Marketing Your Online Store Merch Program
Online merchandising for organizations is a growing trend. For retail and B2B. Unlikely companies are trying to hijack streetwear brands and become lifestyle brands by selling their logoed gear. You can buy Tesla shorts, Dunkin’ joggers, KFB crocs, McDonald’s chicken nugget pillows and a Stouffer’s Mac & Cheese Sweatsuit. There is a brand design and merchandising Renaissance afoot. This blog by our friend and industry poet, Bobby Lehew, excitedly shares this wake-up call. We are living through “Merchmageddon!” But your merchandising effort will be in vain if you don’t think through and deploy a merchandise marketing strategy.
Here are Brand Fuel’s best practices and tips to help ensure your organization’s gear ends up in the wild and not gathering dust in a warehouse or in the back of a closet.
Let’s Start with PRODUCT.
Entertain. Nomenclature matters. You get product naming rights. Why call it “Hat with Logo” when it can be called, “The Crown of Creativity” or “Not Your Grandad’s Hat”?
Entertain. Copy matters. Why have a description read “Baby Onesie” when it could read “Baby Onesie: For that coworker with a new baby or for anyone in your office who acts like one.”
Entertain. Photography matters. Lifestyle photos, and in particular, actual pictures of your team using the gear, will heighten attention. Get creative and win them over. Take a cue from J Peterman. ps don’t forget the GIFs and video!
Products for tertiary audiences. Consider items that will appeal to children and pets. The pet industry is projected to grow from $216 billion in 2020 to $350 billion by 2027. The children’s apparel expects to see 6.96% growth annually through 2025.
Seasonality. Showcase products dialed into the seasons but remember, sweats might not sell in the southeast in February.
Inclusivity matters. Big and small. Male and Female. Over index on offering all sizes as well as male and female companion items.
Incorporate a monthly special/feature. Make this a consistent part of your marketing and landing page so the store remains fresh as well as builds excitement.
Customer segmentation. Target specific audiences with specific products.
Limited Edition. This is the elixir of FOMO. Our friend, Johnny Cupcakes, also a possible collaborator, does this with abandon.
Product Drops. Build momentum towards a launch by creating a product drop. These create maximum hype and usually happen IRL, spanning over a short period of time. The key is limiting the number of items and creating exclusivity for those at the ready to buy and engage.
Involve your organization’s departments in product selection. What do HR, Sales, Marketing, Facilities, Community Relations, etc. need? Offer them a freebie to provide insights and garner buy-in.
Refresh. It’s not just for PCs. Update the store with new products as dated items expire.
Mystery Gift. Have overruns of old shirts or other gear? Offer a “mystery gift” with purchase.
Postcard assault. Feature unique products or teases with discount codes for a ~$.59 per card, which includes delivery! This should be a monthly direct mail campaign where ROI is trackable.
Phygital marketing. Is your Digital Marketing effort looking for a boost? Try our “Do this, get that” strategy and make the “that” awesome products. Read more here.
Social Media engagement.
- Connect contests, surveys, engagement, etc. to rewards.
- Use rewards to get people to sign up for a class, webinar, program, etc.
- Add share buttons for social on each product page.
- Invest in social ads and advertise where your customers are.
- UGC (user generated content) is the way to really drive sales.
Enter to win. Email sign up, capture insights, data and more.
Pop Up banners. It may the only kind of banner advert that people like: discounts, sign-ups, welcome, first-timer, cart savers and even gamify with Spin to Win contests.
Where’s Waldo? Add your own mascot/icon to the store and have people search to find it. The first 100 to find it get an item from the store.
Email database purchase. Cross-sell to similar demos.
Offer free shipping or deep discount:
- At launch
- Back-in-stock notifications
- When customer might not be happy
Moment merch. Be prepared for those viral moments. What is trending and is there an opportunity to tie in branded gear to your store? Yes, we can get pages/products ready to sell, often within 24 hours.
Influencer marketing. Get authentic endorsements from your audience (Average Joe/Jane) or famous talents aligned with your brand. Drive traffic increase message and audience size.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Santa. They are expecting a deal – or something special, so if not a deal, consider a special product release. Incorporate with giving to nonprofit causes.
Yes, to all of this. Discount codes, free freight, buy one get/give ones, etc.
Last chance! Clearance pages are some of the most trafficked pages.
Direct Mail. Add coupons to your store through your direct mail campaigns.
Giving Back. Infuse Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives into your program. Buy one, give one. “Spend $100 and ___ will be donated to ___.”
Carbon offsets. Infuse Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) initiatives into your program. Feature our offset program or plant a tree with every purchase through our partnership with Treecycler.
Gifting. People love to shop, but they also love to gift. 68% of people consider “gift-giving” as one of their “love languages.” Leverage gift cards or wrapped products with personalized card.
Increase early attendance. “Sign up for ___ event before ___ and get a free ___!”
Employee Programs. Deduct purchase pre-tax from payroll. Send new employees a coupon for ~$150 for new gear on their first day and start the relationship off right. Let them choose!
Survey Enhancement. Connect your surveys to the store to thank respondents for their valuable feedback. Uncover more business insights as associated with the “law of psychological reciprocity.”
Online communique. Add links and images of products to e-newsletters, intranet feeds, blogs, social media, etc. Produce advertisements, featuring products being used by influencers in actual printed publications. Embed links to store in email, departmentally.
Employees as Models. Why pay for professional models to showcase your gear when your staff – the real people behind your brand – would love to be a part of the store?! Exchange fun photos of real staffers for free gear for them.
Exclusivity/VIP programs. Give special group access to new or limited-edition items, exclusive benefits, etc. It’s like an exotic spice. Use this program carefully and it will be a big driver of sales.
Feature product creation stories. Share maker and artist stories (scroll down to Easter Island Sound System video for example).
Supplement revenue through sponsorship. Offer discounts/coupons from brands who want to get in front of your customers but beware of diminishing value. Review deals and manage sends on their behalf. Coupons can also be added to shipments.
Live session Q&A. For product launches and opportunities to share special stories.
Artist collabs. Align artists with special designs on products. Add their signature and tell their story. Create limited edition sales and create FOMO.
Referral Program How are you thanking those who care enough to give you a vote of confidence? Connect branded gear to appreciation.
Customer Service. Get on offense. Surprise and delight those who have had a negative experience by sending them a gift.
Fan Loyalty Programs. Reward them for doing the things that help you with your goals – behaviors as well as spend.
Set up automated email campaigns.
- After signup email
- Abandoned cart email series
- Purchase follow up series
- Order confirmation
- Anticipation builder
Increase Average Order Value. Cross-sell and upsell. “Do you want fries (or a nugget pillow) with that?” and “Do you want to supersize that?
We realize this is a lot of information. Your merch program deserves your commitment to it. Your fans do too. Let’s create the kind of stuff that ends up highlighted on insta feeds, is worn on date night, lands in museums… Let’s feature your brand’s personality and deliver it to the world on gear artistically, meaningfully, humorously, irreverently, stylishly and ultimately, uniquely. email@example.com