Even Cafe Press gets that it’s about listening to the customer…

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As I dive into the culture of service, it’s hard to ignore the culture of corporate America. Things are loosening up, a bit. Heck, one of the most uptight PR firms on the planet last week told their employees they could actually wear jeans every day. They may be ordering hockey pucks in hell.  

But you could say we’ve become a tee-shirt culture — more casual, more expressive, more personalized.

You know who got this first? CafePress.com, which launched in 1999 as one of the early-adopters in moving retail commerce online, allowing consumers to do their own swag, their own way. I’ve bought how many shirts from them? Tons.

Fourteen years later, the Granddaddy of personalized retail e-commerce is making a pretty interesting pivot as they launch CafePress 2.0. I asked them why the change.

“It’s been 14 years during which we’ve played a key role in democratizing e-commerce, with over 3 million shopkeepers that have been actively involved in selling merchandise utilizing our unique print-on-demand capabilities,” Sumant Sridharan, the President of CafePress.com and the chief architect behind the new platform recently told me.

Think about this: Lots of merchandise – more products are produced on CafePress in 3 minutes than the GAP produces in a year. But what’s interesting about the new platform is that it’s driven by today’s consumers, our habits online, how we share and through the grassroots we decide what’s popular and what’s not. In other words, consumers DIRECT the site, NOT the other way around!

So what’s the new platform? It’s all about shring. Social sharing, with a first-of-its-kind e-commerce activity stream that provides designers with up to date information on which of their products have sold, received social interactions, and more.

No more shops. Customers just wanted uploads. Done. CafePress’s new image analysis system that analyzes graphics, photography and other images for dozens of attributes and configures them in real-time onto CafePress’ extensive portfolio of over 500 base goods and push it into their marketplace.

Amazing how listening works, huh?

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