How to Turn a Customer Into a Subscriber — Marketing (2021)

How to Turn a Customer Into a Subscriber — Marketing (2021)

Email marketing is still relevant in 2021. It’s a great way to communicate with your customers and to make sure you send the right message at the right time. Many new business owners focus on capturing customers, but a subscriber is just as important—they can be a lead for a sale or someone to test new products or receive feedback from. In this blog, we’ll learn the difference between a customer and a subscriber, and how to turn one into the other. 

A customer is an individual who purchases a product from a business and receives a good or service. A subscriber is an individual who agrees to receive marketing emails from a business. It’s important to highlight that, although you may have a customer, you need permission to follow up with them over time. To do that, subscribers need to opt-in to hear from you, and there are a number of ways you can encourage them to do so.

Top three ways to turn a customer into a subscriber 

1. Optimize your online store

online store

The best time to capture subscribers is when they’re most engaged with your online store, and the two best places to get their attention are your landing page and  your checkout. 

Adding a newsletter signup form on the header or the footer of your site can encourage customers to sign up as they browse your site. It is important to let them know what they’ll receive when they sign up. This could be product updates or early access to deals and promotions. For help with adding a newsletter section to your Shopify store, see your theme documentation.

You can also add a checkbox at your checkout that lets customers sign up as they are completing a purchase. It’s important to let them know they need to complete the checkout for their subscription preference to be recorded. In Shopify, you can add this by modifying your checkout settings.

2. Offer exclusive deals, coupons, or discounts 


Deals and discounts are great incentives for helping turn customers into subscribers. You can add them to your confirmation emails after a customer has made a purchase or in a newsletter signup form. Letting them know they will receive an incentive is one of the best ways not only to get them to become a subscriber but also to be a returning customer. 

Here is a full list of different types of offers, coupons, and discounts.

3. Add a sign-up button on social media channels

social media

Many customers follow their favourite brands on social media to learn about product updates, news, upcoming sales, events, and more. Don’t let these channels slide as opportunities to convert customers into subscribers—highlight your signup form here. On Instagram, you can use Linktree to include multiple links in your bio. This lets you set one link that directs visitors to a sign-up form for your email list. Similarly, you can include a call-to-action button on your Facebook business page to encourage your followers to sign up as subscribers as well. 

Remember: After a customer accepts marketing from your online store, their email address shows on the Customers page of your Shopify admin.

If you’re beginning your email marketing strategy, don’t waste time: start building your subscriber list right from the start. Shopify Email is a great tool to begin building your campaigns, with a gallery of pre-made templates to customize and match your branding. You can begin sending emails in just a few clicks, as soon as you start growing your subscriber list.

Create an email campaign

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A Complete Beginner’s Guide for 2021

A Complete Beginner’s Guide for 2021

If you’ve ever posted anything on social media as a small brand, you know how often it feels like you’re talking into a void. Too often, no one responds. No likes, comments, retweets—you get the idea.

Not so with Instagram. No matter how small your audience, your posts probably still receive at least a few likes and comments—especially if you use the best Instagram hashtags. And with more than a billion users worldwide, it’s an enticing marketing channel. To leverage this massive audience, check out our guide on how to get followers on Instagram.

The business case for learning how to make money on Instagram is strong. Not only does Instagram’s engagement demolish Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, but, for brands, it even outperforms Facebook by a factor of 10. It kind of makes you wonder why more brands aren’t on Instagram, right?

Start advertising on Instagram today 📈

Shopping on Instagram

Instagram is now partnering with Shopify to take things a step further and offering product tagging and a Shop tab directly inside the Instagram interface.

Shopping on Instagram provides a seamless customer checkout experience for anyone who discovers your products in their Instagram feed.

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Add products to your Instagram posts and stories

Start tagging products in your posts and turning engagement into purchases with the shopping on Instagram sales channel.

Learn more

How do Instagram ads work?

Since 2015, anyone has been able to learn how to create Instagram ads through Facebook’s self-serve advertising platform. With it, you have total control over your ads, how they appear, and who sees them. And unlike sponsored posts and paid partnerships, your ads get posted directly from your own account.

The advantages to this method of Instagram advertising include:

  • Scalable pricing
  • Easy to use, self serve ad platform
  • Robust reporting so you’re in control
  • Highly refined audience targeting

There are two options to create Instagram ads. You can turn any post into an ad with Promote, which is similar to Facebook’s Boost button. You only have to decide where to send people when they click your ad, who should see it, and how much you want to spend.

Or you can create campaigns with Facebook Ads Manager, which is an all-in-one tool for launching ads across Instagram, Facebook, and more.

Instagram ads can have a significant impact on people’s buying behavior. It’s shown that Instagram helps 80% of users decide whether to buy a product or service. So whether you are a big or small business, you can create an affordable campaign that finds new customers and increases sales for your business.

How much do Instagram ads cost?

Research by Revealbot shows the average cost of Instagram ads are:

  • $1.17 cost per click (CPC)
  • $7.01 cost per one thousand impressions (CPM)
Instagram ad CPC cost
Source: Revealbot

But average cost-per-click also differs by campaign objective. As you can see below, Instagram ad CPC can range between $.50 and $7.50, depending on your objective.

Instagram ad CPC cost by campaign objective
Source: Revealbot

Average CPM also changes depending on your campaign objective. The study by Revealbot shows that CPM can range between $2.50 and upward of $35 per thousand impressions.

Instagram ad CPM cost by campaign objective
Source: Revealbot

Overall, good results depend on who you are targeting, your industry, and the ads you use. There’s no one true benchmark. It’s also important to note that Instagram ad costs can depend on how expensive your product is. Chances are, if you are selling a $50 product, it’ll be less expensive to acquire a customer than if you are selling a $1,500 product.

Consider two things about your Instagram ads: how much you want to spend on a campaign overall, and how much you want to spend for a result. This way, you won’t be surprised by unexpected costs and can test campaigns to get the best results.

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How to Grow and Monetize Your Instagram Account

A free workshop with field-tested Instagram marketing tips. Learn how to grow your Instagram audience and monetize it with an online store.

Types of Instagram ads

Some common types of Instagram ad you can run are:

1. Photo ads

A photo ad is one simple photo in landscape or square format. These are the simplest in terms of visual asset needs, since you just need a single image. Here’s an example of a photo ad from jewelry brand Clocks and Colours that takes Instagram users to a landing page to claim their military discount for use in-store.

Instagram ad single image
Source: Facebook

2. Video ads

Instagram used to have a 15-second limit for videos, but it has since lifted that rule. Now, videos can be up to 60 seconds long and shot in landscape or square format. Pura Vida uses the video ad format in its Instagram advertising to promote its new Jewelry Club.

Pura Vida Bracelets Instagram ad
Source: Facebook

3. Carousel ads

An Instagram carousel ad can have anywhere from two to 10 images and/or videos that users can view by swiping through.

Carousel ad example on Instagram
Source: Facebook

4. Collection ads

Collection ads are similar to video ads in that they appear as a video in a user’s feeds. These ads, however, are made up of a series of still images that play as a video, much like a slideshow. You can add text and audio to your slideshow ads.

Collection ad example on Instagram
Source: Facebook

5. Stories ads

Instagram Stories ads are one of the newest kinds of ads available to businesses on the platform. Instagram Stories are similar to Snapchat in that they allow users, and brands, to share self-destructing photos and videos.

Brands can also advertise on Instagram Stories with photo or video content. Online jewelry brand Pura Vida has used Instagram Stories ads with much success to build brand awareness and ad recall.

Pura Vida Bracelets Stories ad
Source: Facebook

6. Reels ads

Instagram recently expanded its Reel ads beta to Canada, France, the UK, and the US. Reel ads are a full-screen, vertical experience, similar to Stories ads. They appear in between a user’s Reels and last up to 30 seconds. Instagrammers can like, comment, save, share, skip, and view them.

Reels ad example
Source: Adweek

Instagram ad campaign objectives

When advertising on Instagram, you can choose from several campaign objectives. These are potential goals for your Instagram ad campaign that you select from a list. Don’t neglect this choice; it will influence how your Instagram ads are optimized and how you pay for them. For example, if your goal is to get people to watch your video, you probably don’t care how many users click on your link.

You may already be familiar with campaign objectives from creating Facebook ads. Options include:

  1. Brand awareness
  2. Reach
  3. Traffic
  4. App installs
  5. Engagement
  6. Video views
  7. Lead generation
  8. Conversions

1. Brand awareness

This objective is for when you want to drive awareness of your business, product, app, or service when advertising on Instagram. The objective formerly called awareness is now a part of this objective. The brand awareness objective supports image ads, video ads, carousel ads, slideshow ads, and Stories ads.

2. Reach

With a reach objective, you can also drive awareness of your business, product, app, or service. The objectives formerly called local awareness and reach & frequency are now parts of this objective. The reach objective supports all Instagram ad types. Reach is different from brand awareness in that it allows you to reach a larger audience, whereas brand awareness is a bit more targeted to users who are more likely to recall your ad or brand.

3. Traffic

You can use the traffic objective to drive visitors to your website. If you have a mobile app, this is also effective for driving app engagement. The objective formerly called website clicks is now a part of traffic. You can also use this objective to create an offer for your audience. The traffic objective supports all Instagram ad types. The Mountain Collective, which sells ski passes and packages, has used photo ads to drive users directly to its online store.

Instagram traffic ad example

4. App installs

Unsurprisingly, the app installs objective is ideal if you’re trying to get users to download your app. You can use any Instagram ad type with the app installs objective. Here’s a carousel ad example from Poshmark that drives users directly to its respective app store to download its mobile app:

poshmark app install ad example

5. Engagement

Engagement is another objective you can use to promote offers. It’s also effective at promoting your Instagram account and posts. Image ads, video ads, and slideshow ads are your options under the engagement objective.

6. Video views

If you’re running a video ad, carousel ad, slideshow ad, or Stories ad, you can use the video views objective to promote the video. This is an effective objective to drive awareness for your brand and products.

7. Lead generation

Instagram ads with a lead generation objective are great for collecting information from users, like their email addresses, so you can market to them in the future. This objective supports all Instagram ad types.

8. Conversions

The conversions objective is a great choice for ecommerce businesses that want to drive sales. The objectives formerly called website conversions and dynamic ads both are a part of the current conversions objective. If you want to optimize for people completing a specific action in your app and you have the Facebook SDK installed, you should use conversions as your objective.

💡 Note: In order to use this objective, you need to have the Facebook pixel installed on your website. If you don’t have one installed yet, you’ll get a message letting you know.

How to create Instagram ads

  1. Link your Instagram business profile to your Facebook page
  2. Create an Instagram ad campaign
  3. Create an Instagram ad set
  4. Analyze and optimize your Instagram ads

Let’s dive into exactly how you can create your first ad on Instagram.

Step 1: Link your Instagram business profile to your Facebook page

The first step to creating an Instagram ad is to link your Instagram account to your Facebook page. You only need to do this once.

Visit the Page Settings for your Facebook Business page and click on Instagram in the left column.

setting up an Instagram ad from Ads Manager

Next, click Connect Account. Toggle “Allow access to Instagram messages in Inbox” on or off. When turned on, it will allow you and anyone else who manages your page to respond to Instagram messages. Click on Continue.

setting up IG ad permissions

Fill in your Instagram login credentials or click on “Login with Facebook.” logging into Instagram account

Keep in mind that if you are connecting a personal Instagram account to a Facebook page managed in Business Manager, you will need to switch your Instagram account to a business or creator account.

confirmation that IG account is connected

Step 2: Create an Instagram ad campaign

After you’ve linked your Instagram account to your Facebook page, it’s time to head over to the Ads Manager and create your first campaign. If you already create Facebook ads, much of this process will be familiar to you.

In the Ads Manager, click on the Campaigns tab and then the + Create button near the top left corner of the screen.

creating your first instagram ad

Next, choose your campaign objective. Remember, only brand awareness, reach, video views, conversions, app installs, lead generation and traffic objectives are compatible with Instagram Stories ads.

choosing campaign objective

choosing conversion objective

Step 3: Create your Instagram ad set

On the Ad Set page, you’ll be able to choose Purchase as the type of conversion you want to optimize for under the Conversion Event breakdown.

creating your Instagram ad set

You can also choose to add an offer, which will help drive even more conversions on your ad.

toggle on or off Offer settings in Instagram Ads Manager

When figuring out how much you want to spend when you advertise on Instagram, start low. You can always increase the daily or lifetime budget later if your ad is performing well.

setting budget and schedule

Next, define who you want to see your ads. All the same targeting options are available for Instagram ads as for Facebook ads.

If you have any Custom Audiences already created, you can select them for targeting with your Instagram ad at this point.

creating a Custom Audience in Ads Manager

Next, select your ad placements. You’ll see the option to run your campaign on Facebook and Instagram, as well as on Audience Network and Messenger. Deselect everything except Instagram.

setting up placements in Ads Manager

When you’re finished choosing what to optimize for, how much to spend, who to target, and which placements to show your ads on, click New Ad in the breakdown on the left or Next on the bottom right of the screen if this is the first campaign you are creating.

view from Ads Manager of Instagram ad campaign

On the next screen you’ll see an option to choose your Instagram ad format. Once you’ve decided, scroll down to upload your images or videos.

choosing ad format

After you’ve uploaded your visuals, scroll down further and you’ll see an option on the left to add text and a call to action to your ad.

adding creative to your ads

Finally, to the right of the text editor, you’ll be able to preview how your ad will look on Instagram. Here’s how an example ad would look on Instagram feeds and Stories.

adding creative to instagram ad part 2

Once everything looks good, click Publish on the bottom right. Otherwise, go back and make changes.

publishing IG ad

Step 4: Analyze and optimize your Instagram ads

Your work isn’t complete after you’ve launched your first Instagram ad campaign. Once it’s running, you’ll want to monitor its performance and test ideas to find the most effective messaging, creative, and targeting.

analyzing result of IG ad

Within Ads Manager, you can edit your Instagram ad to incorporate split testing, change the targeting parameters, and view analytics for the performance of your ads.

The first Instagram ad is always the hardest. Once you’ve conquered it, it’ll be much easier the second time around!

Instagram ad tips

Use advanced targeting techniques

Instagram ads have all the same targeting options as Facebook ads. These include targeting based on location, demographics, interests, behavior, lookalike audiences, and automated targeting (i.e., let Facebook decide).

Even better, if you have Custom Audiences, you can target them on Instagram. Custom Audiences are groups of people who have already connected with your brand in some way. This could be by visiting your website, engaging with your posts on Facebook, using your app, or sharing their contact info with you.

Test different ad formats

Testing different ad formats helps you uncover what ads work best for your audience. For example, if your target audience responds better to Stories ads than regular image ads, you’ll want to put more money into Stories ads. This will help you generate more business and get better results for less money.

Optimize your budget

Use Facebook’s campaign budget optimization to optimize the distribution of your budget across a campaign’s ad sets. This option lets Facebook continuously find the best opportunities for results across your sets, and moves your budget automatically to get those results.

It’s a tactic that Trilce Jirón Garro, CEO of TBS Marketing, uses when running Instagram ads for her clients.

Run several ads within one campaign to see which performs better. Then nuke the expensive variations so that way there’s no guessing which creative performs best. Try several variations and stop running ads that underperform.

Trilce Jirón Garro, CEO of TBS Marketing

When setting up your Instagram ads, toggle Budget Optimization on in your campaign budget.

Try Instagram automation

Sometimes when ecommerce brands or influencers run ads on Instagram, they get a ton of comments or messages in their inbox. Often, they don’t have time to respond to all these people manually.

In response, brands are using Instagram automation to save time and turn comments into customers. With a tool like ManyChat, you can create Instagram Stories ads that engage users automatically with keyword automation.

Using Instagram ad automation by ManyChat
Source: ManyChat

 All someone needs to do is type in a pre-designated keyword from your Story and you’ll start an automated conversation inside Instagram Messenger. From there, you can collect viewers’ contact information, deliver a coupon code or lead magnet, or do anything else that will help you meet your business goals.

Getting the most from your Instagram marketing strategy

There’s no doubt that Instagram ads can help marketers and business owners get better results. Using Ads Manager, it’s easy to create ads that match your brand style and find your target people in the Instagram app. You can also choose your daily budget and control ad spend so you’re never caught off guard by ad costs.

Start today by running a small campaign for your business. Take the time to get comfortable advertising on this social network and build your skills. You’ll soon see how Instagram marketing can find relevant, targeted customers and impact your bottom line.

Illustration by Rachel Tunstall

Ready to create your business? Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required.

Instagram Ads FAQ

Are Instagram ads worth it?

Instagram ads have a potential reach of over one billion people. Instagram has advanced targeting options, and the platform influences customers’ buying decisions. At an average cost of $1.17 per click, Instagram ads are worth it if you want to advertise on social media.

What’s the difference between an Instagram ad and an Instagram Story ad?

An Instagram feed ad looks much like a Facebook ad. It has the brand’s Instagram handle, an image or video, a call to action, and a text box to explain what you’re advertising. An Instagram Stories ad happens inside a viewer’s Stories and is a more immersive experience. Viewers can swipe up on the screen to act on the ad.

How do I advertise on Instagram?

  • Link your Instagram account to your Facebook page.
  • Create an ad campaign in Facebook Ads Manager.
  • Create your ad set.
  • Analyze and optimize your Instagram ads.

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Print on Demand for T-Shirts: A Quickstart Guide (2021)

Print on Demand for T-Shirts: A Quickstart Guide (2021)

T-shirts are one of the most common print-on-demand products. They’re versatile, popular among consumers, and make a great canvas for a number of designs. The custom t-shirt printing market itself is expected to hit $10 billion by 2025.

While the market potential is huge, the competition is stiff. That’s why it’s important to find the right print-on-demand companies to work with, create designs customers will love, and learn strategies to drive lots of conversions.

Best print-on-demand shirt companies


Printful has print-on-demand shirts as well as more than 270 other products to choose from. It’s an attractive option to use to start your online t-shirt business because it doesn’t require order minimums or charge upfront fees. Plus, you can integrate it with Shopify as well as third-party marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon. With Printful, you can create custom-branded packaging and take advantage of its warehousing and fulfillment services.

As far as t-shirt options go, you can browse men’s, women’s, and children’s styles, including the standard t-shirt and more creative options like polo shirts and tank tops.

  • Average fulfillment time: Shirts and other apparel orders are fulfilled in two to seven business days, while non-apparel products take two to five business days. Most orders are shipped within five business days, post-fulfillment.
  • Shipping location: Toronto, Canada; Los Angeles, CA; Charlotte, NC; Tijuana, Mexico; Dallas, TX
  • Cost of low-priced tee: $7.95
  • Mockup generator: Yes
  • Ecommerce integrations: Shopify; WooCommerce; Prestashop; Shipstation; Wix; Squarespace; Big Cartel; Magento; Gumroad; BigCommerce; Launch Cart; 3dcart; Ecwid; Webflow; Etsy; eBay; Amazon; Storenvy; Weebly; Square; Wish
  • Branding: Custom packaging; packaging inserts


Printify has more than 300 print-on-demand products, shirts being one of them. Choose from tees, tanks, and hoodies in a variety of colors. Integrations include Shopify, Etsy, eBay, Prestashop, and more, as well as an open API.

Order samples to make sure you’re happy with the design and quality before making a larger commitment to Printify. It’s especially ideal for international sellers, as Printify has more than 90 printers in countries across the globe. You can also see the average fulfillment time for each supplier.

  • Average fulfillment time: Most orders ship within two to seven business days.
  • Shipping location: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, United Kingdom
  • Cost of low-priced tee: $6.55
  • Mockup generator: Yes
  • Ecommerce integrations: Shopify, Etsy, eBay, PrestaShop, BigCommerce, Wix, WooCommerce, Printify API
  • Branding: Available from select sellers

AOP+ Easy Print on Demand

AOP+ Easy Print on Demand is an app for Shopify and Etsy with more than 200 print-on-demand products. What sets AOP+ apart is the fact that it’s also the manufacturer—so you can work with it directly to develop custom shirts. This option is especially great for white labeling.

AOP+ offers three different plans: $0/month, $11.99/month, and $19.99/month. Free users get unlimited product designs and all of AOP’s standard products, while paid subscribers get access to more product variety and additional branding options.

  • Average fulfillment time: Production takes three to five business days, and shipping time varies based on location. US orders take one to two weeks, orders to the UK take about a week, and other international destinations take anywhere from one to seven weeks.
  • Shipping location: London, United Kingdom; the Netherlands
  • Cost of low-priced tee: $8.99
  • Mockup generator: No
  • Ecommerce integrations: Shopify, Etsy, ShipStation, Stripe, Payoneer
  • Branding: Packing slips; packaging inserts; branded stickers; labels


Like many other print-on-demand services, Apliiq has a whole range of products—including several types of shirts. You can find standard t-shirts and tank tops, as well as flannels, polos, and tie-dye tops. There are as many as 30 colors to choose from, depending on the type of shirt you choose.

Other options include private labeling, woven tags, embroidery, and patches. There are no minimums for ordering samples, so you can try it out before making a bigger commitment. If you like Apliiq’s shirts, bulk orders get discounts of up to 55%.

  • Average fulfillment time: Most orders ship within a week.
  • Shipping location: Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia, PA
  • Cost of low-priced tee: $3
  • Mockup generator: No
  • Ecommerce integrations: Shopify, WooCommerce
  • Branding: A variety of private label options are available


Teelaunch has print-on-demand services for a range of products, including different types of shirts. You can choose from a variety of men’s, women’s, and unisex styles, including t-shirts, tank tops, long-sleeve tees, and sweatshirts. It also has youth, toddler, and baby shirts available. Size and color availability varies by shirt—many styles include S–5XL sizes and 20+ color options. Some styles also allow for double-sided printing.

You’ll need a Shopify account to use Teelaunch, but you can sell your products on Etsy, Facebook, Amazon, or eBay. There are no fees to use the app—and while it doesn’t offer samples, you’re entitled to a 25% discount every 30 days.

  • Average fulfillment time: Orders are processed and ready for shipping in three to six business days, though this is longer during peak seasonal periods when order processing takes nine to 12 business days.
  • Shipping location: US, Canada, UK
  • Cost of low-priced tee: $5
  • Mockup generator: No
  • Ecommerce integrations: Shopify, Etsy
  • Branding: No


SPOD is a Shopify print-on-demand app that offers over 100 different types of products, with a wide range of shirt styles for men, women, kids, and babies. You can filter your search by color and size to easily see which products are available in a certain color or size.

SPOD has a customizer tool that allows your customers to easily personalize products right from your Shopify store. If you don’t have the time or interest to create your own design, the app includes over 50k free designs to choose from.

  • Average fulfillment time: 48 hours
  • Shipping location: Europe and North America
  • Cost of low-priced tee: $6.71
  • Mockup generator: Yes
  • Ecommerce integrations: Shopify
  • Branding: Packaging


CustomCat’s print-on-demand services offer a huge selection of apparel options—you can choose from 70 t-shirt styles, as well as polos, button-ups, tank tops, sweatshirts, and hoodies. Size and color availability vary by style of shirt. Some styles have more than 20 color options and XS–3XL sizing.

CustomCat can integrate with your Shopify, WooCommerce, Etsy, and BigCommerce stores. You can also send orders directly using its custom API or by uploading a CSV spreadsheet. It’s free to create an account with CustomCat, but Shopify users will have to either pay $30 per month to use the app or use CustomCat Lite, which is free to use but charges $2 per item.

  • Average fulfillment time: Shipping typically takes two to six business days.
  • Shipping location: Detroit, MI
  • Cost of low price tee: $7
  • Mockup generator: No
  • Ecommerce integrations: Shopify, Etsy, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, CustomCat API
  • Branding: No


T-Pop is an ecologically conscious print-on-demand service based in France. It has a selection of shirts available in men’s, women’s, unisex, and kid’s sizes—and most products are made from organic cotton. As part of T-Pop’s commitment to the environment, shipping is plastic-free and designs are printed with vegan eco-certified inks.

With T-Pop, you can include your logo on packages for free, along with fully customizable packing slips. You can also send T-Pop any pack-ins you want included in your packages, like flyers, promo items, or stickers. Orders can be made directly through T-Pop or integrated with your WooCommerce, Etsy, or Shopify store.

  • Average fulfillment time: Production takes two to four business days while shipping time varies depending on location. Shipping is two to three business days in France, three to 10 business days in the EU, and five to 14 business days for orders to the US.
  • Shipping location: France
  • Cost of low price tee: €12,20
  • Mockup generator: No
  • Ecommerce integrations: Shopify, WooCommerce, Etsy
  • Branding: Packaging inserts; packing slips

Designing your print-on-demand shirts

When it comes to creating the actual visual design for your shirts, there are a few avenues you can take. Each option has its own level of difficulty—and there are even options if you don’t consider yourself artistic or design-savvy.

Create it yourself

For the creative type, designing your own shirt graphics is a great way to go. You might already be an artist or graphic designer with a particular design in mind. Or you might want to create print-on-demand products featuring your brand’s logo and other visual identity. You can use print-on-demand services to choose which types of shirts you want to print your designs on, and how you’d like them printed.

Buy design templates

If you want to do it yourself but need some guidance, you can use online t-shirt templates and mockups to walk you through the design process. Check places like Designious, Tshirt Factory, and Creative Market for templates and design elements you can incorporate into your products.

Hire someone

For those who don’t want to or can’t create their own print-on-demand shirt designs, outsourcing is an excellent option. You can find talented designers with the skills to create a unique design for you to put on your shirts. Ask around for referrals or browse Shopify Experts for top designers who can bring your vision to life.

How to sell print-on-demand t-shirts

The first step to take when you want to sell print-on-demand shirts is identifying your niche. When you choose a niche market, you know who your target customers are and you can appeal to their specific wants and needs. Find shirts and printers who have the quality of products you need to please your customers—you might choose one of the shirt printers from the list above.

Once you have your niche, your design, and your printer, you’ll want to validate your ideas to make sure there’s demand and opportunity in the market. Build an online store and start running some low-budget ad campaigns to see what works and what doesn’t. One of the greatest advantages of a print-on-demand shirt business is its flexibility. You can launch and test new designs at any time without making a massive investment in new inventory.

After you’ve identified your top-selling shirt designs, you can expand your print-on-demand business to include other types of products (like print-on-demand books) as well. The sky’s the limit!

Ready to create your business? Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required.

Print-on-demand shirts FAQ

What is the best print-on-demand site?

The best print-on-demand site depends on your unique needs. Some of the best print-on-demand sites are listed in this post, including Printful, Printify, Apliiq, Teelaunch, SPOD, and more.

Is print on demand profitable?

Yes, print on demand is profitable if you strategically price and promote your products. Print on demand is unique because you don’t need to make a large inventory investment, so there’s less risk than with other ecommerce business models.

What is the cheapest print-on-demand site?

The cheapest print-on-demand site is Apliiq, when it comes to shirts.

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How Shop Pay Installments Drove 10x More Installments Revenue for Pillow Cube — Founder Stories (2021)

How Shop Pay Installments Drove 10x More Installments Revenue for Pillow Cube — Founder Stories (2021)

For years, Jay Davis searched for the perfect pillow but couldn’t find any designed specifically for side sleepers, so he decided to create his own. In 2019, he launched Pillow Cube to give side sleepers the support they finally deserve. After two successful Kickstarter campaigns that went viral, orders came flooding in and never stopped increasing. Last year, this Shopify merchant introduced Shop Pay Installments after trying ‘buy now, pay later’ with another provider—and the results were significant. We spoke to Will Beck, director of business development, about the positive impact Shop Pay Installments had on their business.

More sales with Shop Pay Installments

After offering installments payments with another popular provider, Pillow Cube wanted to test Shopify’s ‘buy now, pay later’ solution and see which one worked better. “Shop Pay installments has definitely been good for us! It’s now 6.5% of our GMV,” says Will Beck. “We’ve also seen a consistent increase in our average order value rate.” For Pillow Cube, Shop Pay Installments drove 10x more installments revenue than the other provider. Shopify’s ‘buy now, pay later’ solution helps merchants drive more sales by offering flexible, risk-free financing. It also allows customers to maximize their budgets and boost their purchasing power by giving them the ability to buy what they want.

No hidden fees

With Shop Pay Installments, Shopify merchants receive the full amount upfront, while customers pay over time. There are no surprise fees for customers—not even late fees. And for Pillow Cube, this is one of its best features. “Shop Pay installments takes some of the risks away from the client and makes them feel more comfortable to jump in with us,” explains Beck. “Just putting up their payments and not having to pay extra by doing it, I think that’s the biggest thing. It helps to make a sale.” 

“I feel like there’s more trust in Shop Pay Installments. Customers are leaning towards the Shopify experience over other providers.”

An integrated checkout solution

Pillow Cube was surprised by Shop Pay Installments’ quick adoption rate. The first month, the pillow company did 175% more installments revenue than with its previous provider. “I feel like there’s more trust in Shop Pay Installments. Customers are leaning towards the Shopify experience over other providers,” says Beck. Since Shop Pay Installments is a fully integrated checkout solution, it offers customers a seamless shopping experience—with no redirects and no overselling.

For Pillow Cube, Shop Pay Installments has proven to be the optimal ‘buy now, pay later’ solution in just a few months. Shopify’s checkout solution helped the pillow company to turn browsers into customers, increase average order value, and give more side sleepers the best night’s sleep they ever had!

Increase sales with Shop Pay Installments

Give customers the flexibility to split their purchase into 4 interest-free payments with Shopify’s ‘buy now, pay later’ solution. Boost conversion, lower cart abandonment, and drive customer retention with a better shopping experience.


Shop Pay Installments is offered in partnership with Affirm.
Payments options through Shop Pay Installments are offered by Affirm, are subject to an eligibility check, and may not be available in all states. CA residents: Loans by Affirm Loan Services, LLC are made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lender license.

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How Ondo’s Customers Using Shop Pay Installments Are Spending 2x More Than Regular Customers — Founder Stories (2021)

How Ondo’s Customers Using Shop Pay Installments Are Spending 2x More Than Regular Customers — Founder Stories (2021)

When ONDO launched their Shopify online store in October 2020, they had one goal: design and sell high-quality no show socks that don’t slip off your feet. This Shopify merchant not only succeeded in designing the best no show socks, they also hit six figures in monthly sales after just three months in business. Shortly after, ONDO decided to give ‘buy now, pay later’ a try even though they didn’t think customers would use it to buy only socks. They were wrong. Customers are using Shop Pay Installments to check out with larger cart sizes. We talked with Daniel Shim, CEO of ONDO, to discuss Shop Pay Installments’ quick adoption rate and the reasons he preferred Shopify’s integrated checkout solution to other ‘buy now, pay later’ providers.

A flexible payment method

For ONDO, giving their customers the option to buy now, pay later with Shop Pay Installments was an easy decision. “We want to offer a flexible payment method to customers that want our socks, but might not have the budget to buy our eight or twelve-packs right now,” says Shim. “I’ve always thought about installment payments for luxury goods or higher priced products, but I didn’t think people would use it to buy it for daily apparel like socks,” he adds. But they did. ONDO’s conversion rate increased by 28% just for the month of May. “To be honest, we didn’t think as many people would be using Installments on our site!”

“Our average cart size on Shop Pay Installments is double that of a regular checkout as more customers are buying larger bundles of our socks.”

Larger cart sizes

‘Buy now, pay later’ solutions allow customers to maximize their budgets and increase their buying power. With Shop Pay Installments, ONDO’s customers are buying larger packs of socks and splitting their purchases into four interest-free payments. “Shop Pay Installments has definitely been helping us bring up our average cart size,” says Daniel Shim. “Our average cart size on Shop Pay Installments is double that of regular checkouts as more customers are buying larger bundles of our socks.”

All-in-one platform

For ONDO, managing all its business within Shopify is essential. “I’ve learned the importance of having everything in-house on one platform,” says Shim. ONDO recently upgraded their online store to Shopify Plus and also received a loan from Shopify Capital. “Our accountant is very happy that we’re not getting a loan anywhere else because it’s so much easier for bookkeeping. Our business is extremely data-driven, so it helps us to have Shop Pay Installments integrated into our Shopify dashboard.” With Shop Pay Installments, merchants can not only save time but run their business smarter by tracking their sales and fees in one place—their Shopify account. 

‘Buy now, pay later’ is a payment method that is quickly gaining adoption as consumers look for new financing options and merchants aim to drive more sales. With Shop Pay Installments, ONDO helped its customers to optimize their budgets and in return, the no show socks company increased their average order volume substantially in just three weeks.

Increase sales with Shop Pay Installments

Give customers the flexibility to split their purchase into 4 interest-free payments with Shopify’s ‘buy now, pay later’ solution. Boost conversion, lower cart abandonment, and drive customer retention with a better shopping experience.


Shop Pay Installments is offered in partnership with Affirm.
Payments options through Shop Pay Installments are offered by Affirm, are subject to an eligibility check, and may not be available in all states. CA residents: Loans by Affirm Loan Services, LLC are made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lender license.

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The Ballsy Idea Behind Building a 10,000 Subscriber Base — Podcasts (2021)

The Ballsy Idea Behind Building a 10,000 Subscriber Base — Podcasts (2021)

Why is it that women have more personal hygiene products to choose from than men? Adam Hendle noticed that men’s nether regions were sorely neglected in the personal care space, so he set out to create a fun and effective product line, called Ballsy. Thanks to a combination of cheeky—pun intended—branding, paid advertising, and an optimized checkout system, Ballsy now enjoys more than 10,000 subscribers. In this episode of Shopify Masters, Adam shares with us the process of formulating products, learnings from logistical mishaps, and marketing a category you invented.

For the full transcript of this episode, click here.

Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to Shopify Masters.

Show Notes

From shower thought to success: how this company was born

Felix: Tell us more about how you came up with the idea for the company. What did you find out?

Adam: It was one of those shower moment ideas about a shower product. I had the original idea about four or five years ago now. I was literally in the shower and just so happened to notice on that day how many different personal care products my wife had. She had different products for every area of her body. Around that time, five years ago, there just wasn’t a lot for men’s personal care, it was like, “Here’s your 4-in-1 or your 5-in-1 value wash.” A lot of the brands that were higher quality just weren’t anything I related with.

I had this moment in the shower, like “Could there be this bold, fun playful brand, that had high quality products that tackled an area of a guys body that had been overlooked?” Ballwash was the first idea. I literally jumped out of the shower, Google searched, and to my surprise and delight no one had ever created a product called Ballwash. I immediately thought to myself either I’m a genius and there’s some white space here or I’m absolutely out of my mind. That was the start of the journey, to answer that question.

Felix: What made you take the fun and playful approach with a product that is sometimes taboo–personal care products? 

Adam: It’s really a balance. It’s both fun and playful, but it’s also backed up with high quality. Everything that we do from the product quality itself and what we actually put in the ingredients, to the way that we present the brand, is very top shelf. I knew early on that if I was going to have products with over the top names, like Ballwash and Nut Rub, we wanted to back it up with some quality behind it.

“We really believe in the products and I’m not here to make a novelty brand. I’m here to make a lasting men’s brand.”

I didn’t want this to be a joke. While it is fun and playful and bold and attention getting, it’s not a joke. It’s not something that we just say, “Ha, ha. This is just something silly.” We really believe in the products and I’m not here to make a novelty brand. I’m here to make a lasting men’s brand. I knew that balancing the humor to get people’s attention, to have fun and say, “Hey, we don’t take ourselves seriously, but what we do is take our products seriously. This is something that guys should pay attention to.” Everything we do is really about balance.

Adam Hendle standing in a shopping cart being pushed by a friend and holding a Ballsy product.
Having eye-catching social that Ballsy boost with paid has been a great driver of sales. Ballsy

Felix: How did you achieve this balance in your marketing? Where you caught people’s attention, but then kept it with a high-quality product? 

Adam: We lean forward with paid social. The top of funnel is the bold, playful aspect of the brand. Typically just our products on a plain white background are enough to get that attention and get that conversation going, because of the naming conventions themselves. We get a lot of people leaving comments, tagging friends, starting a conversation which leads to a lot of engagement. Once we get them in the door and they land on the site, we spend a lot of time making sure that everything looks very polished and non-gimmicky.

On the product pages, we spend a decent amount of time explaining to the customer what is in the product and what makes them suited for that area of a man’s body. Whether that be essential oils or plant extracts or certain ingredients that help with irritation and chafing, we wanted to make sure that when a customer lands on that page, it’s very clear that this is a solution that we have presented to them for a problem.

We’ve evolved our product pages over time. I started with little text and bullet points, and now we’ve really built out the PDP pages with icons and images that make it really easy for a customer to understand what’s in the product, very quickly.

Felix: It sounds like you have fun with the marketing, but as the customer gets closer to purchasing, you make sure to take it seriously and give them all the information they might need.

Adam: Absolutely. We obviously lean into Ballsy and what makes us different, because it’s really hard to stand out–especially in paid, when you’re trying to get customers’ attention and they’re just being bombarded. That’s definitely one side of the brand. It’s really important that once we get them in the door, that they understand what these products are for and how they’re going to benefit from them. Especially if you plan on keeping them around.

Finding the right manufacturer: Practice patience and persistence

Felix: After you did some research, what were the first steps you took when you realized there might be a potential business here? 

Adam: My first step was to figure out how to make body wash. A bunch of YouTube videos and research later, I realized I’m a better marketer than a chemist and figured I should find somebody to do this for me. That led me down the long, hard path of finding a manufacturer who would do a very small run for me. I literally put aside $5,000 to start Ballsy. If you know anything about product manufacturing, that is a very small amount of money. Typically, minimum order quantities (MOQs) are 5,000 units. Right out of the gate it didn’t make sense for a lot of manufacturers.

I called around for about six months and just kept knocking on doors. I found this amazing manufacturer based in Michigan, who is more family run and specialized in natural products. After about a 10 minute phone call and me explaining the brand, they’re like, “We’re completely in.” They loved the idea. It felt like they were a perfect partner. They weren’t just treating the brand as another customer, they were treating it as a partner that wanted to help develop great products and develop the brand with us.

They’re still our main manufacturer to date. That definitely paid off. It was a long few months of trying to call people and wondering if I could ever get this off the ground, but I really wanted to stick to that budget. In the long run, just knocking on enough doors paid off.

A bottle of Ballwash being held by a male model in boxers.
Finding a partner who is willing to custom formulate was essential for Ballsy. Ballsy

Felix: It’s uncommon for a manufacturer to agree to such a low MOQ. I’m sure other entrepreneurs have faced this. What do you think that you said or did during these interactions that sold them on the business? 

Adam: Absolutely. I want to clarify that we could have done off the shelf white label and just put a label on it and called it Ballwash. It was really important for us to find somebody who’s going to custom formulate and take some of their experience and my ideas and bring them together. That’s really why I spent so much time on that, aside from the budget. That’s really important when finding that first key partner for any business. You need to find that person that understands the brand, is excited about the brand, and is willing to work on it with you.

They’re used to getting pitched by a lot of personal care brands. They have a lot of great companies. I think what was exciting to them about us was, it was just different. We were taking a different approach to men’s personal care, both in terms of brand and what we wanted to accomplish. They thought it’d be fun. It was something that excited them. It was really a matter of us talking to enough people to find that right person that was excited about the idea as much as we were.

Luckily, they were the right size. They could work quickly with us and didn’t have to have huge budget requirements. It basically just came down to a matter of persistence. A lot of people give up after making a lot of first calls and it doesn’t go their way. I know I was super frustrated after a few months and almost thought about not moving forward. You never know who’s going to be on the line for the next call. That just happened to be the perfect partner for us.

“That’s really important when finding that first key partner for any business. You need to find that person that understands the brand, is excited about the brand, and is willing to work on it with you.”

Felix: You mentioned custom formulation. What was involved in the product development process? 

Adam: For us, it starts with a product brief. What is the general idea of that product? Whether it’s a wash or a lotion, a cologne, you name it. What is going to be different about this product? Maybe it’s the form factor. For example, we have a solid cologne called Nut Rub. A lot of people have never heard of solid colognes. Traditional colognes are sprayed on. That’s a differentiating factor there. Ball Guard is a lotion that dries as a powder. It’s a powder. What makes that product different? What’s going to make it exciting for a consumer and what’s going to help it solve a pain point that they may be having.

Once you get that twist and edge to the product, then it’s all about fine tuning. Looking at different ingredients and things that you think would help out. A lot of times we rely on the chemists because they know a lot more about individual ingredients and benefits than we do. But it’s like, “Hey, we want these qualities in the product.” Then the last thing is, “What do we want it to smell like?” We go through a ton of different fragrances. We have a fragrance house that sends us a bunch of different samples.

It’s taking all of those things over the course of six months to almost a year on certain products and putting them all together and doing a lot of rounds of iteration and sampling. Typically it takes a little bit longer than what you’d like, but we found that the more effort and time that we put in upfront, the happier with the outcome on the backend we are.

Seek detailed feedback to inform product development

Felix: Talk to us about the amount of iterations it typically takes to create a product that’s ready for the market. 

Adam: Ballwash took us about six months of iterations and going back and forth. You’re your own worst enemy to where you could always say, “Could be a little bit better.” Or, “Let’s tweak one more thing.” You could go nuts doing that. For me at the end, I think I had to ask myself, “Does it check all the boxes of the original product brief? Are other people outside of me excited?”

Testing with friends and family and showing them the product and getting real world feedback pretty early on is always something that we did out of the gate. It’s still something that we do, and it’s been really helpful. Otherwise, it’s just hard to say, “When’s this end point?” You really have to set up realistic guidelines, stick to your product briefs, and listen to your gut and the people around you.

Felix: Testing with friends and family is a big stage for a lot of entrepreneurs. Obviously, these people love you and want to support you. How do you make sure you’re getting the kind of feedback that will lead you in the right direction? 

Adam: It’s something you always got to be cognizant of. We just tested with a bunch of different friends and family members. It wasn’t like one or two. We basically said, “Shoot it to us straight. We’re starting a business and we really need your feedback. If it’s not good, be specific about why you don’t like it.” To that point, follow up with each person that tried it, to ask them specific questions. Did they like the way it lathered? Did they like the fragrance? If not, what did they not like about it?

It’s about asking more pointed questions about what they did or did not like about the product instead of saying, “Here’s Ballwash, what do you think?” And just hoping that they’re going to give you honest feedback. We had friends and family that went both ways on it. “Is this serious, is this not serious? You guys are crazy. I love it.” Getting as many people’s feedback as possible is really important out at the gate.

Felix: I can imagine that led to some interesting conversations that you have never had before with family and friends. 

Adam: One thing there too. I did run into some friends and family that didn’t think it was the greatest idea. That’s hard to take as somebody trying to start a company. I was glad that they gave me that feedback. That’s when it comes down to your own conviction for the product and just wanting to keep going. That was something that was hard early on and I’m sure a lot of people face it. It’s not friends and family saying, “Hey, this is great.” Sometimes it’s the other way. It’s really that conviction of the product and making sure that you really want to launch the company that gets you to keep going.

An unexpected audience: Women

Felix: Can you recall some impactful changes to the product or even the marketing that came out of the feedback from friends and family?

Adam: My wife has been a huge sounding board for Ballsy, the whole way through. We have a huge female base of customers that buy the product for their guys–whether it be their husband, boyfriend. Going back to the balance thing, we want the brand to be very fun and approachable, but we never want it to be bro or macho or not inclusive. We want everyone to feel that the brand is a great unifier–the unifier being humor and fun. Just being ballsy in what you do in life.

My wife had been an amazing soundboard to get that female perspective, especially early on when we didn’t have a lot of customers to talk to. To make sure I didn’t have any blind spots when it came to the copy or just the way that the product looked.

Felix: Having a large female consumer base who are buying the product for the end user, a male, must have been interesting. How did that affect or inform your marketing strategy? 

Adam: To be perfectly honest, I was very naive to the female customer base when we first launched. I figured we’d have some female customers, but it wasn’t until we launched our first Facebook ads and we had a bunch of different ad sets set up, that the ad set targeting females blew up. It had a much higher ROAS and got me thinking more and more. There’s a lot of females out there that buy personal care products for their guys or for their households. That was something that we had to really come to grips with quickly and pay attention to in our marketing.

A set of personal care items from Ballsy along with a pair of underwear.
Leaning into gifting seasons allowed Ballsy to reach new customers and gain returning customers. Ballsy

Gifting is something we’ve done for that, that has really helped our business. We really lean into these gifting moments. For us that centers around Christmas, but also Valentine’s Day. Again, going back to my wife and the female perspective, I was talking to her about Valentine’s Day early on. How do you get a female to buy Ballwash and Nut Rub and Sack Spray for their guy for Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t seem like, “Here’s these products, you have an issue?” It’s more like, “Here are these products to help you.” It shouldn’t be like, “Hey, like you smell. Take care of yourself.” It’s like, “Hey, I got these really fun products for you.”

The idea around that was to package all three of our products together in a giftable set. We use the slogan, “I’m nuts about you.” It’s this fun, gifting thing. She can give it to her guy and be like, “I’m nuts, about you.” He laughs and he opens it up and then we explain why these products are so great. Around Christmas, we do another box that says, “Keep your jewels jolly.” It’s all about leading with the fun and getting people that have this excitement of like, “What is this?”

Inside the boxes–and this isn’t something that we did out of the gate–but when you open up the flap of the box, it talks about each product and why they’re great. Early on, people got this and they’re like, “Oh, this is like a novelty or a gag.” We quickly realized that we needed to do a really good job when that gift receiver gets it, by explaining to them, “Yeah, well this is fun, but here’s why you need this, and here’s why these are going to be great for you.”

Optimizing on gifting to drive up sales

Felix: What else is involved when you’re gearing up for a gifting period? 

Adam: Honestly, I would say the vast majority really is on these bundling and kitting, by using gift boxes that are very much themed for the holiday. For us, it’s making this no brainer gift purchase of under $50. How can we package this up to where any customer can make this very quick decision and feel good about a gift? A lot of brands obviously lean into holidays and they put sales together and they’ll maybe do a content shoot around products and it’d be themed that way.

We actually make a product in a box that is themed specifically for that holiday. It feels a bit more special and unique and something that you can only get during those holidays. Ever since we’ve done that, it has unlocked tremendous growth around those key gifting moments. The first holiday that we had it, we saw a lot of success not having this gift box or a holiday themed gift box. Since then, it’s just been astronomical growth.

We’ve started to roll out holiday themed versions of our Ballwash. They’ll have like limited edition sets. A Ballwash for Christmas basically is like a peppermint and pine scent. That’s done really well. A step further down, is really just speaking to the female customer in the ad sets, in the ad copy. It’s like, “Here’s a gift for the both of you. We’ve solved Valentine’s Day for you. Stop giving the same, lame gift.” What’s the problem that people usually have around gifting and how are you solving it for them? We speak very directly to that in those ads.

Felix: Are there other ways that you encourage gifting throughout the rest of the year?

Adam: Father’s day specifically for a wife, giving it to her husband is another gifting moment for us. Outside of that, those are really the three key moments.

Felix: One thing I’ve heard works really well for products that are giftable, are these gift lists. Is that something that you focus your attention on?

Adam: We’ve organically shown up on a lot of just gift lists. That has worked pretty well. Since we’ve started to grow, we’ve got a PR team that tries to get us on a few of those. If you can end up on those lists it’s definitely a net positive.

Felix: Speaking of Valentine’s Day, you had mentioned one scary moment in your business where you had 1,000 packages go missing over Valentine’s Day due to a distribution center losing power. Tell us more about what happened in that situation.

Adam: Absolutely. I’ll say gifting is great for us, but the downside is if you get in the way of a customer receiving their Valentine’s Day gift, it’s a bad spot to be in. At Christmas consumers have a lot of gifts to give, but if it doesn’t show up before Valentine’s Day, typically they don’t have another gift to send. It’s a very stressful time for both customers and a brand trying to make sure that they get products in hand before that date.

Unfortunately, as a brand, as quickly as you can ship them out, sometimes things are just out of your hands. Mother nature is definitely one of those things. It was two years ago, we were leading up to Valentine’s Day. We were about 10 days out and we were shipping out over 1,000 packages and we were getting closer and closer to Valentine’s Day and we’re getting more and more customer service emails saying, “Where’s my package?” We’re like, “It went out.”

Basically we were looking at all of these tracking links and they would update once and they would just stop. We’re just like, “Where are all these things going?” We didn’t know if they were lost or what had happened to them. Our fulfillment center at the time couldn’t really give us any answers. We just started trying to do right by the customer and we just started sending them another box. We sent out roughly 1,000 more boxes expedited shipping to people to get them there on time.

We come to find out that a USPS fulfillment or distribution center in Michigan lost power and somehow didn’t relay that to anyone that would be privy to us. They sat in that distribution center for like three to four days, and then it got super backed up, obviously. All of those products got delayed. They didn’t make it for Valentine’s Day. Again, we did the right thing, we made sure everyone got it, but it was a very costly mistake to happen. It’s always the toughest when something like that happens outside of your hands as a business owner.

A package from Ballsy next to a pair of boxers and other bathroom items.
Studying historic data and using patterns to predict sales has helped greatly in inventory management. Ballsy

Felix: What happened with those packages? Did you get them back or did the customers receive two packages?

Adam: Most of the customers received two packages. A lot of them were super nice and said they could send them back or pay for them. We just let the customers have it and hope that that brand equity was built and then they’d come back for more, down the road.

Felix: You mentioned that you bootstrapped the business. Were there any scary moments early on relating to cash flow and managing finances? 

Adam: As a bootstrapped business cash flow is always top of mind. Especially for us around Valentine’s Day and Christmas, we go very hard during those moments. We basically take everything that we’ve made previously in the year, take out an inventory loan and then we put it all on red, and basically hope that it comes back in spades. We’ve been doing that now for about three years and it’s done really well for us. We can really count on those gifting customers, we’ve proved out that segment of the business. It’s always scary.

Is this going to be the year where it dries up and we’ve got all this money tied up in inventory? That’s always scary. Honestly, thinking back to like our first POs, my first order was for 500 units. Then we sold out of that and then it was like, “All right, let’s do 2,500.” The POs just kept getting bigger. As they scaled up, so did the fear of, “What happens if these don’t sell, and we’re holding this big PO, to that invoice that we can’t pay?” You just have to believe in the brand and continue to push forward. That’s what we’ve done.

Felix: Are there ways that you’ve been able to be intelligent about what inventory to hold?

Adam: We basically use history. We looked back and said, “All right, we’ve sold out every single year, during these four months.” We looked back on inventory, we looked back on what we’ve sold and we say, “How much do we think we can increase inventory based on what we saw in our cost per acquisition and remaining profitable on those purchases?” Add some to it, then we look at cash flow in general and say, “How much can we reasonably afford without putting everything at risk?” Somewhere in the middle is what we go with. Nothing that scientific to it, it’s just using history and risk tolerance and using past market signals to forecast what we’re going to do this year.

Listen to what your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) is telling you

Felix: You had mentioned different ad sets, different creative, different targeting. Talk to us about that. What’s been your pait media strategy?

Adam: Paid media is a huge lever in our business. Facebook and Instagram, being the primary drivers. Really early on most of our ads were male focused and we had one female ad set. That one really seemed to pan out very quickly. It started to inform the rest of our ad sets and campaigns moving forward. That’s a very small example of doing a bunch of tests, maybe some things that you didn’t think about. You never know, you might get surprised and that becomes your main ad set. That’s the way it’s been for us.

We’ve used that as our first campaign example moving forward. Whether that’s testing different copy, different types of creative such as static images, video, UGC and pairing that up with different copy, so different incentives in terms of different promotions to get customers in the door and get that first conversion. It’s about having a decent library of both copy and creative content. It’s trying different combinations of both of those and working on a test budget, then scaling up the ones that work and killing off the ones that don’t.

We tried working with some Facebook agencies very early on and something that we were pretty frustrated with was the amount of time agencies would want just to continue to spend. “Just give it more time, the Facebook algorithm will figure it out.” Myself and my partner, Brock, were pretty impatient with that. We’d give it a lot less time.

If we didn’t see success in the first three days of a campaign, we’d kill it off and move on to the next one. That’s served us pretty well to date. Although over the years the Facebook algorithm has gotten better at figuring things out. That was something really early on that we paid a lot of attention to.

“It’s about having a decent library of both copy and creative content. It’s trying different combinations of both of those and working on a test budget, then scaling up the ones that work and killing off the ones that don’t.”

Felix: You’d look for success sooner than later, especially when you’re bootstrapped and on tighter budgets.

Adam: Absolutely. The other thing that was important was that for the first year Brock and myself ran all of our Facebook ads in house. That gave us a lot of really good insight as to what performance baselines should be, what worked, and what didn’t. An idea of some of the copy and creative that was successful. That way, when we did turn it over to an agency, we could really base what they were doing, versus what we had already done. If they weren’t performing better than we were, and they’re supposed to be specialized in this, it was very easy for us to make a decision regarding if it was working or not. 

If you never ran your own Facebook ads and you’re trusting solely an agency or somebody to run it for you, it’s really hard for you to say what performance and success should look like.

Felix: What metrics do you pay attention to, that you recommend other people pay attention to, if you’re running the advertising yourself? 

Adam: We try to be profitable on first customer acquisition. Our return on ad spend (ROAS), is our key metric. We have an internal KPI of what the minimum or what our break even is on our ROAS. As long as it’s hitting breakeven, we will spend and continue to scale it up as high as we can. Obviously, you’re always looking to outperform, but for us it’s always been about setting that baseline ROAS. If things are under it, then we will kill it off after giving it a little bit of time.

Felix: You mentioned this library of copy and creative that you like to pull from. How many assets did it take for you to get a good grasp of what’s resonating?

Adam: We moved pretty quickly through different campaigns and ad sets, defining what would work. Then once we found a couple key ones that did work, it was all about scaling them up. Increasing budget, making sure that things are stable, where ROAS doesn’t fall off, or your cost per acquisition spikes.

It was really that first year of internal key learnings. Brock and myself, we had run Facebook ads in the past, but we were by no means experts. To a lot of people that are launching their businesses for the first time, Facebook ads or Instagram ads can seem a bit scary. Honestly I was just going on YouTube and Skillshare and watching what other people were doing and learning as much as possible, so that I felt comfortable on Facebook to get that first year of learning in, while keeping costs down.

That’s really important, especially for bootstrapped companies. Anyone that’s starting their own company and has a limited budget should be doing some of these things out of the gate for themselves. There’s so many tools out there now to get a good idea and at least get the ball rolling.

Marketing strategies to increase your AOV

Felix: When you have these campaigns, are you bringing them pretty much always to a product landing page? Where are you bringing them from the ad?

Adam: We test all. We test our homepage, product landing page and collections page. Around holidays, we do a gift bundles page. Traditionally, we found dropping people on our “Shop All” page has resulted in higher conversion rates and average order values (AOV). As they see, they take a few different products and add them to cart, it raises AOV, which then of course helps your return on ad spend.

I can’t say that’s the same for everyone. We have a lower price product, so we really need them to add a few products to their basket for the cost per acquisition to make sense. That’s why the “Shop All” page has definitely worked for us. If you had a higher priced item, it probably makes more sense to drop them directly there. It’s a product by product basis.

Felix: Are there any other things that you’re doing along that customer journey on the way to check out that have helped increase the average order value?

Adam: Upsells all the way. First being product page upsell. If somebody adds our Ballwash, there’ll be a popup that suggests two other products at a discount. One being our shower sponge, and then one being a cologne. Something that’s a bit different than what they have in their cart. It wouldn’t have been added to the cart though. On the cart page, we have a cart upsell. Again, one other supplemental item, typically at a discount, hoping that they’ll add it there. We’ve also done a bit of testing with checkout upsells. So a post-purchase checkout upsell. We’re really trying to push that AOV every step of the way.

A bottle of Ballwash by Ballsy being caught my a hand model against a yellow background.
Scaling down to two upselling pages to promote additional items allowed Ballsy to not overwhelm their customers while having the chance to upsell. Ballsy

Felix: I think one of the concerns that people have regarding upselling prior to the purchase is that you might distract the customer, and they might end up reconsidering completing the purchase. Did you see that in your data?

Adam: We didn’t. What I will say is we had three to four different kinds of upsells on the product page, and we scaled it back to two. It was a bit overwhelming for a customer to see so many things. It’s just smart to be like, here’s one product that makes a ton of sense as a cross sell to the product that’s in the basket and then maybe one product that’s a little bit different to get them going down a different avenue. Maybe they didn’t realize that we had cologne.

We were always testing which products convert the best in the upsell. Immediately after implementing those upsells, our AOV increased. That’s always been something that’s worked well for us.

Creating a robust website: Subscriptions, demos and reviews

Felix: What about things like encouraging returning purchases. I also see that you have a subscription service. How has that worked for the business?

Adam: Subscription has been great. We’ve got over 10,000 “Ballscribers,” which is just fantastic because you can count on that revenue and you can see when it’s coming in. That’s a great baseline to know every month. We offer a discount and free shipping on that. We’re always trying to drive first time customers, as well as past customers through email follow ups and flows, to get them to convert to a subscription.

Felix: I noticed on the product page that there’s the one-time purchase and then also a savings if they decide to subscribe. Is that ongoing testing or has that proven to work, to get people to subscribe to the subscription service?

Adam: That’s a really good call out. On the product page, we do have a one-time purchase and a subscribe and save option. We did not see any conversion drop-off by adding that there. The thing that I found interesting was, we tried first leading with the subscription as the default check, thinking that more people would leave it as a subscription and checkout as such. Then if they wanted to switch to a one-time purchase, they could.

We didn’t see a huge uptick in subscriptions by going at it that way. What we saw was an increase in customer support tickets from people not realizing that they had added the subscription. It ultimately led to unhappy customers. We switched it back. We always lead with one-time purchases, but it’s definitely there. It’s very well called out that you get 20% off and free shipping to hopefully entice them to add it there.

The one thing that we found is, it’s much easier to get somebody on their first purchase to subscribe, than it is to convert them down the road. We have a ton of customers that just like to buy when they want to buy. We’ve talked to some of them, and no matter how good the deal is, they just want to be able to purchase it when they want to. I view them as two separate types of customers. People that are open to subscriptions and people that aren’t. There’s some subscription burnout now with people that have had too many subscriptions in the past and they get these recurring charges that they’re not happy with. That’s why we decided to lead with the one-time purchase again.

Felix: I also noticed a video that looks somewhat like a product demo on your site. Have you seen results from adding that to your product page?

Adam: Yeah. At the end of last year, we added video to each product page. One, to kind of show how to use the product or again focus on what makes it special. Two, I think his video on shopping pages is just super engaging and it’s not something like you said, a lot of people do. It’s a differentiator. And three, I just think it makes the product feel more real. It’s like, “Wow, this is actually how it works.” Photos are obviously great and I’ve worked since the dawn of time, but video has just gives you a little bit more. We took the time to kind of shoot little product vignette videos for every page and it looks great. It seems to work well.

Felix: I also noticed tons of reviews. What’s the process to collect and encourage people to leave reviews on the products? 

Adam: It’s literally just email follow-ups. We send an email two weeks after somebody has received the product. We give them enough time to try out the product and form an opinion. Then if they don’t follow up on that email or send a review, we send a follow-up. Every request for review, has some sort of enticement for them to do so. If they just leave a review, they get 10% off. If they leave a video review, they get 15% off. Same thing with a photo. We’re trying to get them to leave some user generated content (UGC), which is super powerful on review pages for other new customers to come on, land, and see other people that have gotten it, not just the brand. We entice customers to do that. It’s a heavier lift on their end.

The tech stack that does it all

Felix: Do you use any specific apps to run that? In general what kind of apps do you use to help run the business?

Adam: We use Okendo for reviews. We had used for a long time, and they were great as well. We moved over to Okendo because they’ve got a great Klaviyo integration, so we can track those review attributes directly to the customer in Klaviyo. If we want to follow up with them, whether they left a bad review or a good review, it’s very easy to do that. We segment them very easily by those attributes. They’ve been a really good partner. The other thing I like about Okendo, is you can ask very specific questions about different attributes of your product. For us, it’s like, “How does it smell? How long does it last? Overall value?” They do a really good job of capturing that.

An array of personal care items from Ballsy displayed against a blue background.
Incentivising an email opt-in is a way to offer customers discounts and enter them into a funnel, creating a win-win scenario. Ballsy

For all the upsells and cross-sells that I was referring to, we use an app called Rebuy. We’ve used Rebuy and their team for the last year and they’ve been fantastic. If you’re looking for cross-sells, upsells, I definitely recommend them. We also do some SMS messaging and we use a company called Postscript for that. They’re great at just SMS campaign blasts. You want to do a promotion as well as abandoned cart campaigns or different just upsell flows or winbacks. We’ve got a lot set up there.

Then one that I’m really excited about–it’s not really an app, it’s software that you can add onto your site, but it’s not through the Shopify stores–is called Exit Intel. They are basically an email and SMS capture. We were using Privy for a long time. Privy’s great, but they had promised some insane capture rates. I didn’t believe them. I always get very apprehensive when people promise huge numbers in terms of anything.

We decided to give Exit Intel a shot and we were astounded with how well they have been able to increase our email and SMS capture rate on our homepage. We’re seeing about just under 30% of visitors leave us their email or SMS, which is up from 10%, which we saw in Privy. I can’t say enough good things about Exit Intel.

Felix: In these email follow-ups, once you’ve captured their email address or SMS, what do you typically send?

Adam: It’s usually incentivized. We’ve got a wheel–a lot of people are using the spin to win feature. They’ve done a really good job of rebranding it and getting better engagement with it. It’s a percentage off or free product, but it’s typically a percentage off. Then the email follow-up on that has their coupon code. Then we’ve got an automated flow after that, like a welcome series.

Felix: Any other changes or any other tests or any other tweaks that you’ve made to the site over the years that have led to big changes or increases in conversions?

Adam: We have moved to a headless site. We are on Shopify Plus for the transactions and backend. But we’ve moved to a headless build, which is basically if you think of a native app. Everything loads super quick. That’s why we’re able to do video. It might be harder for somebody just on the standard Shopify to have video load automatically. Same thing with the animated gifs on the product pages. The headless build has really helped us do that.

That said, it’s very expensive out of the gate and not something that I would recommend anyone do immediately. You’ve got to build up the business quite a bit to want to move to that. But that’s really helped our site speed and overall conversion.

Felix: What would you say is going to be your biggest focus or goal for this year?

Adam: Our focus is turning our gift business or our gifting customers into recurring customers. We’ve got these massive tent poles, November through February. How do we get better and better about taking those gifting customers and turning them into lifelong Ballsy customers? That’s our core focus 

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