The parent company of the customization website Vistaprint.com, which employs 850 at its North American headquarters in Lexington, is set to reorganize under a new name and is spending hundreds of millions of dollars beefing up its systems, much of it in Massachusetts.
On Monday, Paris-based Vistaprint NV will become Cimpress NV. The company, which allows users to order small batches of customized business cards, signs, T-shirts, and other products online, said it is making the change after acquiring similar companies in Brazil, Europe, and Japan.
Vistaprint will remain the company’s consumer brand in North America.
Cimpress’s customers range from individual consumers seeking a single item to small businesses that want things like calendars and shirts stamped with their brand.
Cimpress also is embarking on a major project to improve and standardize the online interface and the back-end system it uses to turn customers’ designs into products. While each foreign subsidiary will retain its own brand name, every company under the Cimpress umbrella will eventually use the new software, starting with its planned debut in June 2016.
“Before, you couldn’t distinguish between our brand and the operations that powered it,” said chief executive Robert Keane, who founded the company in 1995. “The idea is to disentangle them, take the technology that’s driven us from the time we were a start-up, and package it up into a platform that extends across many brands and can be used in different applications.”
The project will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and require Cimpress to hire a number of software engineers in Massachusetts. Vistaprint is scheduled to move into a new headquarters in Waltham next September.
The company, which churned out 40 million orders and made about $1.5 billion in revenue last year, said it expects the standardization effort to pay off in the long run by reducing costs and production delays.
For customers, the software upgrades will mean more options to customize products and more realistic-looking previews online of the products they design.
The company hopes that its new platform will make it cheaper and easier for mom-and-pop shops to hire Cimpress to produce some of their customers’ orders, giving it a cut of local printers’ market share.
Eventually, Cimpress might even sell its software to other companies, opening up new revenue streams.
Keane said Cimpress’s main competitive advantage remains its sophisticated computer-managed manufacturing process, which allows the company to schedule, print, and package millions of unique products without pausing to adjust equipment between each order. Because such expertise is so valuable — and so expensive to build — Cimpress said it will move away from its strategy of reeling in customers with free initial orders.
“We realized the strength of our brand goes way beyond price,” Keane said. “We still want to offer good value, but we’re moving toward having much more customer service and higher-quality products.”
Despite making physical products in an increasingly digital world, Keane predicted that Cimpress’s core business isn’t going anywhere; business cards are an enduring social norm, and banner signs remain far cheaper than outdoor LCD displays.
“Some of the products we make are not going to go digital in my lifetime,” Keane said. “I don’t think I’m going to be wearing digital shirts anytime soon.”