This Makeup Brand’s Movement for Inclusivity — Podcasts

This Makeup Brand’s Movement for Inclusivity — Podcasts


Tomi Gbeleyi is driving change with her beauty brand MFMG Cosmetics by creating highly pigmented products that cater to those with deep skin tones. Initially running a blog focused on inclusion and diversity within the beauty community, Tomi caught the attention of the New York Times and soon her readers demanded the creation of her own products. In this episode of Shopify Masters, Tomi Gbeley of MFMG Cosmetics shares her journey from viral social movement to the development and launch of her inclusive makeup line.

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Show Notes

It all started with a movement 

Felix: Tell us about the blog and Instagram account that came before MFMG Cosmetics.

Tomni: The Instagram page actually started first. And what I was doing at the time was sharing content geared towards women with darker skin tones. I was actually sharing different makeup artists around the world that were doing great work and promoting them, shouting them out, sharing their work and it took a life of its own. I soon got 10,000 followers. It was something that people were really enjoying. This was around 2015 when I started this Instagram page. There weren’t a lot of online communities that were exclusively focused on product recommendations and makeup shopping for darker skin tones.

Two models wears products from MFMG Cosmetics.
 Representation and inclusive within the beauty community is the heart of what MFMG Cosmetics was built on.  MFMG Cosmetics

Felix: What was the technique that you were doing to build up your Instagram page?

Tomni: The blog was where the original content was. So the way I like to describe this work is that a lot of women, especially women with darker skin tones when they go makeup shopping, it’s like they’re trying to hack the system to make it work for them. So what would happen a lot of times is let’s say the shopper is going out and is looking for a new lipstick. A nude color can actually look different on different skin tones. There were a lot of these exchanges going on, the way friends would do, and I was trying to scale up that conversation. So the original content was on the blog, where I would say, okay, if you have this type of skin, here are the best foundations for you. If you are oily and you have a darker skin tone, if you have dry skin, here is the content for you. And then on the Instagram, it was just to shout people out that were doing good work. So the same as someone that has a photography page that’s shouting out photographers, similar idea but just with makeup artists and specifically those that were doing makeup on darker skin-toned women.

Felix: What was your process there for figuring out what kind of content to create for your blog?

Tomni: There is actually a bit of a story behind the blog. What spurred me to start the blog, at first it was just a fun thing, creating this community and page that was growing quickly as I was running a campaign that was noticed by the New York Times. So this was in 2015, one of the major makeup companies, they had featured a Sudanese model on their page and this was before you could moderate comments on Instagram. So the model actually got a ton of racist comments and stuff about her lips, so I just started this campaign that was calledI Love My Big Lips, and a reporter for the New York Times was doing a story about diversity in the beauty industry, how Instagram was becoming a new mode of communication for brands and bullying, and she had reached out to me as part of the story. I think once that happened, that gave me the confidence to deliver even more value for people, so that’s what motivated me to start the blog as well and create original content.

Felix: What is required for someone out there that may also have an idea for a movement to get it off the ground?

Tomni: What I did there was basically started the hashtag associated with it. I think a lot of times, people are wary of doing really long posts on Instagram. If you do have a following where they’re interested in what you have to say, I find it doesn’t matter. They would actually read your long captions. So I wrote a pretty in-depth story in that post of how I was bullied when I was younger for having bigger lips, and it’s unacceptable that this was happening to this model and she was just trying to do a job and people were attacking her on Instagram and attacking the company. Now that I think back on it, it was a heartfelt story of my experience. And at that time, I think the page was at 10,000 at that time, so a lot of people felt a connection to this story because it was personal. And then, they started sharing their stories too, and that’s what caught the attention of the New York Times.

Felix: What made you decide to start a business? 

Tomni: For me, it wasn’t really just the buzz. For me, it validated the value. I think ultimately there’s sort of a glorification of being an entrepreneur. A lot of people think it’s about the founder, but ultimately it’s about the value you’re providing for others. And with that New York Times feature, we ended up getting a ton of articles after that. But for that first one, what it validated for me was the value of what I created because I didn’t know the value of it at the time. I just thought, hey, this is really cool. A lot of women connect to the stories I’m sharing. A lot of women have had similar experiences, but I didn’t know the value of it or that it would even be a way to attach a monetary value to it. So having the reporter do this in-depth story about diversity and beauty, that was when the value of what I was creating really stuck for me.

Felix: How did the business start? 

Tomni: My first thought was just to go through content marketing because at first, I realized I’m building this great thing on Instagram, but if the Instagram platform disappeared today, I don’t even know how I would connect with this audience. So the very first thing I wanted to do was just to create a way where the audience would be coming to visit me for my own original content. My first initial thought was a blog. The very first post, I believe I had 1,000 readers, which to me was just crazy. So content marketing was definitely the first path that I went down. I actually got a volunteer team of about 14 writers from the community because so many people were excited about this and wanted to help. Our initial idea was sort of like be the BuzzFeed for makeup for darker skin tones, have all these stories of celebrity makeup tips, all of those things. Content was actually my first play if you will.

Felix: How were you driving the traffic from your Instagram, which is where your audience existed at that time to your own content and your own platform on your own blog?

Tomni: I thought content marketing was going to be the business. I was already getting offers to advertise these sponsored posts. So in my mind initially, the blog was going to be the business. In terms of driving traffic from Instagram to the blog, a lot of what I was doing was starting with low-hanging fruit like giveaways because I was getting free products from brands to promote to my audience. And I was also asking my audience what they wanted to see. I knew a lot people wanted product recommendations. I was actually testing products before writing a blog post, I would test it with my audience and post a snippet of it. Let’s say I wanted to do five top foundations for dry skin. I would actually make that into a visual, put it in my community Instagram page, see how many people respond to it. And then, I would write the article about it, versus if I put another post about hyperpigmentation next to that one, if a lot of people didn’t comment, then I would not write the story on that. 

Felix: How did you interview for the writers and how did you manage a team of 14?

Tomni: I was working full-time, so I did not manage them very well, which is part of why I ended up actually moving towards ecommerce, so it was a mess. Needless to say, there were a lot of different opinions. The editor-in-chief was still me. If I could go back, I would have just hired one of the girls that was really good and made her the editor-in-chief. What ended up happening was I had a few writers that were really good and committed, and some of the others because it was volunteer, they wouldn’t be putting their stories on time. It was a lot to manage and a lot of people to manage as well, so we were putting out a lot of content but there wasn’t always clear direction for the team, which sort of led me… A few months in, I was making some money here and there. People were paying us to put out content. But I saw that lack of direction and I actually decided to let everyone go and redirect what I wanted to do and which is how I ended up with actually creating products because that’s what a lot of our customers were asking for. But I was really scared of going that direction because I just felt that I don’t have the domain expertise.

The journey of creating beauty products 

Felix: What was the process like for moving away from content to creating your own products? 

Tomni: It took me about a year to make the transition because the content was already working. I was already getting a few contracts here or there, and I had a team. So it was difficult for me to make that leap, but the customers really kept asking for it. Under different posts, they would leave comments about, “When are you coming out with your own product” but I was really scared. It was really something that I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know who I was supposed to talk to. But what really encouraged me to make the change was actually when my Instagram page, I don’t even know what was going on. I think they were doing some kind of glitch where my account was compromised and my page got deleted. I actually cried that day and lost 100,000 at the time.

I was bad at actually counting up the hours I was spending on this. So when the Instagram account went down, that was a rude awakening for me because I realized just how much time and effort I spent trying to grow this community and provide value to people. And at that time, I wasn’t even really looking at my revenue numbers. It was just about moving this thing forward. So once the account went down, that’s when I was really focused on building a brand because I needed to build a standalone community. I need a brand that has an identity and not just something that’s dependent on a social media platform to exist. So that was a really rude awakening. It was pretty… I actually cried that day. The way I got it back was also ridiculous. Try and explain to them I was a real person and I had this community, and I wasn’t a spam account. And eventually, I got it back. So once I got it back, I feel like my engine was just raring to go and I was like I’ve got to do this. I have to not be scared.

A selection of high pigmented lip products from MFMG Cosmetics.
 Tomi Gbeleyi leveraged her sales and marketing background to find and cold call beauty companies to find the right production partner. MFMG Cosmetics

Felix: When someone wants to build a brand outside of just their social media following, where did you find you need to invest your time differently?

Tomni: At that time, I just had this blog and I had Instagram, there was no clear identity of the brand, so the first step was building in terms of the marketing materials. The first thing I actually did was build a brand book. I didn’t have any prior experience before building it. I actually just went online on Google and looked up brand case strategies for Lululemon and Nike, and I actually came across Pinterest. They have actually their brand guideline and branding guidelines on the website, and that was some of my first steps. I tried to look at some other brands online, whatever files I could find. My brand colors, my brand story, my brand vision, our brand spiel, I also put in there our buyer persona of just different fictional characters. I would watch YouTube videos and write down what potential customers were saying. 

Felix: When you talk about the buyer persona, you mentioned that you were running down sentences that people in this space were saying. Why was this important for you to do that?

Tomni: It was important for me, especially because I was putting out so much content, I wanted to use those same words that my customers were using. So for example, when it came to email copy and then sending out, I started doing a lot more email marketing. I still wanted the brand to feel authentic to my followers because I come from more of a business background and I really wanted to make sure it didn’t come off like me and really came off more of my customers. Because if you go back to the basics of the brand, it started almost like as friends having a conversation and I was really wanting to markets that once I launched my period, that I kept that same feel or that same language. 

Felix: Tell us more about these buyer personas that you created.

Tomni: I did different fictional characters. The only detail was in terms of language, what kind of aspirations did my buyer personas have, and I had two or three, just to give me an idea again on who I was going to be focused on. And to be honest, it just helped to simplify decision-making. Because really as an entrepreneur, more than 50% of what you’re doing is just making decisions and everything was so new, especially for me, I was doing a new industry. So later on in my business, I got an opportunity to do a popup shop with a pretty renowned magazine establishment and in order to make that decision, I just looked back at my brand book and my product, like buyer personas. And I was like, you know what? This is a very cool opportunity but my audience is not going to be there, so that’s ultimately what it’s helpful for. It wasn’t like it fundamentally changed my business. It just really helped me with making better decisions because every day, it’s just an onslaught of emails and opportunities, and how do you decide which one to pick? It’s a lot easier when you have some kind of brand guideline or/business plan to point me in the right direction. It just helped me to eliminate some of the noise as well.

Felix: After you laid out the plan for how you wanted this business to go. What was next?

Tomni: So the next thing was to actually source the products. So that was very new to me. Whether you’re ordering from Alibaba or you’re ordering from a local manufacturer or lab, or whether you’re doing apparel or beauty, minimum order quantities are standard. So in the beauty industry specifically, you hear the numbers that are typically quoted are about 5,000. So I was hitting that roadblock with a lot of labs. Because a lot of the labs will have to make their own profit as well, and they’ve got all this machinery and equipment, so they’re not just going to do a lot of samples. A lot of them weren’t willing to do that. So I first started online, reaching out to people. I love LinkedIn so much. That’s where my sales and marketing background kicked in because then I would just find people from beauty companies and message them directly. In the beauty industry, there are a couple of major trade shows that happen across North America and internationally, and that’s sort of where all the manufacturers are and are based. I was able to just cold-pitching people, cold-emailing people, I was able to get some leads. But in the beginning, it was quite tough because if you don’t have 5,000 minimum order quantity, the deposit for that ready to go, a lot of labs are not interested in talking to you.

Process of generating buzz that lasts 

Felix: Do you have any advice on how to use these connections that you’ve been building to get more press and more PR for your company?

Tomni: Yes. So my company, thankfully, has gotten a lot of press. We’ve been featured in BuzzFeed, Glamour, Essence Magazine, and Teen Vogue, and all of that is being done without any PR firm or anything. So a big focus of mine, what I did was actually just sort of scrape and find information for articles that were written about businesses like mine, competitors of mine, and then I identified the reporter that wrote it and reach out to them, again, focusing on something they’ve written that I genuinely and honestly liked. And then, sending that personalized email out, let them know what I was building if they would be interested in a PR package and go from there? Of course, there were a lot of reporters that didn’t respond, but some of the ones that did were at these mega publications. The cool thing about getting press coverage is once you get one or two, it’s a little easier to get a couple more. Definitely, cold-emailing and pitching journalists do work but they do get a lot of inbound, so you just have to be more personalized in your approach and really think of things that they’ve written that you liked that would be relevant to your brand if possible and then follow up on them.

Lashes from MFMG Cosmetics.
After selling out the initial production run, MFMG Cosmetics not only produced more but focused on developing relationships with influencers. MFMG Cosmetics

Felix: How did you end up finding the right partner to create the products?

Tomni: I decided to highlight the things that are different about me. I would share with them we have gotten published in the New York Times, we have these many followers on Instagram. You definitely will have opportunity to order more once you can work with us on some samples, so that was really what I focused on doing was sell the opportunity as well and not just like I’m begging you to work with me and more like, “Hey, here is what we have. We have some traction. Let’s do some samples, and let’s work together.” And eventually, one of the labs sent me some great samples and I was ready to roll.

Felix: How long did this take you to finalize the product, ready for sale?

Tomni: It took about five months because what I was able to do, so in our industry, you can have a stock option, which is sort of off-the-shelf development from a lab or a custom formulation. I didn’t quite have enough. So a custom formulation lead time can be a year plus, so I went with a stock formulation but they were able to tweak it slightly, which was the perfect medium for me because I was ready. I wanted to launch quickly, so that was the best option and it worked out really well.

Felix: You mentioned that you launched this on the same domain as the blog, so people are driving traffic there?

Tomni: No. I realized the blog was a bit noisy because I was writing sponsored posts for other brands. That’s when the blog became content marketing because it wasn’t content marketing before. It was meant to be the product, so as part of that brand identity work, I created a whole separate website, a full separate… Adjusted the name to be makeupformelaningirls.com because the blog was actually thankfully called something different and put all our new pictures. I did do a photoshoot. The photoshoot was kind of hilarious because I physically wasn’t there. I was traveling for work, so I just did it all online and was on Zoom while they were doing the makeup for the models. 

Felix: What was the process like selling the first production run? 

Tomni: There was a lot of screaming and just being like, oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening. It was so exciting. That was the beginning of just getting really excited for everything. So the next step was to order more and then I started going all-in on the influencer marketing side. So sending it to people that matched our brand identity. This was all free at the time. I wasn’t even doing any paid ones and that went really well. We’d had one. There was a little bit of luck there. And again, just identifying those alignments because we had been promoting her on our content marketing site before the product came out. So that by the time we reached out to her, this was an influencer that had a million on YouTube. By the time we reached out to her, it felt very organic because it was like, oh yeah, we had done a Humans of New York-style post on her when we were running contests. So by the time we reached out for the product partnership, it was very, “Oh my gosh, I love that you have a brand now. You’ve always been supportive of me. And then two months after, I also quit my job because I realized I needed to go all-in on the brand.

Building long term influencer partnerships 

Felix: What is an ideal arrangement with an influencer?

Tomni: So now, we definitely send out contracts. When you get to the point where you can hire someone to be an influencers and partnerships manager, I look at them more as partnerships. And now, in the beginning, it was very short-term focused. I just wanted to get the word out there, get more traffic to the website. Now, versus just thinking of the size, how many followers they have, I just try to think of a good content creator that is putting out god content that is interested in a longer-term partnership with us. And long-term partnership in my particular situation would be like a product collaboration. We ended up doing a nude lipstick product collaboration, for example, with a YouTuber and that went really well because she actually gave insight on the colors we were using. It wasn’t just like we slapped her name on something. That’s more of what we do now.

Felix: I want to talk a little bit about the website. So makeupformelaningirls.com. What do you think is the most important page of the ecommerce site?

Tomni: First homepage with the images for people to see. But ultimately, I think the products as well and description of the products for SEO and making sure we’re addressing the customer. For me personally, just that aesthetic piece was very important. Because for my brand, it looks better now. But in the beginning, it didn’t look like that at all. It was more of a janky experience. But because we’re in the beauty space, I really wanted people landing on the page to feel that sense of you’re welcome here.

Felix: Awesome. So you mentioned that you were using a live chat on your website. How is that staffed? 

Tomni: So the thing with the Tidio live chat app we use, it’s pretty good because they’ve also tried to incorporate more standardized questions. So they have chatbots that they’ve integrated, which is very helpful. And then, what we do is if it’s something easy that can be answered like a shipping question, the chatbot would respond. I really like the interface of this one. You can also see frequency. So the frequency of how many tickets or customer questions someone has answered, which if you do end up hiring people or it’s very easy to see.

Felix: What do you think has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the past year that you want to make sure you take advantage of the learnings for this year?

Tomni: The last year is that you can’t do everything yourself. Hire if you have the opportunities to. I think hiring is always like a chicken and an egg question because you feel like, well, I don’t have enough money to hire them now. What if they wouldn’t be able to stay on? If you have something or if you have an opportunity, it could even be volunteers [inaudible] that are really early. But the more you can get other people helping u, even if you get burned and they’re not really great at first, ultimately that can move your business forward. You just can’t do everything.



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How To Start An Online T-Shirt Business in 7 Steps in 2020

How To Start An Online T-Shirt Business in 7 Steps in 2020


T-shirts are a staple part of wardrobes across the globe. Furthermore, the global market for custom t-shirt printing industry is expected to cross 10 billion USD by 2025.

Clever entrepreneurs, like yourself, have identified the popularity of this product and have started thinking about beginning their own T-shirt businesses. Starting an online T-shirt business is a popular choice for both beginner and veteran ecommerce entrepreneurs. As an ecommerce store, T-shirts are cheap to source, have universal appeal and are relatively simple to customize.

If you’ve been thinking about starting your own online T-shirt business, it’s important that you’re aware that it’s a competitive field in ecommerce. If you want to succeed, you’ll need to make sure that your store stands out from the crowd. To ensure this, it’s important that you source high-quality products, design your own t-shirt, and build a strong brand image.

This may sound like a daunting process, especially if it’s your first time starting an ecommerce business, but don’t worry — we’re here to help you. We’ve created this article to provide you with all the necessary information you need to create a successful online T-shirt business.

Let’s get started.

Starting Your Online T-Shirt Business

design and sell t-shirt online

If you’re looking to start your ecommerce journey, and you’ve been looking into opening your own online T-shirt business, you may have noticed that it’s actually relatively cheap and simple to get your store up and running.

In fact, we’ve already written an article explaining how ecommerce entrepreneurs can launch their own online stores in less than 30 minutes using Shopify. 

Starting your own T-Shirt business with Shopify is a simple process. You’ll also have continuous support from Shopify, both when starting your store, and during the process of running your store. It’s the ideal ecommerce solution for ecommerce entrepreneurs.

Is An Online T-Shirt Business Profitable?

As we mentioned earlier, everyone owns at least one t-shirt regardless of age, gender, and anything else. Therefore it is no wonder why a t-shirt business can be a profitable business for entrepreneurs in a very quick time span. Not only this but starting an online t-shirt business can have low startup costs if you plan your business model correctly.

How to Start An Online T-Shirt Business

Here are a few steps that you can follow to start an online T-shirt business now:

1. Find a Niche for Your Online T-Shirt Business

As an ecommerce entrepreneur who is looking to start a successful online T-shirt business, it may be useful to find a niche for your store. We’ve already mentioned that ecommerce is a competitive field, and finding a niche can really help you to create a successful online T-shirt store that stands out from the crowd. If you create a T-shirt store that is truly unique, either in terms of brand image or the products that are available, your chances for success will be considerably higher.

If you decide to create a niche store, take your time, and do your research. Take a look through other online stores which you like and use them to brainstorm t-shirt ideas for your own business. Note down anything which you think is impressive and then take some time to think about how you can make your online T-shirt business even better. Ultimately, you can target any niche that interests you. If you think that there is an untapped market, take advantage of it. It’s easier to stand out when there’s little competition, and it’ll be much cheaper too!

2. Design Your Own T-Shirt

design your own t-shirts

When you’re trying to launch a successful online T-shirt business, your t-shirt design ideas are critical. If your products have great designs, you’re already ahead of the game. Your products will act as a strong foundation for your store’s success.

It’s much easier to market great products, so try to nail this part. Be creative. Don’t be afraid of thinking outside the box. Try out various different t-shirt design ideas which relate to your brand, and see which ones fit best with your T-shirts and your audience. If you want to try making your own t-shirt designs there are many t-shirt design websites out there. We explore some of these in our t-shirt templates for your online store article.

If you don’t feel confident in your own ability to design awesome products for your online T-shirt business, seek help from others. You can contact local designers, who will likely be willing to provide their services. You can also take advantage of online freelance platforms, like Upwork and Fiverr, which you can use to liaise with freelance designers. There are a variety of different ways that you can source high-quality design work at an affordable price point.

3. Validate Your T-Shirt Designs

online t-shirt business
Once you’ve assembled a few solid design ideas for your online T-shirt business, you’ll need to seek validation from others. You may think that the designs which you’ve come up with are ready for printing, but others may point out some vital improvements that will help your products in the long run. It’s also important that the feedback which you receive for your designs is unbiased. You can achieve this by posting your designs on some forums (make sure that you watermark your designs so nobody can steal them). You can also receive some professional feedback by getting in contact with some local consultants — they will provide you with a professional, unbiased opinion.

Online discussion platforms, like Reddit, can prove to be a vital tool when you’re gauging the success of your t-shirt business’ designs. You can create t-shirt mockups and post your prospective designs onto the relevant sub-reddits, and you’ll receive honest feedback from people who are interested in your products. If you receive positive reactions from your post, you’re already armed yourself with some potential customers who you can reach out to when you launch your products.

4. Source Your Products

When you’ve validated the designs for your online T-shirt business, you’ll need to take some time to consider where you’ll be sourcing your T-shirts from. It is better to source high-quality T-shirts for your store’s inventory, it’ll make for a superior customer experience that will rival your competition.

Running an online T-shirt business is highly competitive, so you’ll need to stand out in any way that you can. One way you can do this is by sourcing the highest quality products that your business can afford. If your customers find that your t-shirts are shrinking or ripping after a couple of wears, it’ll build a bad reputation for your ecommerce store. This will dramatically decrease the chances of these customers purchasing from your store again, which is clearly something that you want to avoid. If your online T-shirt business is stocked with high-quality products which are built to last then your store will gain a great reputation that will help your business grow. We highly recommend using the best quality products available for your online T-shirt business.

how to sell t-shirts online

5. Print Your Designs

Having high-quality prints on your products is essential for a successful online T-shirt business. If your customers find that your designs are cracking or fading after a few washes, this will leave them with a bad impression of your business.

There are various different options which you can take advantage of to print your designs. You can get in contact with local printing businesses, which will allow you to check the quality of your prints before you ship them to customers. However, this may be an expensive process, especially when your ecommerce business grows and the demand for more prints increases.

6. Choose Your Business Model

If a local printing business is too costly for your online t-shirt business, then dropshipping could be your solution. At Oberlo, we believe that online T-shirt businesses can benefit greatly from a dropshipping t-shirt business model. It’s simple, cheap, and you can run it from anywhere in the world. Connect Oberlo with your Shopify store to import products, and communicate with suppliers to print your t-shirt designs with ease.

7. Set Up Your Online Presence

Finally you need to start thinking about where you want to sell, and market your product. For a t-shirt business it is super important to know your audience as t-shirts can be versatile, all inclusive, or very niche. At this stage you will have decided on your design, and have an idea of your audience, but what about your competitors? Have you looked them up and found out where they are selling and marketing their tees? 

Taking the time to do market research will help you to understand your audience before you have started selling. It will also ensure that you are present on the right platforms for your audience to find your products easily. It could be the case that your target market is active on Instagram and Snapchat, and they don’t spend time searching for t-shirts through Google Search. This means that influencer marketing and advertising are your best options for success, instead of spending a lot of time and resources on search engine optimization.

Once you have mapped where your competitors are, and where your ideal customers like to hang out online, you can start to set up and build your online brand presence. You are now ready to start selling t-shirts online!

Considerations When Designing Your Own T-Shirts

how to start a t-shirt business

There are many ways to print designs on t-shirts and other clothing. It is important for you to understand them before you create your own online t-shirt store. Understanding them will ensure you are making the right decision for your business. Below are three of the most common t-shirt printing options to consider for their quality and process.

Screen printing is a great option for designs that are darker or have a high level of vibrancy. Using stencils, or screens, printers apply layers of ink on a t-shirt, using different stencils for different colored inks. Screen printing is great for bulk printing of five or fewer colors due to its labor-intensive setup.

With heat transfer, an image is placed on heat transfer paper, cut from the paper, and then placed on a t-shirt. Like a huge iron, heated to high temperatures the Heat Transfer paper melts into the fibers of the clothing, making it part of the shirt without disturbing the top image. Heat transfers can produce color images onto t-shirts relatively easily and quickly.

With Direct to Garment printing, ink is applied directly onto a t-shirt through an inkjet printer.  Using specialist water-based ink, t-shirt designs are downloaded to a computer and, with a specialist printer, they are directly transferred onto a physical t-shirt. This is the cheapest print option as there is relatively no set up cost but it does take some time to print each t-shirt so this is a good option for small print orders.

How to Sell T-Shirts Online

t-shirt design ideas

Here are the main things to keep in mind before starting your own online venture dropshipping T-shirts:

  1. Decide Your Market

    Before starting your online T-shirt business, it’s important to know the niche that you’ll be focusing on. The T-shirt industry is over saturated and to be successful you need to know what you’re going to be aiming at.

  2. Design Your T-Shirt

    You’ll have a hard time convincing people to buy your T-shirts if the designs aren’t good. So pay extra attention to what goes on to the T-shirts that you’d like to dropship. Utilize t-shirt design websites to ensure that the artwork on your products is high-quality, and not trademarked.

  3. Choose a Quality Dropship Supplier

    Make sure you meet quality standards when it comes to T-shirts. It can be tricky to know which T-shirts are high quality when you’re dropshipping. Order a few samples from your suppliers just to test them out. You can discover that the design is not what you like or the material is not to your liking

  4. Build Reviews and Social Proof

    Reaching out to customers and asking them to review your product online is a key aspect of selling t-shirts due to the importance of social proof in this niche. Customers want to know that they are getting value for money when buying online and they want to hear from actual customers when making their decision.

    Ecommerce product reviews

  5. Grow Your Brand Awareness

    Brand awareness can be the make or break part of your new business. The right branding can establish your business as trustworthy and a leader in your space. This also helps immensely with your marketing. A brand tells your customers who you are and what you’re about. 

    The basic elements of a brand are how you look and your tone of voice. Your logo and website will often be the first thing a new customer sees when browsing for new t-shirts, so these elements of your business need to make a good first impression. Your tone of voice and style of writing also affects everything from sales to engagement. Think about how you want your customers to view you and establish your tone and style from there. 

  6. Outreach to Influencers

    Influencers can help you break into new markets, or win you more customers in your current demographic. Finding influencers on your top platforms like Instagram, or Snapchat can be easier than you think, with the advent of micro-influencers and nano-influencers. These are influencers who may only have a few hundred followers but are very influential to these people. 
    Try outreaching to a couple of smaller influencers, offering them free t-shirts in exchange for them sharing images of them wearing your product. This small act of social proof can incur bonus brand points for your online t-shirt business. 

  7. If you have a lot of people adding t-shirts to their cart and then disappearing from your website, remarketing could be your best weapon to increase your conversion rate. When a customer adds a product to their cart, you can retarget them on various websites through products like Google Ads, or on social media platforms through products like Facebook Ads. You can lead people back to their cart with discount codes, new offers, or simply just a reminder of their items. 

    Criteo found that website visitors, who are retargeted to, are 43% more likely to convert compared to those not shown retargeting campaigns. This shows the true power of remarketing for businesses across any niche, but especially the t-shirt niche. This is a fast moving niche, where people need to be reminded of their abandoned carts sometimes.

Dropshipping with Your Online T-Shirt Business

As an entrepreneur running an online T-shirt business, dropshipping is a great business model. If you dropship your T-shirts, you’ll never need to carry any inventory. Forget about having piles of T-shirts littered around your house, or having to waste valuable resources renting a storage space. Instead, you’ll simply receive orders from your customers, and ship the products straight from your supplier’s warehouse to their door. A dropshipping T-shirt business is streamlined and will allow you to manage your business from anywhere in the world.

make your own t-shirts

If you choose dropshipping for your online T-shirt business, you can take advantage of ecommerce platforms like AliExpress. Aliexpress allows you to source high-quality products at an affordable price point. You’ll be instantly connected with a wide network of suppliers who are open to collaboration. You can reach out to individual suppliers on AliExpress who can print your designs directly onto their T-shirts. Then you can ship said products directly to your customer’s door — it’s as simple as that.

If you decide that AliExpress dropshipping is the best option for your ecommerce business then we recommend that you use Oberlo. With Oberlo, you can easily import products directly into your ecommerce store with just a few clicks. You can also manage all your orders easily with Oberlo. Oberlo is free, so you can start dropshipping today.

Online T-Shirt Business Success Stories

Many successful ecommerce entrepreneurs created their online T-Shirt businesses with a dropshipping business model. One of Oberlo’s users, Melvin Chee, 22, started off his own ecommerce store as an experiment and ended up making $100K+ in just 3 months.

Melvin decided that he wanted to start an online T-shirt business when he stumbled across Oberlo in a Facebook group. He knew that he would need to find a niche which would enable his ecommerce store to succeed. He settled on a bank of core products which were basic T-shirts with funny slogans printed onto them. It was these products, incorporated with his marketing efforts, which transformed this experiment into an ecommerce success story. You can check out our full article on Melvin’s story

Conclusion 

Now that you’ve read through this post you’ll know exactly how to start an online T-shirt business and create your own success story. Remember, designing and selling t-shirts online in this niche is competitive, so be sure to make use of the tips which we’ve mentioned in this article.

If you have any further questions about starting an online T-shirt business, or ecommerce in general, then let us know in the comments section– we’re more than happy to help.

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The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – A Detailed Chapter Summary

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – A Detailed Chapter Summary


It’s fair to say that The Lean Startup by Eric Ries transformed the world as we know it. A New York Times bestseller, the Lean Startup model is a global phenomenon, faithfully used by individual entrepreneurs and huge companies around the world – to astonishing results.  

Given Eric Reis’ stunning credentials, he clearly knows what he’s talking about. Having worked as the CTO of the IMVU social network, the co-founder of FastWorks, the founder and CEO of the Long-Term Stock Exchange, and the entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School, IDEO and Pivotal, the Lean Startup business model is based on a wealth of lived experience.

To do this Lean Startup summary justice, we’ve mirrored the way Ries has structured the book which is split across three main sections: 

  1. Vision – Here, Ries puts forward the case for a new discipline of entrepreneurial management.
  2. Steer – This section dives deeper into the Lean Startup business model.
  3. Accelerate – Here, the focus is on how to get Lean Startups to speed through the ‘Build-Measure-Learn’ feedback loop as quickly as possible.

So, let’s get to grips with the revolutionary Lean Startup model.

the lean startup

The Lean Startup Summary and Review Part 1: Vision

The Definition and Origins of the Lean Startup

The Lean Startup model takes its name from the Toyota manufacturing revolution as lead by Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo. They transformed Toyota into a flourishing global company by focusing on the following principles:

  1. Drawing on the knowledge and creativity of individual employees
  2. Shrinking batch sizes
  3. Utilizing just-in-time production and inventory control
  4. Accelerating cycle times

This approach highlighted the difference between value-generating behavior, and waste –  principles which the Lean Startup method carries across to the context of entrepreneurship.

Ries, therefore, firmly believes that startup success is not necessarily about having a great idea, or even being in the right place at the right time; it is about following the right processes. Consequently, the Lean Startup model is based on the following:

  1. Fast cycle times
  2. Focusing on what the customer wants (without asking them first)
  3. Using scientific approaches to make decisions

Thus, the Lean Startup business model is a novel approach to the development and innovation of new products which focuses on speedy iteration, customer insight, creative vision and sizable ambition, simultaneously.

eric ries quotes

Validated Learning – a Novel Approach to Data

The Lean Startup model boasts a unique concept that Reis refers to as “validated learning.” This approach to learning is more accurate, concise and quicker than traditional modes of market forecasting or corporate planning.

To first understand what validated learning means, we need to highlight which of our efforts are creating value, and which are creating waste. For example, rather than continually trying to update and improve a product, we should work out whether customers are interested in our product at all. Anything that isn’t providing value to the customer is waste.

But how can we know what our customers value in our product? The key is to ship out a version of the product as quickly as possible to obtain real data. Validated learning is the process of drawing conclusions from this data, based on actual customer behavior – not on the feedback customers may provide via a survey or interview about what they may hypothetically like about a product that they have not yet interacted with.

Essentially, don’t trust customers to know what they want ahead of time. Instead, trust the way they behave with a tangible version of the product and use this data to inform decisions going forward.

Freedom to Experiment is Essential

From the perspective of the Lean Startup, an experiment isn’t just a line of theoretical enquiry – it’s the first version of the product. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Reis emphasizes the importance of getting customers to interact with a product as quickly as possible as it is the results of this experimentation that determine the direction of the product.

Here, Reis brings in the fascinating example of Nick Swinmurn, the founder of Zappos, now the world’s biggest online shoe store. Before online shopping had really taken off, Nick systematically experimented with working out whether customers would be willing to buy shoes online by following this process:

  1. He approached local shoe stores and asked if he could take photos of their inventories.
  2. He posted the pictures online to see if customers would buy them.
  3. If they did, he would return to the store, buy the pair of shoes at full price, and send them on to the customer.

This approach is indicative of the Lean Startup method of experimentation. Rather than getting caught up in organizing an entire product line with inventories, warehouses and distributors, Zappos started small and employed the quickest way possible to test his hypothesis that there was a demand for online shoes.

Further, in doing so, Zappos didn’t engage in traditional methods of market research or customer surveys which would have asked what customers wanted rather than revealing their actual behavior. Instead, he was able to observe, interact with, and learn directly from the customers and distributors that participated in his small-scale experiment. In 2009, Amazon bought Zappos for $1.2 billion.

Therefore, validated learning and fast experimentation are integral to the Lean Startup business method. By the time the first iteration of a product has been distributed, it will have amassed a few customers and provided a wealth of data concerning what is and is not working in reality, rather than hypothesizing about what may work in the future. As Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur states, all of the data that we need to amass concerning customers, markets and suppliers, only exists “outside the building,” i.e. in the real world.

The Lean Startup Summary and Review Part 2: Steer

The Lean Startup Depends on Minimum Viable Products

Minimum viable products (MVPs) are essential to the Lean Startup method as they facilitate the process of validated learning as quickly as possible. Not to be confused with the smallest product that could be brought to market, they are simply the quickest and most effortless way to zip through the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. The Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop is the fundamental basis upon which a startup grows. First, a product is built and tested in the real world, then its successes and failures are measured, and then, from the measurable data, validated learning can inform the next stage in the product’s development.

MVPs vary wildly in complexity from simple advertisements to early prototypes. However, entrepreneurs tend to include too many features on their MVP – if in doubt, always simplify. Any feature that doesn’t contribute to what you need to learn should be removed as time spent on it will be a waste.

One of the most significant challenges entrepreneurs, and indeed teams in general, face when creating MVPs are the traditional notions of what quality means. Getting an MVP to market as quickly as possible will often not feel like a good representation of a professional’s complete  skillset. This is where a new perspective needs to be adopted where the MVP is seen as a vital step towards building a high-quality product and without which, doing so will prove difficult.

An additional stumbling block is that MVPs, more often than not, do not garner positive feedback from customers. Of course, while this data is still valuable for validated learning and the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop, such results can be interpreted as disheartening by a team. The solution is to prepare employees for such results, and instead encourage a commitment to iteration, innovation, and to see such setbacks as part of the process. Indeed, the MVP is just the first step on the learning journey.

minimum viable product

Lean Startups Must Measure Their Successes and Failures Optimally

Often, startups measure their success by creating a milestone, interacting with a few customers and seeing if their overall numbers increase – but this is a flawed way of measuring progress. How can they be sure that the changes in numbers are related to the changes they’ve made? This is where Reis provides us with two excellent Lean Startup tools to effectively measure our results: Innovation accounting and actionable metrics. Let’s start by unpacking the former.

Innovation accounting allows startups to objectively prove that they are using validated learning to foster a sustainable business. It works in three steps:

  1. Implement an MVP to gain real data on the current status quo of the company. An MVP helps integrate real baseline customer data into a startup’s growth model, even if the customers don’t value the MVP at present.
  2. Startups must attempt to move towards their ideal baselines. Every initiative that a startup undertakes should be focused on improving just one of its growth drivers. For example, a startup might choose the activation rate of new customers as a driver for growth, and decide that at present, their baseline for this driver is too low. Consequently, they may revamp the design to make it easier for the customer to use. These design changes must increase the activation rate. Otherwise, the design should be considered a failure.
  3. The decision to pivot or persevere. If the drivers of the business model are not improving, progress is not being made. This would be a clear indicator that the company needs to pivot – more on this in the next chapter.

In addition to innovation accounting, Reis presents actionable metrics as a further way to improve the way Lean Startups measure their outcomes. Actionable metrics must adhere to the 3 A’s. They must be: Actionable, Accessible, and Auditable.

  1. Actionable – For a data report to be considered actionable, it must indicate a clear line of cause and effect, leaving no grey areas for success or failure to be erroneously attributed to the behavior of different departments.
  2. Accessible – Many reports are completely indecipherable to many managers and employees who need to use them as a base for making decisions. Reports, therefore, need to be as simple as possible, and as widely accessible as possible to ensure that the entire team is on board.
  3. Auditable – The reports must contain true facts. For example, the data must be reliant on the real behavior of or interactions with the customers. 

The Lean Startup Eric Ries

The Most Difficult Question to Answer: Pivot or Persevere?

One of the most difficult decisions an entrepreneur will face is to decide whether their startup needs to pivot or persevere. Indeed, one of the biggest blocks to creative potential is the poorly-made choice to persevere with a failing startup approach. However, a well-considered pivot in a new direction can help entrepreneurs move along the path to a sustainable, successful business.

Reis states that when talking to entrepreneurs who pivoted their business model, they will nearly always say that they wish they had pivoted sooner. The reasons why entrepreneurs delay pivoting is often threefold:

  1. Vanity metrics encourage entrepreneurs to draw conclusions from the data that match their wishes rather than reality; this, in turn, means that they do not believe that change is necessary.
  2. Unclear hypotheses which, by their obfuscate nature, make it impossible to experience complete failure, again disguise the fact that a radical change may indeed be necessary.
  3. Many entrepreneurs are simply afraid of pivoting. Acknowledging failure can be disastrous for team morale, and what’s more, the fear of their new suggested business idea, not getting a chance to really prove itself post-pivot is great.

However, the Lean Startup model approaches pivoting as a structured form of change which is testing out a new hypothesis about the product, business model or the engine of growth. This is the very heart of the Lean Startup business model. It’s what makes companies who implement the method so robust as, if they need to pivot, they have all the tools (think validated learning, freedom to experiment, MVPs, innovation account and accountable metrics) in which to do so, with both dynamism and courage.

The Lean Startup Summary and Review Part 3: Accelerate

Think Big, Think Smaller Batch Sizes 

Although it may feel counterintuitive, working with small batch sizes is far more efficient than producing mass batches of a particular product. The reason? With small batches, quality problems can be identified and rectified much sooner than when producing big batches, saving a considerable amount of time in the long-run.

Indeed, Reis states that when he works with companies that adopt a large-batch approach, it is often the case that the team will need to redo their work 5 or 6 times for each product release. This goes against the core principle of the Lean Startup method, which is to stop unnecessarily wasting time. 

However, many more traditional managers have a difficult time thinking about swapping from a large to a small batch mentality. This is because it is instinctively felt to be inefficient. Such is the blind belief that large batches are superior that often when a large batch system has gone completely awry, employees and managers are likely to blame themselves rather than the system itself. 

The Lean Startup method focuses on formulating a hypothesis and getting an MVP on the market, using the smallest batch size possible, within the quickest time frame. Large batches do not allow for this kind of speed, and further, they prolong the validated learning process making it much more difficult to adapt and fine-tune a successful product. What’s more, small batches means smaller inventories which thus frees up an ample amount of warehouse space – this radical inventory reduction is where lean manufacturing, as pioneered by Toyota, gets its name.

Start Your Engines, Now We’re Talking Sustainable Growth

Reis defines sustainable growth within a startup as being when “new customers come from the actions of past customers.” There are four ways in which past customers foster sustainable growth:

  1. Word of mouth – This is the result of customers’ feeling incredibly positive about the product.
  2. As a side effect of product usage – This refers to exposure to a product, such as when a friend invites us to use a new online payment method such as Paypal so that they can transfer us some money.
  3. Through funded advertising – For this to be a source of sustainable growth, it must be being paid for out of revenue, not from investment capital.
  4. Through repeat purchases or use – For products such as subscription plans (i.e. Netflix) or voluntary, repeat purchases (i.e. groceries) which are designed to encourage repeat buys.

All of these forms of sustainable growth feed into different types of feedback loop which Reis refers to as “engines of growth.” He identifies three engines of growth through which a company can become successful:

  1. The “sticky” engine of growth – This particular engine focuses on attracting and retaining customers for the long-term. Such companies meticulously track their churn and acquisition rates. The churn rate is defined by how many customers fail to maintain a sustained interest in the product. If the acquisition rate is higher than the churn rate, the company will grow. The key to sustainable growth within this engine is to target existing customers and encourage them to continue using the product.
  2. The “viral” engine of growth – This engine differs slightly from word of mouth in that viral growth is an offshoot of customers simply being exposed to a product from existing customers, without the existing customers necessarily raving about it. The spread of Facebook is a great example of this. It spread not by users being openly enthusiastic about it, but because they began to send out friend requests amongst their network. Therefore, this engine focuses heavily on the viral coefficient. Further, in this particular model, monetary exchange is not a driver for growth; it merely shows that customers would be willing to pay for the product. What’s important is that the customers are using the product, and virally spreading it.
  3. The “paid” engine of growth – In this model, the company has two choices: Either to decrease the costs of acquiring new customers, or to increase the revenue from each acquired customer. Here the focus is on the customer lifetime value (LTV) which takes how much a customer will pay for a product over the product’s lifespan, and deducts from it the product’s variable costs. The remaining revenue is then invested in growth via buying advertising.

While companies can employ more than one engine of growth simultaneously, Reis states that it is more often the case that successful startups will focus on just one and specialize in it.   

The lean startup quotes

Adapt by Asking “Why” More Effectively

A Lean Startup is defined by being adaptive. It must be able to adjust its performance and operations to match its current context. While Reis emphasizes the importance of speed throughout the book, he also states that it is vital for teams to find their optimal working pace as when a startup goes too fast, vital validated learning experiences are completely overlooked.

To work more adaptively, Reis introduces the concept of the “Five Whys.” The core of this method is to get a better picture of the reality behind why a particular process failed and to avoid jumping to quick, unsupported conclusions. This method quite literally means to ask the same “why” question five times consecutively in an attempt to uncover the truth. For example, imagine that a machine in the production line has stopped functioning, here’s how the Five Whys might look in practice, we might ask:

  1. Why did the machine stop? (Answer: Because it was overloaded)
  2. Why was it overloaded? (Answer: Because it wasn’t lubricated effectively)
  3. Why wasn’t it lubricated properly? (Answer: Because the lubrication pump isn’t working optimally)
  4. Why is it not working optimally? (Answer: Because it’s internal shaft mechanism is worn out)
  5. Why is the shaft worn out? (Answer: Because we don’t have a system in place in which a member of staff regularly checks the lubrication pumps shafts)

Notice how we went from a rather macro-perspective of an entire machine grinding to a halt to working out that the reason why is because we don’t have an operational system in which an employee regularly checks the internal wear and tear of the pump shafts? From this perspective, it’s now far easier to solve the issue and prevent such a large system failure from happening in the future.

The Five Whys also encourages validated learning as it promotes asking questions more thoroughly to get to a better understanding of the reality of a problem. However, to be really effective, the Five Whys must be asked within an environment of mutual trust as otherwise, they can quickly descend into a means of blaming different team members. To avoid this, Reis suggests that Lean Startups follow these two rules:

  1. Be tolerant of all mistakes the first time.
  2. Never allow the same mistake to be made twice.

How to Incubate Innovation in a Sandbox

A traditional understanding of the way companies develop over time suggests that once they reach a certain size, they begin to lose the ability to innovate and grow – but this is a false belief. As long as companies are prepared to adapt to a more flexible management philosophy, innovation can fuel the direction of big, established businesses. For any company, large or small, to foster innovation, they require the following three structural attributes:

  1. Scarce but secure resources – Startups need significantly less capital than established businesses.Still, that capital must be safe from any form of tampering as startups are incredibly sensitive to any changes made to the budget midcourse.
  2. Independent development authority – Startup teams require full autonomy to think creatively and to develop and market new products.
  3. A personal stake in the outcome – Entrepreneurs should have a personal stake in the success of their products.

When a company reaches a certain size; however, innovation can be seen to be threatening as it requires a shift in operations and established managerial systems which demand a great deal of effort. Reis, therefore, suggests that in more established companies, an “innovation sandbox” should be created which will contain any impact of the experimentation and innovation within it, but in which the members of the startup team have full freedom. For an innovation sandbox to be truly effective, it must adhere to the following rules:

  1. Any team can create an experiment that only affects the sandboxed parts of the product or service.
  2. The same team must see the experiment through from start to finish.
  3. No experiment can run longer than the specified amount of time.
  4. No experiment can affect more than the specified number of customers.
  5. Every experiment has to be evaluated by 5-10 actionable metrics.
  6. Each sandbox team must use the same metrics to evaluate success.
  7. Any team leading an experiment must monitor the metrics and customer interactions while the test is in progress and put an immediate end to it if something catastrophic happens.

Thanks to the fact that the same metrics are being used each time, it’s simple to assess whether a sandbox experiment has been a failure or a success. Further, by consistently using the same metrics, the team cultivates a solid literacy concerning these metrics for the company as a whole. What’s more, the innovation sandbox embodies the Lean Startup method in that it promotes rapid iteration, small batches, quick outcomes and constant validated learning.

While implementing novel, dynamic approaches such as the innovation sandbox may cause a few teething problems; it can prove worthwhile to prepare managers that when such systems are introduced, it can feel worse before it starts to feel better. However, this is often the case because any problems caused by the original, old system are too intangible to grasp. In contrast, any issues caused by the new system are more glaringly obvious by comparison. The key is to persevere until a more innovative approach becomes the new normal.

eric ries

The Future is Bright, the Future is Lean

At its heart, the Lean Startup method believes that waste is nearly always preventable once its real underlying cause has come to light. The age-old, flawed adage that employees should simply work harder to increase overall productivity is precisely part of the problem as it finds us often pouring all of our efforts into all of the wrong things. Instead, Reis invites us to imagine an organization in which each employee adopts the Lean Startup business method. He suggests that such a company would be a place in which:

  1. All assumptions would have to be explicitly stated and tested thanks to an authentic desire to get to the underlying truth of a project’s vision.
  2. Speed and quality would be approached as dual entities, working collaboratively to increase value for the customer. For example, a team will race to get an MVP out as quickly as possible, but won’t abandon it immediately, forgoing the validated learning process. Likewise, they won’t spend a considerable quantity of time building what they perceive to be a high-quality product, without having tested basic iterations of it on the market first.
  3. Failures and setbacks would be approached as opportunities for learning, not as excuses to blame.
  4. Speed would be fostered by forgoing any unnecessary work that does not directly result in learning.

Above all, however, Reis states that with the Lean Startup method, organizations can finally stop wasting so much time and start bravely testing their hypotheses out there in the real world at speed and with smart, validated learning processes in place which ultimately, help pave the way to success.

You can buy The Lean Startup by Eric Ries on Amazon.



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The 12 Best Trending Products to Sell in 2020 (Updated Annually)

The 12 Best Trending Products to Sell in 2020 (Updated Annually)


To succeed in ecommerce, you need three things: in-demand products to sell, the skills to market them, and the drive to succeed.

You already have the winner’s mindset—you’re continually learning, researching, and preparing for success. But finding popular products to sell can be a challenge. That’s why we update this list every year to help you uncover new trending product ideas.

In this list, you’ll find 12 trending products in 2020 that will activate new business ideas—or, you may find an in-demand product to add to your existing store. Since each trending product is meant for a distinct audience, we’re also sharing niche-specific tips for reaching new customers.

The trending products on this list are a handful of products with the highest Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) and total number of orders sourced from Oberlo and AliExpress. Additionally, each of these trending products can be found on Oberlo, which is available for free to all Shopify store owners. If you find a product that piques your interest, you can add it to your Shopify store in a few clicks.

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Note: You may need to be logged in to your Shopify account to view some of the product listings available through Oberlo. If you don’t have an account, create one here.

Trending products to sell in 2020

1. Pet bed 

Looking for the purrfect popular product to sell to pet owners? This pet bed has been clawing its way to the top of the sales charts. According to Google Trends, “dog bed” has seen some strong growth in search volume. The search keyword “dog bed” gets 234,000 monthly searches, and “cat bed” also has a sizable amount of search demand, with 60,500 monthly searches. 

Screenshot showing Google Trends data for searches related to pet beds

If you own a pet store, you can market this pet bed on visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. On Pinterest, you can join pet group boards, which allow you to promote your products to a bigger audience. On Instagram, you can partner with pet-related fan pages to get a shoutout in a post or in an Instagram Story. By partnering with a fan page, your product can be seen by a much larger audience, especially if you’re just starting out.

pet bed

2. One size fits all sofa and couch covers

This sofa and couch cover is a popular product for homes with pets or children, as well as property owners who rent out their spaces on platforms like AirBnB. Sofa and couch covers are a popular product for hosts as they help keep furniture in pristine condition for all guests, and replacing a cover is significantly cheaper than replacing an entire three-piece set. 

Not only has Google Trends shown a noticeable rise in searches for the product, Statista also estimates the sofa and seat industry to be a US $44,706m market in 2020. Last but not least, data from Statista predicts the market will grow 0.6% annually until 2023, which makes sofa and couch covers an ideal trending product you can sell for at least the next few years.

Screenshot showing Google Trends data for searches related to couch covers

When marketing to customers that have pets or children, your best bets are wide-reaching channels such as Facebook and Google. But if you’re looking to acquire AirBnB hosts as your customers, you should consider geolocation in your acquisition strategy. According to AllTheRooms Analytics, there are 30 cities in the US with the highest occupancy rate, and 23 are in either California, Hawaii, or Florida. This data should give you a great insight into the type of Facebook Custom Audience you can build and target if you choose to appeal to AirBnB hosts.

Image showing a couch with a protective cover over it

3. Minimalist jewelry

Many people prefer the finer things in life. Evidently, it’s minimalist jewelry that has seen some of the strongest sales growth for retailers in recent years. Google Trends shows there are many frequent, high-volume searches from consumers for this more modest style of jewelry. Despite an expected annual growth rate of 2% until 2023, there has actually been an overall decline in the number of jewelry businesses available. Since the demand for the product is there, but the competition is not, a jewelry store could be a lucrative venture for any new or existing entrepreneur.

Image showing Google Trends data for minimalist jewelry

When it comes to marketing trending products like these necklaces, the ideal platforms are typically Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. A simple way to elevate your jewelry store’s presence is to create videos featuring your products. Videos get more visible slots in Instagram’s Search and Explore pages, which will in turn create more visibility for your posts. Also, most jewelry retailers tend to post pictures, giving you a competitive advantage if you’re willing to put in a bit more work.

Minimalist product example.

4. Beard straightener

Men’s grooming is quickly turning into one of the lucrative markets available. In 2018, Statista valued the industry at $60.6 billion USD, and it’s now expected to rise to $81.2 billion USD by 2024. As a whole, the men’s grooming industry is full of opportunities, but one item in particular has caught our attention: beard straighteners. Not only does Google Trends show the growth in search demand for this item, but there are also 37,000 monthly searches for beard straighteners. This is definitely one of the hot trending products to sell.

Image showing Google Trends data for beard straightener

To turn this men’s beard straightener into a top-selling product on your store, consider using a mix of Google ads to target keywords with high purchase intent (e.g. “buy men’s beard straightener”), along with SEO-focused content to go after more informational terms (e.g. “how to straighten a beard”). Or, if you’re not a writer, instructional videos also work.

Dropshipping is an excellent way to sell a trending product without needing to hold inventory. In this episode of Shopify Masters, we interview a dropshipper who spotted an up-and-coming product and managed to generate $8,872 in sales in 4 weeks.



Educational content performs well in this product category because as the market demand grows, so do the needs of customers looking for tips on how to take care of their beards with these tools. Try to use content to solve common questions like, “what kind of comb is best for beards” and you’ll frequently be rewarded with search traffic.

 

Image showing a beard straightener which is a trending product to sell in 2020 

5. Shapewear

Shapewear is shaping up to be one of the best evergreen niches to pursue—for the third year in a row, this product category has made our list. By 2022, the shapewear market is expected to skyrocket to about $5.6 billion in sales. What started as an undergarment has evolved into a piece of everyday wear.

Image showing Google Trends data for shapewear

Fashion retailers are also stocking their stores with bodysuits that help create a slimming silhouette. Though shapewear is still popular within the lingerie industry where it first emerged, the shapewear niche offers women a variety of different styles that can either be worn under clothing with different cuts or as a top.

What makes shapewear a product worth considering is that it offers retailers a lot of versatility: whether you sell lingerie, women’s fashion, or want to add this category to an existing general apparel store, you’ll be able to find shapewear in different colors, styles, and sizes to meet the needs of your diverse customer base.

You can sell trending products like this high-waist shapewear, which has generated over 6,000 sales in January of 2020. It has a seamless design and creates a visibly slimmer figure for your customers.

Image showing a beard straightener which is a trending product to sell in 2020

Free Guide: How to Find a Profitable Product to Sell Online

Excited about starting a business, but not sure where to start? This free, comprehensive guide will teach you how to find great, newly trending products with high sales potential.

6. Backpacks

Backpacks have been a popular item to sell. But recently, the data shows they’re a clear frontrunner as one of the best products to sell online—in particular, this backpack has been surging in sales recently. As Google Trends shows below, search demand has grown year over year with consistent spikes around August. Statista estimates that backpack sales will rise from $19.1 billion USD in 2020 to $22.5 billion USD in 2023, ensuring this will be a top trending product for years to come.

Image showing Google Trends data for backpacks

Targeting your ideal customer depends on who it is; backpacks for children, college or university students, or adults. If you’re looking to sell backpacks for children, then your marketing will need to target parents. The best place to target parents is through Facebook ads, Instagram ads, and Pinterest. One thing to consider is that competing with other “back to school” marketing campaigns will result in inflated prices on ads. But, if you time your store and product launch before the schools reopen, you could see a surge in sales.

However, if you’re selling to college kids or adults, then you’ll need to reach them directly with Instagram ads, potentially by sourcing partnerships with Instagram influencers. Backpacks for adults that aren’t in college aren’t as susceptible to seasonal ups and downs, so if you’re looking for an all year-round product trend, this market could be a hit.

Image showing a backpack which is a trending product to sell in 2020

7. Post-workout massage guns

Massage guns are hand-held massage devices intended to be used after a workout to unwind and relax tense muscles. Massage guns are still relatively new, but consumer interest in them has been climbing since last summer. Interest is still high post-Christmas, and massage guns show clear signs of becoming a top trending product to sell in 2020.

Image showing Google Trends data for massage guns

To tap into the best-selling product potential of massage guns, look to video marketing and interactive ads on Instagram as your best distribution channel. Targeting your ads around particular Instagram hashtags or influencer’s handles could be your best customer acquisition method. Here’s why: It’s a growing trend among fitness gurus and enthusiasts to share anything from workout tips, routine videos, and what’s in their gym bag—their followers want to see their routine and what equipment they find essential for their workouts.

Image showing a post-workout massage gun which is a trending product to sell in 2020

Working with influencers directly on Instagram could be another lucrative channel for sales. Getting a shoutout in their story or a reciprocal comment on one of their posts could be enough to drive new sales. For instance, there are certain niches in the fitness industry you can pick to focus on, from runners to CrossFit athletes, there is ample opportunity to showcase the benefits of massaging sore muscles with this item and turn it into a best selling product online.

8. Plaid hoodie

The plaid clothing pattern has evolved from a flash in the pan fad to a timeless and consistently popular style. Despite the clothing market being a particularly competitive niche, these products niche are still a potentially lucrative option for ambitious entrepreneurs who want to build an apparel business. Google Trends shows a steady increase in interest over the past few years. With 1,900 monthly searches for “plaid hoodie,” there’s clear evidence that this is a robust niche market.

Image showing Google Trends data for plaid hoodies

To turn selling plaid hoodies into a lucrative venture, it’s best to have your marketing target its niche market. The low search volume shouldn’t put you off from relying on organic search to drive sales. The keyword difficulty for this term is also quite low, leaving ample room for newcomers in the market to drive sales from organic search and create a top trending product for your business.

Image showing a woman wearing a plaid hoodie which is a trending product to sell in 2020

9. Smartwatches

Around 1.2 billion watches are sold each year globally. And the number keeps rising. Last year we saw the rise of minimalist watches. In 2020, smartwatches will likely continue trending upward. December tends to be the peak month for watch sales, but it would be wise to include a relevant summer accessory to ensure higher profits year-round.

Image showing Google Trends data for smartwatches

Facebook and Instagram tend to be the most popular channels for growing a watch store. Many watch retailers have influencers take lifestyle shots set wherever they travel, for outdoorsy and luxurious images that are perfect for social media. Entrepreneur Tim Kock launched a watch store and was able to make $6,667 in roughly eight weeks by using this approach.

You can start your first watch store by selling this Bluetooth smartwatch, which includes a built-in camera, sound recorder, step counter, sleep monitor, calendar, and more.

Smartwatch product example.

10. Infant and baby carrier

One recent product trending with new parents is the baby carrier. Since strollers are big and bulky, some parents are opting for smaller, compact harnesses to carry their newborn for a few hours. Google Trends shows we’re close to hitting peak interest for this product, so if you’re looking for a top-selling product with validated demand, consider acting fast.

Image showing Google Trends data for baby carriers

To reach new parents with this item, you’ll once again turn to advertising on Facebook and Instagram. If you’re looking to explore other sales channels, consider selling on Amazon or listing your product on Google Shopping, although it’s worth noting that these marketplaces will take a fee from your sale. Another experiment to try is to market to a local group with flyers. Create discount codes and distribute them among new parent meetup groups in your town.

Image showing a baby carrier product example which is a trending product to sell in 2020

11. Athleisure

In fashion, trends are the only constant. However, athleisure is one fashion trend that has some staying power. No wonder, then, that it’s a trending item that’s made our list two years in a row. Athleisure is activewear worn as an everyday look rather than for athletic purposes like going to the gym. Within this category, you can sell everything from sweatshirts, sweatpants, leggings, sports bras, tank tops, headbands, capris, and shoes—all in countless colors and styles.

Image showing Google Trends data for athleisure

Plus, you can take this niche in several directions: with a dedicated store, a product collection within a broader fashion store, or you can market your products to one of the many fitness sub-niches. Depending on how you position your brand, there could be an opportunity to expand into other product verticals, such as fashion accessories and jewelry or fitness accessories like yoga mats.

Since millennial women are often the target market for athleisure, visual platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are ideal channels to grow your brand, whether you pursue organic growth or use their advertising options.

You can also look into driving growth with influencer marketing. One place to begin is seeking out fitness influencers within your niche using Instagram search tools. Influencers can model your apparel and give your brand a shout out for a fee or a commission of sales. You can start your athleisure store by selling these yoga leggings, which have been converting well for Shopify store owners using Oberlo.

Athleisure product example.

12. Mesh shoes

We’ve seen the rise of mesh shoes primarily as running shoes, but now they’re another item that’s moved from workout wear and into the athleisure category. Mesh shoes for women and men have also been a best-selling product for the last two years and show signs of being a trending item in 2020.

Image showing Google Trends data for mesh shoes

These trending items are best sold through visuals platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, though a channel you may want to experiment with is Google Ads. At the time of writing, the average bidding cost for mesh shoes is low at $1.20. If you choose to use the same kind of millennial-focused marketing as athleisure, be sure to partner with influencers as it’s the easiest way to get a new brand’s products in front of this audience. 

Mesh shoes typically have a bigger addressable market than most athleisure products. For example, your target market could be as niche as focusing on generation X or Baby Boomers who are seeking comfier shoes to walk in while touring on vacation. Or, you can target the staff in the food and service industries where folks are on their feet all day. Point being, there are many potential audiences you can explore with mesh shoes. Conduct a competitive analysis or SWOT analysis of the market and decide what route is best for you.

Image showing a pair of mesh shoes which are a trending product to sell in 2020

Time to get selling

These are some of the trending products to sell in 2020, but there are so many more to choose from. Finding product trends is only one part of the equation. The real secret is figuring out how to market them.

If you’re interested in hands-on training that walks you through the process of starting an online store around a profitable niche, be sure to watch our free webinar series. During the webinar, one of our team members will share how they grew one of their online business ideas to over 8,000 sales per year, along with the marketing tactics that worked (and the ones that flopped).

Let us know what products you plan on selling on your store in the comments. Happy selling!

Ready to sell your first profitable product? Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required.

 

Illustration by Albert Tercero



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How To Start An Affiliate Program For Your Ecommerce Store

How To Start An Affiliate Program For Your Ecommerce Store


If you’re struggling to get your products into more people’s hands due to the rising cost of advertising, you’re not alone. Here’s the good news. By tapping into the power of affiliate marketing to start an affiliate program for your ecommerce store, you can drive high-quality traffic and sales very affordably.

What is an Affiliate Program?

An affiliate program is a customer acquisition tool merchants (like you) can create to generate more sales with the help of publishers (like bloggers and websites). When a new publisher is approved into your affiliate program, they become your affiliate and get unique tracking links that they will use whenever they share your products online. Every time someone clicks through to your website with their link and makes a purchase, you generate a sale and they earn a commission of that sale.

As the program creator, you get to decide how much to pay affiliates and for what—such as a percentage per sale or a flat rate per lead. You also outline terms and conditions so they know what promotional methods they are allowed to use when marketing your brand to their audience.

Why Start an Affiliate Program?

Literally, anyone selling anything online can start an affiliate program, whether that’s physical products, digital goods or even services. The only requirement is that your stuff must be sold online through your website or on a platform that has affiliate tracking capabilities.

Here are some of the great reasons to consider an affiliate program for your product business:

  • Your Sales Will Increase: Quality affiliates send high-caliber traffic to your website, so your product sales will increase as a result.
  • You Only Pay for Performance: Unlike advertising, which can be risky, affiliates only get paid after they’ve generated sales for you first.
  • Existing Customers Already Want One: Customers already sharing your brand will be thrilled to hear they’ll now get rewarded for it, which will incentivize them to promote you even more!
  • It Boosts Your Brand Awareness: With affiliates talking about you all over the internet, your brand awareness will increase, leading to non-affiliate sales as well.

Affiliate Program Launch Myths

There are several misconceptions floating around when it comes to starting an affiliate program. Here’s a look at the most common ones I hear.

Myth #1: It’s too difficult to DIY the tech involved with an affiliate program

Even for the most tech-averse, the affiliate program setup process is fairly simple.

  • Most ecommerce sites easily integrate with affiliate platforms, and some even have affiliate tracking capabilities baked right in so you can go live with the click of a button.
  • For most merchants, setting up affiliate program tracking is relatively simple. You just add a piece of code (aka a tracking pixel) to your sales confirmation page and you’re good to go. Most affiliate platforms also offer step-by-step instructions or tech support to walk you through the implementation process.

One exception is software products and apps, especially if you want to pay on the sale instead of a lead. However, if you’re part of this field, chances are you’ve got an awesome developer on staff or contract who can tackle implementation for you.

Myth #2: An affiliate program sounds like a risky or expensive business investment

In my experience, starting an affiliate program is the opposite of risky or expensive.

  • It’s low-risk because you only pay affiliates after you get paid first (as long as you’re paying on sales) whereas with advertising and sponsorships you’re paying upfront with no guarantee of results.
  • It’s also one of the most affordable ways to acquire new customers compared to other high-cost marketing initiatives like pay per click advertising, podcast sponsorships, blogger giveaways, Facebook ads, and even content marketing.
  • If your platform has affiliate tracking built-in, you can launch an affiliate program for $0 or as low as $10 per month if it doesn’t. The affiliate networks with a $2,000+ price tag aren’t your only option!

Keep in mind, you should consult with a lawyer and/or educate yourself on Affiliate Nexus laws before launching to understand which affiliate States you can and cannot allow into your program.

Myth #3: It’ll take way too much time to set up, launch and manage my affiliate program

You don’t have to invest tons of time to see results with an affiliate program…

  • I once launched a scrappy affiliate program with E-Junkie that yielded thousands in sales within a week. I spent an hour on it, including the tech set up, inviting a few affiliates and paying out commissions at the end.
  • The biggest affiliate program I’ve ever worked on had 10,000+ affiliates and multiple employees each working 40 hours per week to manage it. However, it started with 1 guy doing it part-time with a handful of affiliates. More resources were added only after it became profitable.

The bottom line is you get to choose your own adventure when creating an affiliate program. Just be sure to complete an affiliate program competitive analysis before launching to develop a winning program structure affiliates will love.

A Few Platforms You Can Start Your Affiliate Program With

You have a lot of choices when it comes to affiliate tracking platforms. Today I’ll share 3 options I’ve found the easiest to get started with.

Launch an affiliate program with Refersion

Refersion Affiliate Marketing

Refersion is designed to help you quickly create and launch your own promotion network. They handle all the heavy lifting, allowing you to focus on growing your business through partnerships with bloggers, influencers, ambassadors, and promoters.

Great For: Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce and WooCommerce users

Merchants Using Refersion: Natural Stacks and Best Self

Pricing Details: $29 per month (up to 30 affiliate orders) or $89 per month (up to 130 affiliate orders). For unlimited orders, you’ll need to contact Refersion for pricing.

Pros

  • Refersion offers a free, 14-day trial so you can test it out before you commit to a monthly package.
  • Thanks to their apps, Refersion can be integrated with a few clicks if your store is on Shopify or BigCommerce.
  • The majority of customer reviews speak highly of the Refersion support team for offering exceptional customer support.

Cons

  • I’m not a fan of their pricing tiers being based on the number of affiliate orders you get because when you go over your limit, you and your affiliates will not be able to see any new orders until you upgrade your account. Affiliates will not appreciate this, especially if they’re closely monitoring real-time information to optimize their active campaigns.
  • Refersion doesn’t automatically pay your affiliates their commissions, so you’ll have to set aside time on your calendar every month to do this manually.
  • Some users find their UI outdated and confusing to navigate.

Getting Started: Refersion offers a free 14-day trial on both their Starter and Professional packages. Once signed up, you can use their Start Guide to get your affiliate program set up in a jiffy. Alternatively, you can use their Shopify App or BigCommerce App to get started.

Launch an affiliate program with AffiliateWP

AffiliateWP Affiliate Marketing

AffiliateWP allows you to easily create a full-featured affiliate program on WordPress. It’s known for being an easy-to-use, reliable WordPress plugin that gives you the affiliate marketing tools you need to grow your business and make more money.

Who Can Use It: WordPress.org users

Pricing Details: $99 to $249 per year, depending on how many WordPress sites you want to run the plugin on and if you want their pro add-ons. You can also pay a one-time price of $499 for unlimited everything, lifetime access and all current and future add-ons.

Pros

  • You can develop an affiliate program with all the bells and whistles (if you want!) thanks to their free and pro add-ons. These include things like coupon codes, tiered affiliate commissions, and affiliate landing pages.
  • Their customer support team is considered world-class and as someone who’s emailed them a ton, I can vouch for this. I recently got in touch with their support team about a bug and they issued a plugin update to fix it within a couple of days!
  • Unlike large affiliate networks and smaller tracking platforms, AffiliateWP does not charge you for each individual affiliate transaction. You pay the one-time or yearly-fee and that’s it.
  • AffiliateWP integrates with all of your favorite WordPress plugins, including Restrict Content Pro, WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, Gravity Forms, and Zippy Courses.

Cons

  • Every time an affiliate order comes in, you need to manually approve them before affiliates can see them on their dashboard. This is good for fraud, but time-intensive if you’re running a high volume program or launch.
  • I’ve run into issues with tracking bugs where legitimate affiliate sales didn’t have reference IDs so they appeared invalid. On a similar note, as with all WordPress plugins, make sure you promptly update it as new releases come out. When you do this, you’ll also want to test tracking and key features to make sure everything is working correctly.
  • If you opt for the personal or plus pricing package, you don’t get the pro add-ons.
  • Non-US users aren’t able to pay their affiliates using Paypal’s mass payment feature, which speeds up the affiliate payout process.

Getting Started: Go to AffiliateWP to sign up, then upload the plugin to your WordPress site. From there, use their in-depth Getting Started documentation to get your program set up. Should you run into any hiccups, their FAQ and Support sections are available to assist you.

Launch an affiliate program with ShareASale

ShareASale Affiliate Marketing

ShareASale is an affiliate marketing network that’s been around since 2000, serving both merchants and affiliates. ShareASale’s technology receives accolades for speed, efficiency, and accuracy—and their reputation as a fair and honest business is well known within the affiliate industry.

Great For: Users on virtually any ecommerce platform, including software applications.

Merchants Using ShareASale: ModCloth, Reebok, and FreshBooks.

Pricing Details: $550 one-time setup fee plus $100 minimum deposit for affiliate commissions.

I bet you’re wondering why a merchant would pay hundreds to launch their affiliate program when solutions like AffiliateWP and Refersion are much more affordable. There are some very compelling reasons, which I’ll outline below.

Pros

  • Unlike AffiliateWP and Refersion, ShareASale serves both merchants and affiliates. That means there’s a built-in audience of affiliates across every niche in their network looking for new programs on a regular basis. All of the programs I’ve launched or managed on the network get organic applications almost daily from affiliates who find the program on their own.
  • ShareASale has an incredible support team that offers both email and phone assistance.
  • You can get more eyeballs on your program by advertising to affiliates in several prominent places inside ShareASale.
  • ShareASale collects all tax forms from your affiliates and pays them out automatically every month.
  • While affiliate fraud is a problem across every network and platform, in my experience ShareASale is the safest option out there. Whenever an issue comes up, they proactively contact the merchant to let them know what happened and how it’s being resolved.

Cons

  • If you are on a budget, the startup fee can be a buzz kill. ShareASale also takes 20% fees on every affiliate transaction. For example, if your affiliate earns $4 per sale, ShareASale takes another 40 cents. However, compared to other pro networks like CJ and Linkshare, it’s the most affordable of the pro networks both in startup and transaction-based fees.

Getting Started: Start by signing up as a merchant here. You aren’t obligated to pay the setup fee until you complete tracking implementation and testing so go ahead and get started. Upon logging in, you’ll see ShareASale’s helpful merchant setup wizard, which walks you through an 8-step launch process.

3 Success Tips for Your Affiliate Program

Now that you know what an affiliate program is and how to create one, I’d like to share 3 tips to ensure your program gets off to a great start.

Don’t expect results overnight

When I chat with startups interested in launching a program, I tell them it’ll take months to see consistent results and more than a year to see significant sales. That’s because once your affiliate program is live, you’ll need to recruit and activate new affiliates before the sales pour in and there’s no way to rush that process.

While I can understand your desire to see the time and money you initially invest pay off quickly, affiliate marketing just doesn’t work like that. Unlike with paid advertising where you can turn on a switch and watch results trickle in, affiliate marketing is about building and nurturing relationships. Speaking of which…

Treat your affiliates like partners

In addition to being an affiliate manager, I’m also a content affiliate that’s been fortunate enough to work with wonderful affiliate managers who truly care about their affiliates.

I’ve also dealt with my fair share of affiliate managers who didn’t understand how to treat affiliates. For example, once I received a newsletter from a merchant that threatened to remove affiliates from their program if they didn’t send a sale by the end of the month. Another time, a merchant refused to let affiliates promote a cool resource they offered, even though other types of partners were allowed to share it.

Here’s the thing: affiliates are independent people or organizations who work at their own pace and don’t owe you anything. You’re there to answer questions, offer tips and troubleshoot problems. Basically, it’s your job to help them succeed, not enforce rules or deny resources that will discourage and demotivate them. Build strong relationships with your affiliates and affiliate sales will follow.

Educate yourself about the industry

I’ve been involved with the affiliate marketing industry for nearly a decade and still learn something new every single day. To grow your affiliate program, try and set aside time each week to learn more about the industry, from both the affiliate manager’s and affiliate’s perspective. Here are a few resources to help you:

Conclusion

Starting an affiliate program is an affordable and low-risk way to grow your product sales. Just remember you’ll need to invest time in the early days to develop a winning program structure, set up your affiliate platform and source affiliates for your program. Once the program is generating 5-10%+ of your overall product sales, you can hire help or retain an affiliate agency to manage the day-to-day of the program for you.



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10 Ways to Increase Average Order Value in 2020

10 Ways to Increase Average Order Value in 2020


The key benefit of increasing average order value is that you make more money from each transaction. Thus, making your store more profitable. Often, when a customer shops online, they’ll only buy exactly what they’re looking for. However, with some of the average order value strategies that we’ll share in this article, you’ll learn how to present more great products to customers to generate more sales from each order. In this article, you’ll learn what average order value is and how to increase it. So, let’s dive into it. 

What is Average Order Value?

Average order value (AOV) is the average dollar amount a customer spends when placing an order on your store.

You can calculate your store’s average order value by dividing your store’s total revenue by the number of orders taken. This formula is the easiest way to calculate it. Keep in mind that it doesn’t take into account marketing costs

Benefits of Increasing Average Order Value

  • Increase revenue and profit: When the average order value rises, you’ll see an increase in revenue and profit. The more you earn per order, the more your business makes altogether. If you can see a positive change in average order value, you’ll be able to reinvest more money into your business’ growth and pocket more too. 
  • Cost-effective marketing return: If you spend $20 on marketing and the average order value is only $50, you haven’t earned much after you deduct product costs and taxes. However, as you see a positive change in average order value, your marketing spend becomes more profitable. Thus, why it’s crucial to have an average order value strategy in place. 
  • Sell more inventory: This doesn’t apply to dropshippers. However, if you own stock for a brick and mortar store or even an online store, you can sell more of your inventory by executing a proper average order value plan. By making changes to see a boost in AOV, you’ll be able to sell more of the products you carry. 

10 Ways to Increase Average Order Value

1. Offer a Free Shipping Threshold

The easiest way to increase the average order value is to offer a free shipping threshold. For example, free shipping on all orders over $75.

Once you’ve calculated your average order value, add 30% to it. For example, if your average order value is $100, with the 30% increase, it becomes $130. This new number is what you’ll set your free shipping threshold at – for example, free shipping on all orders over $130. Aaron Zakowski found that a 30% increase to your average order value worked best as a free shipping threshold.

You can also add a notification when customers check out and their purchase doesn’t add up to the free shipping threshold. By having this notification, you’ll be able to help increase average order value. You can easily do this using apps from the Shopify App Store

Free-Shipping-Threshold

2. Give Product Discounts

While it seems counterintuitive, providing discounts can help change your average order value. However, when offering discounts, be sure to add a minimum spend. For example, get $10 off when you spend $75 or more.

Some brands also have volume discounts. This is when specific order value brackets result in a particular discount. For example, get $10 off when you spend $75, get $15 off when you spend $100, and get $25 off when you spend $150 or more.

offer-discounts

3. Provide Bundle Deals 

Providing customers with bundle deals can affect average order value. For example, your offer might be a buy two and get a free gift or buy three and get a fourth free promotion

As products on AliExpress are affordable, you’ll need to ensure you choose free gifts that won’t impact your product margins too much. For example, if you sell women’s products, your free gift might be a $2 bracelet. If you offer a buy three get a fourth free deal, you need to make sure you price your products in a way that you can afford to cover the costs of the fourth while still making more profit from the bundle deal.

Offer-Bundle-Deals4. Give a Gift Card

Gift cards are a great way to increase average order value, even when giving a small one away for free. For example, if your retail price is $35 or higher, you can offer a free $5 gift card for a customer to use with their next purchase. Since they have a gift card, they’ll be more likely to spend again.

However, you need to make sure that your product prices are high enough that your gift card doesn’t result in a free purchase for your customer, as that would cause a profit loss. Also, remember to make sure that customers know they can’t use the gift card on the current purchase or shipping (if you offer free + shipping on certain products).

Lastly, offering gift cards encourages future purchases, which helps reduce future ad spend. It’s a great bonus to give customers when sales are seasonally lower. Don’t offer this deal year-round as it can lose its effectiveness over time.

Keep in mind that even if you don’t give a free $5 gift card, gift cards still help increase average order value as most don’t spend the full card or end up paying much more than their card provides them.

You can offer a gift card to customers directly from the Shopify admin.

Offer-a-Gift-Card

5. Execute First Time Offers 

If you’re a relatively new brand, under six months old, most of your customers will be first-time visitors. Offering deals to new visitors can help increase average order value. You can provide this particular audience with a one-time discount when they buy multiples of a popular product or exclusive bundle deals just for people who haven’t shopped with you before.

If your customer orders several items and loves what they receive, it’ll be even easier to entice them to shop again. They’ll already have experienced shopping on your site first hand. Thus, you have a better chance of turning them into repeat customers.

average order value

6. Show Cross-sell And Up-sell Items

A cross-sell is an item that a customer may like that’s different from the product they’re viewing. For example, if your customer is looking at a dress, you might have a recommended product of a pair of earrings that pair with it.

An excellent idea for cross-selling is to add the products the model is wearing to the recommended products. For example, if the product photo is selling a tank top, you might add the skirt as a cross-sell. Since the customer sees the two together, they’ll be more likely to purchase them in combination.

An up-sell is when you encourage customers to buy more expensive items or additions to increase average order value or profit. For example, if you sell pillows, you might up-sell with comforter sets, a duvet, or other items. 

An effective way to upsell products is to sell more of the same product. For example, if you sell essential oils, you would upsell by recommending the same scent and a couple of other popular scents to the customer. The reality is, people are likely to buy more of what they love, especially if it’s likely to run out at some point. This works well for beauty products as well.

7. Have a Loyalty Program

Having a loyalty program in place can help increase average order value. Each time a customer orders, they can earn points or discounts just for being loyal customers.

The benefit of having a loyalty program is that it helps build brand evangelists, customers who keep coming back to your website to shop. According to The ROI from Marketing to Existing Customers report, 40% of a store’s revenue comes from repeat customers. Only 8% of all store visitors are repeat customers. Repeat customers are more likely to buy more from your store than people who are unfamiliar with your brand.

By encouraging repeat sales, you help create a more massive fanbase who will likely order larger quantities of products. They’re also cheaper to advertise to via retargeting, social media, or email marketing. Thus, these evangelists help increase average order value.

average order value with loyalty program

8. Offer Time-Sensitive Deals

You can offer a timesensitive deal to help increase average order value. For example, you might have a 48hour deal where someone gets a free gift or a special discount when they’ve ordered a specific quantity of products.

While it might not increase the average order value for a long duration, urgency helps increase conversions. Timesensitive deals are great for boosting average order value during slower periods. And they’re relatively easy to execute. You can promote them on social media or include a banner notification on your website.

Offer-time-sensitive-deals

9. Show Savings With Bulk Orders

People love saving money. However, when your customers order large quantities, they sometimes feel guilty about it. You can maintain a high average order value from a customer through the display of overall savings. This can prevent abandoned carts or cart modifications, which can lower the amount they planned to buy. 

However, if you show customers how much money they’re saving per item with each addition, they’ll feel like they’re scoring a deal. Showing people the monetary savings they get from buying multiple items can help increase average order value, even if it acts as a preventative measure. 

increase average order value

10. Creating A Game Or A Contest 

The food industry often creates games or contests to increase average order value. For example, McDonald’s has the Monopoly Game, where customers are incentivized to order more frequently and upgrade their meals to get more game pieces. With the game pieces, they have a chance of winning big prizes. 

In ecommerce, you can also run contests where customers have a chance to win prizes when they buy often. You can let customers know that if they’ve made a purchase, they enter the contest where they can win one of several prize packs. Then, you can search the Shopify App store for the contest app that works best for your campaign.

average order value with gift card

Conclusion

Calculating your average order value can help you understand how well your store is performing. After you’ve calculated your average order value, you can try executing some of the strategies in this article to increase it. Whether you create bundled deals or create a free shipping threshold, you’ll be on track to seeing higher order volume on your online store. So are you ready to see those sales rise? Then, it’s time to get started on implementing some new changes.

Want to Learn More?

What have you implemented to help increase average order value? What’s your average order value goal for your store? Let us know in the comments!



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