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PersonalizationMall.com makes gifts just the way you want them

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Updated: January 23, 2012 4:10AM



Technology is enabling a revival of an old-fashioned nicety — the engraved or embroidered personalized gift.

Online retailer PersonalizationMall.com, based in southwest suburban Burr Ridge, has enjoyed 20 percent revenue growth in each of the past seven years — including the depths of the recession — as the all-about-me trend has taken off. The company’s 2 million customers have led it to realize $85 million in fiscal 2011 revenues.

“We fulfill a niche, and our focus on technology lets a customer buy a one-of-a-kind product, get it fast and get it right,” said Dan Randolph, owner and president of the 250-employee company.

PersonalizationMall, which focuses on mechanized engraving and embroidering 4,000 gift products, has leveraged e-commerce, search-engine optimization via Google and near-real-time customer fulfillment to profit from selling personalized gifts and products.

It has done so partly by developing its own computer programming and investing in equipment that can process online orders and ship them out within a few hours.

“We have giant heat presses from Italy that can press 45 wood picture frames — each a different type and order — at a time,” said Randolph, 53, whose 12-year-old company is his second successful technology venture. “There is no software we could buy that works with all of these machines. I’ve been fortunate enough to hire intelligent computer engineers to get this done.”

Such efficiency is necessary, since the website gets 2,000 to 3,000 online orders a day on slow days and 10,000 a day in the busy holiday season. Some customers have ordered more than 90 times, and nearly half of all customers order more than once.

Picture frames are a big seller, especially for baby gifts. That’s where the company’s attention to detail comes in. The company’s website shows a product’s true color, and that color stays true in succeeding products.

“If you’ve bought a light-blue picture frame for a baby gift and you buy another one later for the second baby boy, it’s not going to look good if it’s a different color of blue,” Randolph said. “One of my biggest points is that if a product isn’t perfect, if you wouldn’t give it to your mother, we do it over.”

Indeed, he said the company’s success rests on dependable, unique and reasonably priced merchandise, and prompt and respectful customer service.

Technology enables customer-service representatives to answer email questions within four hours and to immediately credit a dissatisfied customer’s credit or debit card.

PersonalizationMall has started dabbling in selling its products to businesses, which account for 5 percent of its sales.

Tina Tully, a raw-material and packaging technician at Mars Chocolate North America division in Burr Ridge, said she was thrilled that her order for 20 ice-cream bowls was fulfilled within two days, followed by another 350 within a week.

“We sent high-resolution artwork files, approved proofs of the bowls’ design and had a sample bowl printed before production started,” Tully said. “PersonalizationMall executed the project flawlessly.”

Companies increasingly let people go online to personalize products, such as sneaker manufacturers letting customers choose shoe colors and Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. enabling customers to print a photo of themselves on a chewing-gum packet for special occasions at MyExtraGum.com, according to trendwatching.com.

The Internet has increased the value of personalization because people fashion their own music streams, Facebook updates and video shoots, said Nancy Wurtzel, a consultant to entrepreneurs.

“When I was a kid, we bought personalized bookmarks or key chains at the drugstore, which was great if you had a common name,” Wurtzel said. “Now, people use unusual name spellings and the technology enables personalized goods to be turned around very quickly.”

Besides, Wurtzel said, a personalized gift holds longer-lasting memories than giving the latest kids’ fashion outfit.

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