How to Set Up a Merch Store for Your Small Business
You’ve been running a small business & are ready to expand into the online world & grow your empire. But running a brick-and-mortar business, or even an informational website, works differently than establishing your own merch store.
What about your niche? Products? Distribution? Marketing? Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through the process from start to finish. If you’re ready to grow your business with an online store, here’s how to get started.
Pick Your Niche & Products
You may already have an established small business, but still need a focused niche to sell products online. Your niche will inform everything about your merch store, from what you sell to how you communicate with your audience. This is also a good time to research the type of products available to sell. If you run a low-carb lifestyle site & already offer courses, selling keto snacks & cookbooks could align with your small business.
Remember, your profitable niche can also be narrow & dig into sub-niches. Try targeting your keto business directed to busy Moms or struggling athletes on the cusp of success. The more you refine your focus, the easier it is to find your ideal audience & target market.
Choose Your Production & Distribution Method
Selling products online requires a production & distribution method to get your items out the door & into your customers’ hands. Creating & shipping everything yourself is a low-cost option but not always realistic if you’re struggling to find time for your business. What about outsourcing? Hiring people to help can get expensive quickly, especially if your sales are unpredictable.
Drop shipping is a fulfillment method where you don’t keep the products you sell in stock. Instead, when you sell a product to a customer, you end up purchasing the item from a third party, and it ships directly to the customer. Drop shipping offers the benefit of never having to handle the product directly so you don’t risk losing money over already printed products that might never sell.
You can also use a print-on-demand method that comes with the benefits of drop shipping. Upload your designs & creative assets to CustomCat & customize hundreds of products from mugs to T-shirts. We integrate directly with your eCommerce platform. When a customer purchases a product, we produce & ship it directly to them. We work as a behind-the-scenes arm of your business where your customer only sees your branding.
The upside to producing & fulfilling everything on your own is your profit margin on what you sell is higher. However, you will spend serious time & resources fulfilling everything yourself. Drop shipping & print-on-demand may come with a lower profit margin, but all the work is done for you.
Brainstorm a Domain Name & Shop Name
If you already have a website for your small business, you can set up your merch store directly on your site. However, it’s best practice to build a separate site for your store & turn it into a stand-alone business. It’s easier to brand your shop & connect with a specific audience when you set up an independent site.
Choose a domain name that aligns with your shop name & is easy to remember. Getting clever can get confusing to your customers quickly. In an ideal world, you want to name it something that aligns with your business & is to the point, like “New Keto Products” (NewKetoProducts.com) or “KetoDessertRecipes” (KetoDessertRecipes.com).
Pick Your Selling Platform
Selling online has never been more accessible with platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, and WordPress. You can get up & running in minutes to start uploading products. Each platform comes with its own tutorials & step-by-step instructions on how to get up & running quickly. For something more robust, hiring a designer from a site like Upwork can help get your eCommerce store off the ground.
Market Your Store
Marketing is typically the stage eCommerce store owners find challenging. Marketing your store takes serious time & effort to see results. The old saying, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” proves true here. Fortunately, there are dozens of proven techniques at your disposal. Here are a few resources to get started:
- A Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Ad Campaigns
- 10 Ways to Improve Your Business’s Social Media Presence
- Tips for Spreading the Word About your Ecommerce Business
- Marketing Your Business Post COVID-19
- Guide to Marketing on Etsy in 2021
Content marketing is also a powerful, effective, and low-cost way to start marketing your store right away. Content marketing creates & distributes valuable information to attract & motivate your audience to buy. You’re working on content marketing every time you make a blog post, video tutorial, or product guide that’s directed to your audience.
Focus on Customer Service
The cornerstone of running a merch store for your small business is customer service. Start with a rock-solid UX design or user experience that provides an intuitive & seamless shopping experience. UX can be as simple as making your shopping cart easy to find or making sure your layout is friendly & straightforward to navigate.
Beyond UX, you also need to define your shipping & return policies. Create a FAQ section, so customers know what to expect when they purchase from your business. Integrating customer service apps like chat functionality can also help elevate your customer service.
Analyze, Test, & Scale
Once you see results from all your hard work, it’s time to analyze & test your products. Use your Google Analytics or selling platform tools to see where your customers are coming from & where they land on your site. This is also the stage where you should test your marketing efforts. If Instagram isn’t bringing in any sales, automate it with your favorite social media tools & focus on something else instead. You may find your audience is more active on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Setting up a merch store for your small business isn’t difficult but does require a strategy & consistent focus to see results. What about you? What has been your experience setting up your own store?