After running close to 100 online stores over the past few years, we have learned a lot and continue to learn more with every new store we launch.
First, it’s important to identify whether it’s even the right option for you.
Once you’ve determined that an online store is right for you, here are some tips to hosting a successful store.
Know your Audience
We have a wide range of products and price points to meet the needs of your audience. Do you want to provide best value (lower price points) or are your shoppers more interested in brand names and retail styles? Have you had requests for specific items?
Full colour designs will generally be more expensive, if your audience is more price sensitive, you will want to stick to simple one colour designs.
How big is your intended audience? How many orders are you expecting? If you have previous experience with branded merchandise, how has it gone? What was the feedback? This information will help us help you select the right product mix for your store.
Don’t Overwhelm Them
There can be a tendency to offer lots of product and decoration options to increase sales, but this tends to work against you:
Retail Oriented Designs
Unless you’ve just launched your logo or you have a great fan base (like sports teams that will have players and fans wanting to wear the logo), chances are, most people won’t want to wear a billboard with your logo.
If it’s important to you to just have the logo, consider doing it distressed (applying a filter to make it look more worn), vintage (lighter ink coverage), small, unique location (shoulder, back yoke, hem line, pocket) or tone-on-tone.
If you run yearly stores or have more flexibility with your logo, consider doing different variations or designs each year. One of our yearly stores, North Peace Gymnastics Association (NPGA) runs a new design each year and maintains consistent sales year over year even though much of their audience is the same each year because long term supporters buy the new design each year, where they wouldn’t likely buy another item with the same logo each year.
We also see this with school stores which tend to have lower sales year over year because older children hand down to younger family members. Stores that run the same logo year over year have a higher drop off than schools that switch up the design each year.
Market, Market, Market
The more you can get the word out, the greater the sales. Email and social media help to share the link because they can quickly click on it rather than having to type it out. We can also give you a QR code if you are using printed materials so your customers can scan it to bring up the site on their phone or tablet.
Remember, if people get you message when it’s not convenient to shop, they may not remember it or know where to find it when it is convenient, especially with social media. If they come across it while scrolling as they wait in line at the grocery store, they likely aren’t going to place their order at that time so you will want to post it frequently while the store is open.
Extra communication in the last few days the store is open helps to alert those who haven’t yet placed orders. Because all orders are produced a the same time, we often can’t take late orders. We can look at re-opening stores but subsequent stores don’t generally have the same volume of orders so pricing will likely go up for those customers.
Pick the Right Timing
Part of timing is about when you want to have the product in hand but the other part is about when it is best for the person who will be marketing the store and your audience.
You want to ensure that your marketing person has sufficient time to do ongoing marketing of the store when it is open. If a store opens and communication doesn’t go out or only a couple of messages go out early on, we generally get requests to extend the store. While we can do this, it changes the date when products will be ready and those who made early purchases wait longer to get their items.
Also consider how much is going on for you end-consumer. School stores that are open during March Break will not do very well as families are travelling or working on childcare and not thinking about school at that time. We don’t see a lot of company stores run through summer as holidays can have people out of the office while the store is open. If it’s a fundraising store, consider the timing in relation to other fundraisers you have organized so you don’t overwhelm the same group of supporters with requests.