Three expensive lessons from running online stores
It’s hard to come by practical info for executing online store sales.
There are a lot of tools, options, and choices – but what really matters is how the rubber meets the road.
After millions of dollars in Merch sales, thousands of successful stores – and some duds, too – we’ve got three simple tips for getting the most out of your online stores.
Use the right Terms & Conditions
Terms and conditions tend to spook a lot of shops.
They’re often written in legalese and seem like they need to be vetted by a top-dollar lawyer.
But they’re far more useful than this – and much easier to make. Why?
Because your terms and conditions are a user’s manual for customers.
This is an opportunity to set expectations, clarify important dates, and clearly outline the scope of the service you provide to your customer.
At a minimum, here’s what you should cover:
- All important dates and contact info
- Minimum order quantity
- How fulfillment works
- Your return policy
- Any caveats or details customers should know
A word about using minimum order quantities
Online stores are almost impossible to run successfully without minimum order quantities.
We see a lot of shops wind up in a situation like this: you have a successful store, but the orders drip in slowly over a long period of time.
Should you simply print one piece at a time as orders come in?
Set a minimum order quantity to fulfill.
How exactly you do this is up to you – but we recommend one of two strategies:
- Print and fulfill once the store reaches a dollar amount of sales. Set an arbitrary sales target – $1,000, for instance – that will act as a “trigger” for your shop to fulfill orders. You can substitute dollar amount for quantity. The goal: you only fulfill stores that reach a certain level of sales.
- Print and fulfill an agreed upon amount – then pick-and-pack as needed. This is a classic fulfillment model: you print and invoice a set quantity of items (let’s say 300 shirts) – then pick-and-pack as orders roll in. There’s more risk involved here for the customer, but much less risk for the print shop. The goal: you only fulfill actual orders, but you print in batches.
Use your terms and conditions to make executing this strategy easier. Don’t get soaked by online stores!
Timing marketing and promotions
Run toward: Mondays!
While year-over-year data is very noisy after 2020, we’ve noticed two persistent trends:
- Mondays are consistently great for Merch store sales. We’ll let the social psychologists dive into why this is – but it’s obvious: sales are much higher on Mondays. This holds true across all online sales platforms. Some other sources report that Wednesdays and Thursdays are lucrative, but our data shows Monday is still going strong!
- Some holidays aren’t great for online merchandise sales. We’ve noticed an interesting trend: merchandise sales dip around holidays, particularly Christmas. Avoid campaigns that are “crowded out” by big holidays and busy events.
What this adds up to: use Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to go hard on marketing your online stores.
As always, the best advice we can give for marketing your online stores is this: use high-profile customers to help you promote.
We use the example of Lucky Prints.
They have 3k followers.
But their client, Half Acre Brewing, has 75k!
That’s potentially 2,500% greater reach and 2,500% more people visiting their Merch store.
Make a fulfillment plan – now!
The way that you prepare, pack, and ship merchandise matters a lot.
There is very little margin of error with online stores – particularly when you’re shipping hundreds of people their orders.
Spoilage is not an option!
The worst thing that can happen? A store is really successful – and you’re unprepared to capitalize on it.
It seems simple, but it isn’t! Your first few stores will be a learning process – so plan for extra time as you figure out the ropes.
There are a couple of hints that can help:
- Sort packing slips by size and quantity first – not garments. Put all of the single shirt orders together, and sort them by size (i.e. S, M, L). Lay the packing slips out and begin assembling the orders by size. Pack the most complex orders last.
- Have a plan for spoilage or missing quantities. “Someone always gets the short end of the stick,” Campus Ink manager and fulfillment expert Myla explained. “If a shirt is missing, you have to choose whose order will get screwed up – it’s better to have a person that ordered one or two items wait longer than to have someone with two dozen shirts get a messed up order.”
- Always bag-and-tag. Bagging and tagging adds a layer of cost and complexity, but it’s an important marketing tactic – and, more importantly, it acts as a final check against spoilage or misplaced orders.
Want more tips, tricks, and downloadable resources to help you sell more? We’ve got an in-depth guide.