How CustomInk is doubling mobile traffic and sales

July 20, 2016 11:33 AM

Consumers connect with online custom apparel e-retailer CustomInk LLC via a mobile device at some point in their shopping journey 25% to 50% of the time, says Sean Murphy executive vice president of e-commerce for the custom apparel and accessories merchant.

Mobile sales and traffic have doubled in the past year for the retailer of custom-printed T-shirts and other apparel, Murphy says. According to the 2016 Mobile 500 available on, CustomInk’s 2015 mobile sales totaled $45.4 million. Much of the retailer’s mobile growth is a result of more mobile visits and sales from the same customers, he adds.

“People are visiting us three times before buying when they used to visit us twice,” he says.

CustomInk is the nation’s 125th largest e-retailer with annual web sales of $273 million in 2015, according to the 2016 Top 500 Guide, and has grown at a compounded annual rate of 35% since 2011. CustomInk operates a pure responsive site in-house and forecasts its mobile-influenced sales, or sales where a mobile device played a role leading to purchase, to reach nearly $100 million this year. Responsive design is a format that adapts the look of a retail website to the device the consumer is using. It uses one code base, meaning retailers don’t have to operate several sites to account for the many types of screens consumers use to access the internet.

“On the sales front today, everything is cross-device,” Murphy says. “It used to be just the home computer and work computer, but now mobile is more often becoming a consumer’s home base for connecting with us.”

CustomInk says sales from smartphones account for a little more than double that of tablet sales. CustomInk attributes much of its smartphone sales growth to recent site enhancements.

For example in summer 2015 CustomInk relaunched its group ordering capability and optimized it for mobile devices. The tool enables a shopper to collect sizes and payments from multiple shoppers for a single order, such as one made for a baseball team or corporate event.  Once a consumer starts a group order she can share it with team or organization members via social media or by emailing or texting a link to the order. Once everyone has signed up and paid, the organizer can place the order.

 “Before, one person had the burden of ordering and collecting all the sizes and customization [such as names or colors] and the money on their own,” Murphy says. “Now you can send a text message on the way to softball practice with the order link and ask everyone to fill out their orders and you’re done.”

In spring 2015, CustomInk also began working to improve its mobile custom design capabilities.

“It's been iterative so there's no specific date” when all the improvements will be launched,  Murphy says. During the last year CustomInk focused on making the CustomInk Design Lab what Murphy calls “thumb friendly,” meaning a consumer can create his own design on his smartphone using mainly just his thumb. Changes included placing controls and calls to action such as adding text, art and names to a product within a thumb’s reach and making the tappable icons larger to accommodate a shopper’s thumb. 

The mobile conversion rate from the tool has increased 50% since CustomInk began optimizing the feature for smartphones, “Now you can design an amazing T-shirt with your thumb. Not only are we mobile first, we are thumb first.”

CustomInk is ranked the 38th largest apparel e-retailer in the U.S. by the IR’s 2016 Online Apparel Report.












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