How to Sell Merchandise Online: 7 Easy Steps

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Merchandise can be a great way of making money and engaging with your audience. Here, we’ll explain exactly how you can make and sell merchandise online.

Engaging with your audience is key for any brand or public figure. Nobody wants to feel like they’re dedicating their time and attention to someone or something, and getting nothing in return. So, if you’ve managed to build up a loyal audience or fanbase, then the likelihood is you’ve considered selling merchandise online as a way of creating engagement and community – not to mention making some extra money, too!

Merchandise can be a great way of connecting with fans, and is a marketing tactic in its own right. After all, if you sell a t-shirt that features your brand or logo, and someone wears it out in public, they’re practically a walking billboard for you!

Merchandise is also a great way to inject your brand into people’s lives. Whether that’s clothes, pens, mugs, phone cases, or everything in between, branded merchandise allows you to be on literally anything and everything that people touch and use.

But with so many merchandise options available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. In this article, we’ll talk you through every step of how to successfully sell merchandise online – let’s go!

How to Sell Merchandise Online

  1. Design Your Merchandise
  2. Make Your Merchandise
  3. Create a Merchandise Store
  4. Showcase Your Products
  5. Price Your Products Fairly
  6. Package and Ship Your Products
  7. Create a Marketing Plan

#1. Design Your Merchandise

The first thing you’ll need to do is decide exactly what type of merchandise you want to make and sell. With so many different options, the possibilities are endless. So, take a look at what your competitors or similar brands are creating – both for inspiration, and to see if there’s a gap in the market.

The best way to make sure you’re creating merchandise that people actually want to buy is by asking your audience directly. Go straight to your audience via platforms such as Twitter or email marketing, and ask them what sort of merchandise they would like. Would they prefer a hat or a scarf? Would they like t-shirts or sweatshirts? You can also ask them more in-depth design questions, such as the type of designs they would like to see, as well as the colors and themes they would be most likely to purchase.

You know your brand better than anyone – so, once you’ve got an idea of the type of merchandise you want to create (and exactly what it is your audience would want to buy), you can begin mocking up designs. Remember to stick to your existing brand colors and themes; this merchandise is a reflection of you and the brand you’ve created, so you want to ensure it’s instantly recognizable.

Top tip!

If art isn’t your strong point, consider bringing in a professional designer to help you. If you do bring in an outside designer, remember to brief them as accurately as possible. Clearly explain exactly what you want, and provide as much context and imagery as possible. Consider creating a mood board full of your ideas and audience feedback to help make the designer’s job as easy as possible.

#2. Make Your Merchandise

Once you’ve decided on the merchandise you want to make – and have finalized your designs – you’ll need to get started on making the products. There are different ways you can make your merchandise that will depend on factors such as your budget and timescale.

The two most common options for creating merchandise are:

Print-on-demand service

A print-on-demand service is low cost, low risk, and easy to manage. You can select a print-on-demand partner (examples include Printful and Printify), who will automate production, shipping, and fulfillment for you. Whilst this is often seen as the easier option in terms of workload for you, the negative side is that the product and customization choices are often limited.

printful print on demand service
Sites like Printful will automate the production of your merchandise.

Manufacturer

Another option is to find a manufacturer for the specific product that you’re looking to get made. Using a manufacturer to create your product means you’ll need to take care of other tasks – such as shipping and fulfillment – yourself, or source another third-party company to help you. Using a manufacturer to create your specific product gives you far more options when it comes to creativity – however, it’s considerably more time, cost, and labor intensive.

#3. Create a Merchandise Store

Now that your products are well on their way to being in your hands, you need to start thinking about how you’ll actually sell them. It’s all well and good to have boxes of merchandise – and an audience who wants to buy them – but you’ll still need a solid platform to make sales. This is where you’ll need to learn how to build an ecommerce store to showcase and sell your merchandise.

Setting up an ecommerce store (an online store to sell your products) allows you to overcome hurdles such as geography and extensive overheads, which often come with opening a bricks and mortar store. Instead, an ecommerce store offers you flexibility, plus the chance to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Ecommerce stores are easy to use and customizable, and come with stellar help and support to boot. Plus, with a range of scalable pricing plans, there’s an option for every budget and skill level. Some of the most popular ecommerce store platforms include Shopify, BigCommerce, and Wix.

shopify simple theme
Shopify stores are responsive and come with plans and themes for all budgets.

#4. Showcase Your Products

In order to encourage people to actually buy your merchandise, you’ll need to ensure you’re presenting it to them in an irresistible way.

To do this, there are three key skills you’ll need to master:

Writing excellent product descriptions

Your product descriptions need to be convincing, attractive, and accurate. There’s no point lying or exaggerating, as this will just mean that customers will be disappointed when the product they receive doesn’t live up to their expectations.

Try to avoid product descriptions that are too long, or full of complex language and jargon – and don’t be tempted to include classic cliches. Everyone thinks their product is the “best thing ever”, but users aren’t stupid. Instead, make sure your product description includes as much information about the product as possible and effectively conveys what makes it so unique.

apple airpods product description
Apple makes it clear what sets their AirPods apart from their competitors.

Photograph your products

You want your product imagery to be an accurate representation of the merchandise you’re selling. Product photography is key to making sales, as people are unlikely to be willing to make a purchase without having at least seen a photograph of the item.

When taking photographs of your merchandise, you want them to be high-quality. Think about things such as lighting and location, and try to offer different angles and images of the product in situ so customers can get a true sense of what they’re purchasing.

fjallraven product photos
Fjallraven use high-quality photographs of their bags, taken from all angles.

Product categories

Product categories make it easier for customers to find the product they’re looking for, without having to go through every single item on your ecommerce store. You can create categories based on product type (clothing, accessories, stationery), price range, or even design.

When categorizing your items, think about what you would want to find if you were a customer. If you were looking for a jumper, would you want to be presented with just jumpers – or would you like options for different clothing and accessories, too? Remember, some products can appear in multiple categories – they don’t have to be limited to just one.

nike product categories
Nike makes use of multiple sub-categories to organize their products in a way that makes them easy to find.

#5. Price Your Products Fairly

One of the biggest decisions you’ll make when it comes to selling merchandise online is in the pricing of your products. If you set the cost too high, you’ll alienate your customers – and if you make it too low, you risk ending up in the red.

When deciding on the right price for your products, some of the key things you’ll need to take into account are:

  • The wholesale price of the product – how much did you pay for it?
  • Competitor prices – what are similar online merchandise sellers charging for these types of items?
  • Overheads – how much have you had to spend on elements such as storage and staff?
  • Market research – how much are your target customers actually willing to pay for specific products?

Top tip!

Consider the idea of charm pricing. Research shows that consumers pay more attention to the number on the left-hand side of the decimal point than the right – which is why so many products are priced at .99p. In the subconscious mind of a customer, £9.99 sounds like a much better deal than £10.00!

#6. Package and Ship Your Products

Packaging and shipping your products might not be the most fun part of creating and selling merchandise online – but it is very important.

We’ve all been there before. You order something online, only for it to take ages to turn up, or – when it does show – it’s poorly packaged, or has been damaged in transit. You don’t want your customers to experience this!

We know that people would like free shipping (who wouldn’t?!), but you need to determine whether this is something you can feasibly offer. If you’re keen to offer gratis shipping, consider upping the cost of your products slightly in order to cover your shipping costs – or offering free delivery as a reward when customers spend over a certain amount.

Flat rate shipping is a great choice if your products are all of a similar size and weight, meaning you can charge the same flat fee for every order. However, if you want to offer more real-time shipping rates, the best way to do this is by integrating your store with a shipping service.

It’s important to do your research when choosing a carrier to ship your products. Make sure you determine how trustworthy they are, the speed at which they can deliver, and their own company policies for the types of products they’re willing to carry. Popular carrier services include FedEx, United States Postal Service, and DHL Express.

When it comes to picking your packaging, remember that it actually serves two key purposes. Not only does it need to get your merchandise to the customer safely and undamaged, but it also acts as further marketing for your brand.

Make sure your packaging is sturdy and well-sealed, while being the right size, and as light as possible. Once you’ve covered the practicalities, you can start to think about the creative stuff; the colors, patterns, and designs that you can feature on your packaging to add to the customer experience.

glossier product packaging
Beauty brand Glossier has become famous for its iconic pink pouch packaging.

#7. Create a Marketing Plan

You’ve got your merchandise, picked your packaging, confirmed your shipping, set your prices, and populated your online store. Now, you just need people to buy your products! Nobody can afford to not invest in marketing, either with time or money – it’s the only way to get your brand out there in front of the people who will be likely to convert into customers.

We’ve listed some of the key product marketing tactics for you to consider below:

SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of optimizing your website to appear in search engine results. Incorporating everything from backlinks and keywords to user experience and page load speed, SEO determines how well search engines will rank you on their results pages. The higher you’re ranked, the more likely you are to get visitors to your website – and eyes on your merchandise!

Social Media

In today’s digital world, social media is a major part of marketing plans. Social media is a great way of connecting with your audience, allowing you to talk directly to them, and build communities of like-minded fans. You can use social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to showcase your products, offer behind the scenes content, and send out exclusive deals and promotions.

rayban instagram posts
Major brands such as Rayban use Instagram as a way of showcasing new products and collections.

PR

Public Relations (PR) is key for any brand. Getting the right people to talk about you can make or break your success. Network with key industry contacts and start forming relationships with key influencers, publications, and journalists in your niche, while encouraging them to write about your brand and merchandise. Sending out press releases and sending products for review are two key ways to get your brand featured in your target publications.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a great way to directly reach your audience. Offer them the chance to sign up to newsletters when they check out, or even provide an incentive to do so, such as “10% off when you sign up to our newsletter”. Don’t be tempted to spam people’s inboxes though – rather, only send out email newsletters when you have something to say, or new products to show off. Newsletters are also a great place to include bespoke offers or exclusive content for your subscribers.

Selling Merchandise Online: Summary

Selling merchandise online can be a great additional revenue stream. But, more than that, it can connect you with your audience in a new and exciting way.

Creating merchandise can be the perfect avenue for increasing your creative output, and cultivating a community of like-minded fans who can feel like an important part of your brand’s story.

To recap, when looking to sell merchandise online, the key things to think about are:

  1. Design Your Merchandise
  2. Make Your Merchandise
  3. Create a Merchandise Store
  4. Showcase Your Products
  5. Price Your Products Fairly
  6. Package and Ship Your Products
  7. Create a Marketing Plan