers make a big difference too. Redbubble has a different discount offered every day, often slashing prices across all products by 20% or more. Threadless doesn’t do this, but they do sometimes give the creator a voucher to offer to customers as part of marketing.
I should stress that the above are the default prices and the creator has full control over the price that they set. The default setting for Redbubble is 20% markup but the Threadless default setting is 33% markup. So in most cases the base cost is actually cheaper for creators with Threadless, which means we can offer a cheaper cost than Redbubble and pocket more profits.
There are a few of similar services online so it might be worth exploring a little more, and if anyone knows of a better alternative to both then let me know! There are also services like Threadless (the main store) that let you submit a design and if it passes muster then it get marketed as part of a limited set of designs. I’ve never done this so I don’t know how well that works, but it is a lot more effort especially if you’re not really in it for the money.
For the moment I think I’m going to keep using both, but primarily I’ll use Redbubble because the performance and bugginess of Threadless Artist Shops makes it just too painful and slow to use regularly. But I’ll use Threadless Artist Shops if I want to take advantage of the better colour range of t-shirts.
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