How to Start a Phone Case Business in 7 Steps [2021]

How to Start a Phone Case Business in 7 Steps [2021]

There’s never been a better time to start a phone case business. 

Currently, the US market for mobile phone accessories (like cases and screen protectors) is rising to hit a value of $75.62 billion by 2026. So find your share of that market segment, and you could create an incredibly valuable company with a minimal initial investment. 

Smartphones have taken the world by storm. Most of us take our devices with us wherever we go, including to the bathroom. However, as devices become increasingly valuable, consumers need a reliable way of protecting their investment. 

A phone case simultaneously offers peace of mind and a chance for consumers to showcase their unique personalities. For business owners, these products also represent a fantastic avenue for profits. After all, you can sell phone cases online or offline, customize them through print on demand services, and even dropship cases without spending a fortune.

Let’s explore the simple steps involved in starting your case business.

how to start a phone case business

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What Do You Need to Start a Phone Case Business?

The main thing any business owner needs when starting a phone case business is a good plan of action. There are many different kinds of cases out there for various types of phones. Make sure you know your options before you start designing. If you’re planning on printing on or customizing your cases, it’s best to look at options like:

  • Gel cases: Slim gel cases are easy to customize with a range of designs. Come with additional grip sections, so it’s easier to keep hold of your phone. Gel cases are affordable and versatile – perfect for a range of designs. 
  • Bumper cases: Bumper cases usually come with extra protection for the edges and sides of your phone. They may have a full gel section for covering the back of the device or simply wrap around the phone in certain spaces to prevent damage.
  • Wallet cases: For sophisticated customers looking to protect their phone and screen simultaneously, wallet cases cover every part of the phone and defend against scratches. Most come in leather-style materials which can be customized.
  • Hard cases: Hard cases snap onto the phone and help to protect against damage. They’re great for keeping your phone in good condition, and they can last longer than some gel and rubber options. Hard cases can also be customized. 
  • Special cases: Special cases have unique features, like extra shock protection, built-in charging systems, and even hand-carved wood designs. Most of these cases cost a little more, but they can be very appealing to customers.

Don’t forget to think about the kind of phones you want to design for too. There are a huge number of phone models on the market today. As a result, it may not be possible to create cases to fit every option straight away. Ideally, you’ll want to start with the top-selling phones for your target audience.

Tools like Keywords Everywhere can help you track the search volume for specific kinds of phones so you know where to begin.

phone case business research

How to Make a Phone Case Business: 7 Steps to Launch

Once you know what kind of cases you’re going to be designing and which phone types you’ll be targeting, it’s time to start mapping your path to launch. Though starting your own business can seem daunting at first, the evolving digital world makes it much easier to jump in than you’d think. Here’s what you need to make a phone case business:

1. Find a Gap in The Market

The best businesses come from discovering a market gap and building a strategy to fill that space. There are tons of phone case companies out there. Finding a specific niche to cater to will help you to build a memorable and competitive brand. 

Remember, a specific niche means that you’ll have fewer companies to fight against when it comes to making your company stand out. Focusing on a niche like “eco-friendly” customers will also help direct your business processes by determining which kinds of materials you’re going to use and which suppliers you can work with. 

Focusing on a single niche will even help you rank higher with Google because you can target specific terms that make the most sense to your audience. So, how do you find a gap?

Start by:

  • Looking at Google Trends: Tools like Google Trends will help you find trending products in your industry, like “wooden” phone cases or “personalized” phone cases. You can also use this tool to determine which phones your customers are most interested in.
  • Conducting competitor analysis: Checking out your competition will help you see which audiences are already being targeted and which groups still need more options. For instance, you might notice that none of your competitors are offering phone cases specifically for moms, teachers, or professionals.
  • Speak to your customers: Try speaking to people in your potential target audience. Running surveys on forums and social media groups might help you collect valuable information about your potential niche.
  • Check out influencers: Visit social media and see what kinds of cases are getting the most attention. Platforms like Instagram are a great place to check out some of the most attractive phone cases on the market today. 

identify profitable phone case niche

2. Design Some Phone Cases

With your business plan ready, it’s time to create some stunning phone cases. This is the fun part, where you get to experiment with different designs. You can create your own mockups in Photoshop or check out the mockup generators offered by print on demand (POD) companies. These allow you to see what your design would look like on multiple types of phones. 

Double-check your options before you start printing, as some companies will only print using certain techniques or only cover a certain percentage of the case. You can also design your phone cases by:

  • Using customer-generated designs: Have a social media following? Let your audience upload photos and designs for you to print onto a personalized phone case. 
  • Working with freelancers: There are tons of freelance artists online who can create phone case designs on your behalf. Many of these professionals are very affordable and can work on cases for many different customers. 
  • Reaching out to a designer: Find designers on creative forums and sites like Dribbble. See who’s willing to work with you on a more long-term basis. You could even hire designers on contracts or ask them to design entire collections for you.

dribbble phone case designer

It helps to have a decent selection of options for your customers to choose from before launching your phone case brand. Don’t start a company with just one or two cases. Range matters to smartphone owners.  

3. Build Your Brand

A brand refers to your identity or personality as a business. You can convey this through everything from unique logos and color choices for your company, as well as a well-designed website, packaging strategy, and more. Branding makes your company more memorable to your target audience and helps to set you apart from the competition. Make sure you have:

  • A unique logo to set your brand apart from the competition
  • Attractive visuals like brand photography, animations, videos, and illustrations.
  • A color pallet to convey a specific identity and personality for your company – make sure you understand the psychology of colors before creating a palette
  • Content and copywriting to showcase your unique tone of voice. 
  • A brand name and mission statement that customers can remember
  • A mission or set of brand values to help identify you to customers

It helps to research some of your competitors to see the kind of branding they’ve been trying to build. Make notes of what you like and dislike about similar brands and use the available resources online to start creating. Shopify, for instance, has its own video and logo maker

4. Choose a Sourcing Strategy

Now it’s time to find a source to supply inventory to your business. There are a few options available here, such as:

Working with a manufacturer

It’s easy enough to find an affordable wholesale manufacturer with platforms like Handshake and other online marketplaces. Here, you can search for all kinds of phone case types for different devices. You will need to buy in bulk, which means storing hundreds of cases at once, but you can save a lot of cash this way. 

Using print on demand

Print on demand companies are ideal if you want to easily add your own designs to products and send them straight to customers. With print on demand, you choose a supplier to add your designs to your chosen phone cases, and those companies will create the pieces for you. 


Dropshipping is one of the most affordable ways to source phone cases for your business. You choose a manufacturer who makes the kind of product you want, and they’ll ship your phone cases direct to your customers for you. Dropshipping tools like Oberlo give you countless phone accessories to choose from, and you can avoid having to look after your own stock.

Confused between the last two? Learn how print on demand compares to dropshipping to pick the right sourcing strategy for your business. 

phone case suppliers dropship

5. Price Your Cases

Choosing the right price point for a product can be one of the toughest parts of building your phone case business. If your price is too high, it will drive customers to your competitors. However, an extremely low price can indicate that you’re using lower-quality materials. 

The pricing you choose needs to convey the high quality of your designs while still being affordable for your target market. Look at your competitors for an initial starting point to see what kind of prices they’re offering. Then, think about the factors that might affect your pricing, such as how long it takes to make the items you want to sell and how many resources you’ll need to hire. 

Once you recoup the costs of making the product with your pricing, you’ll need to think about how much of a profit you want to make. Check out these pricing strategy options for more guidance. 

6. Build Your Online Store

Outside of designing your phone cases, building your online store is one of the most exciting things you’ll do when creating a new business. There are tons of great ways to start selling online, but it makes sense to start with a store builder that’s well-known and easy to use, like Shopify

As you’re working on your site, make sure to put up all the things that impact people’s perceptions of your business. Write engaging product descriptions, upload beautiful product images, and create noteworthy landing pages. Other things to consider include:

  • About and contact us pages to build site credibility
  • Checkout pages with multiple payment options
  • Legal information like privacy policies and terms and conditions
  • A blog or news page for content marketing 
  • Pop-ups and slide-ins for sharing offers with customers

Shopify comes with a range of excellent features so you can dive straight into your site development process. You can even choose from a set of beautiful ecommerce themes to apply, so you know your site is going to look great.

shopify themes sell phone cases

7. Promote Your Phone Case Brand

Finally, it’s time to start bringing people to your business. 

Marketing your phone case brand is the key to collecting as many loyal customers as possible. Some advertising strategies can cost a fortune, while others are more affordable. For instance, you can create content and post on social media without spending much; alternatively, you could try:

  • Email marketing to nurture your leads into customers with regular messages. Make sure your customers opt-in to your email campaigns. 
  • Influencer marketing to promote cases via people your customers already trust. This will help build your brand reputation and attract new customers. 
  • Social media marketing with paid and unpaid campaigns to help you reach specific audiences, like teens interested in movie-based phone cases.

PPC campaigns, Facebook Ads, and paid Instagram campaigns can all help to attract more attention too. Just keep in mind that many marketing campaigns will take a short while to pay off.

Summary: How to Start a Custom Phone Case Business in 2021

There you have it all the steps required to launch a phone case business. 

Remember that it’s going to take effort and time (lots of them) to become profitable in this business.

 While the margins on typical phone cases are thin, you can sell yours at a higher price by customizing them in unique ways based on your audience’s preferences. The tools and services we mentioned will give you the ability you need to make your phone case collection shine. 

In summary, here are all the steps to launching a custom phone case business: 

  1. Identify a market opportunity
  2. Design custom phone cases 
  3. Develop your brand
  4. Pick a way to source your cases
  5. Choose a price point 
  6. Build your online phone case store
  7. Promote your business

Now that you know where to begin, an exciting adventure of building a phone case brand awaits you. All you have to do now is take that first step. 

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13 Amazing Abandoned Cart Emails [Tips & Takeaways] (2021)

13 Amazing Abandoned Cart Emails [Tips & Takeaways] (2021)

Let’s say you’re running a successful store. You’ve figured out inventory, you’ve got a healthy amount of traffic, and your customers are raving about your products. Have you covered all your bases?


Not necessarily. You could still be experiencing a huge number of lost sales. How? Through shopping cart abandonment.

Nearly 88% of online shopping carts are abandoned before the customer completes a sale. That implies that your sales numbers may only be one-tenth of what they could be.

Now, it may not be possible to persuade all cart-abandoners to go through checkout and triple your sales. Some customers may have never had the intention to purchase in the first place. But it’s worth putting in the effort to resolve as many lingering hesitations as you can.

This article will look at how to recover lost customers after they abandon their carts with an abandoned cart campaign powered by email marketing. Then we’ll share the email marketing tools you need to set one up for yourself.

Learn to recover lost sales with email 💌


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What are abandoned cart emails?

Abandoned cart emails are sent to customers who have added products to their cart but failed to check out.

It’s a remarkably effective customer retention tactic. In fact, a recent report from Klaviyo reveals that businesses using cart recovery emails earn back 3%–14% of lost sales, with an average revenue per recipient of $5.81.

This number alone doesn’t sound striking. But multiply that by thousands of abandoned carts over a year and it’s clear abandoned cart emails can earn you more revenue.

These emails remind shoppers of what they left behind and encourage them to return and complete the purchase. You can customize abandoned cart emails with coupon codes, product images, CTA buttons, and more to get people back to the checkout page.

Cart abandonment email example
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

Data from Statista reports the average shopping cart abandonment rate is 88.1% and varies by industry:

  • Baby and child: 94.4%
  • Luxury: 94.4%
  • Airlines: 90.9%
  • Fashion: 90.7%
  • Cosmetics: 85.7%
  • Retail: 84.5%

Businesses both large and small can send cart abandonment emails to improve conversion rates and recover lost revenue. Using email marketing software, you can even automate the process so you don’t have to manually send each message.

Best abandoned cart email examples

Now that you know what an abandoned cart email is, let’s look at some top examples to get inspired by.


Subject line: Did you forget something?

Casper sends its cart abandonment email after you leave anything behind on its website. The subject line, “Did you forget something?” piques your interest and makes you click. Once opened, the email uses the playful, catchy headline “COME BACK TO BED to draw you in.

Casper Abandoned Cart Email
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

Casper keeps its email clean and easy to read, with a clear CTA button that directs people back to the checkout process. The brand also includes testimonials in its emails to show that its products are worth the investment and gives readers the opportunity to see more reviews if they prefer.


Subject line: Don’t let free shipping go to waste

Rudy’s sends a funny email follow-up as a part of its cart abandonment campaigns. The headline “Don’t put this off like a software update” is relatable. Most of its customers will know, if you don’t update your software, it can fail. The idea is that you don’t want bad things to happen if you skip buying your selected items.

Rudy’s also includes images of the products left behind and offers free shipping as a last-ditch effort to motivate customers to complete their purchase.

Rudy's cart recovery email example
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

Whisky Loot

Subject line: Your cart is sobering up

Whisky Loot’s cart reminder email is a comical example. When a shopper leaves behind one of its subscription boxes, they receive a message with the subject line “Your cart is sobering up.” It’s unusual and out of the ordinary, which can improve open rate and conversion rate.

The email opens with a question, then lists all the things you can do with the whiskies inside the box. All the items are amusing, making viewers laugh and envision themselves using the items in these humorous ways. Whisky Loot wraps up with an FAQ section and CTA button saying ‘“TREAT YOURSELF.”

Whisky Loot abandoned cart email
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails


Subject line: Nomad Gear is Selling Out Quick

Nomad’s abandoned cart email is another great example. The subject line gives viewers a fear of missing out (FOMO) feeling to get them to click. The imagery is on brand, supported by playful copy, but also explains how viewers can recover their cart.

The email also addresses a common pain point. Under the section “Afraid to Make The Leap?” the copy comforts readers by explaining Nomad’s return policy and two-year warranty. This offer also adds credibility to the email, showing that the brand stands behind its products.

NOMAD abandoned cart email recovery example
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

Dollar Shave Club

Subject line: Where did you go?

Dollar Shave Club is known for its witty and personable marketing campaigns. It’s abandoned email series is no different. The subject line is short and gives readers a reason to explore it further.

Once the email is opened, bullet-point copy makes it easy to read and lists the reasons why Dollar Shave Club razors are good. The imagery shows exactly what you’ll get in the brand’s monthly box. Dollar Shave Club also offers a 100% money-back guarantee to clear any doubts and encourage readers to take advantage.

Dollar Shave Club abandoned cart recovery email
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

Abandoned cart email best practices

Abandoned cart emails are easy to create and doa great deal to pull back reluctant customers. There are three things that every abandoned cart email should have.

A reminder of what they’ve abandoned

It’s quite possible that after some time away your customers might decide they do want to buy after all. It may take a few hours after abandonment to be reminded of what they saw in the items in the first place. Unlike the cold reach out of a standard business email format, this is a warm lead.

Customers may leave carts behind for unexpected reasons. For example, an issue with an internet provider could have caused cart abandonment, and your customers may still want to buy. Saving their cart, or displaying the items that they planned to purchase, and sending it to them with a link is the easiest way to get those customers back.

Take a look at this example from American Giant. It’s a very simple message telling the customer what they’ve given up. Better yet, it gives a link to easily get back to your cart, skipping the registration page so you don’t have to provide your info all over again.

American Giant abandoned cart email
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

Here’s another recovery email that’s simple and effective from Perigold. It gets the point across quickly and even offers product recommendations further down the email to help people find other relevant products quickly and easily.

Perigold abandoned cart email example
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

We have one more standout example. Chubbies has excelled in three dimensions with its great email: compelling visuals, great copy, and multiple links.

Pay close attention to the way Chubbies wrote this email. “Allow me to teleport you,” “Let’s turn this party up to 11,” and “Word up” all go along with the image of a shorts retailer run by fun-loving people. Also, note that clicking any of the three links in the email takes you back to your cart. (There are active links in the title, on the main picture, and also on the big button at the bottom of the email.)

Great email copy

The example from Chubbies serves as a good transition point into the next feature of standout abandoned cart emails: great copy.

Think of abandoned cart emails as a bonus marketing opportunity. You take care to make all your marketing materials compelling, and you shouldn’t slack off here. In addition, because of the purpose abandoned cart emails serve, they may be more aligned to welcome emails than what you’d normally send.

What are the ingredients for a good marketing email? An attention-grabbing subject line, great copy, and good images are all important. These next few emails excel at one or more of these areas.

Food52 abandoned cart email
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

Our favorite email with great copy comes from Food52. In addition to showing your items and a link to the abandoned cart, it takes a genuinely relatable approach to its messaging. See: “Your Cart Called” and “It’s hoping you’ll come back and see it.” These phrases personalize the shopping cart and make you feel like you should go back and check in on a friend.

Adidas isn’t afraid to use a bold email subject line: “Sorry to hear about your wi-fi’, assuming the receiver’s Wi-Fi had crashed and that’s why they left the site. It also writes: “IS YOUR WI-FI OKAY?” and “Maybe your browser crashed when looking at the iconic Gazelle silhouette,” with a link back to the customer’s cart.

adidas abandoned cart email 1
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

And take a look at this example from Huckberry.

huckberry abandoned cart email example
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

Huckberry makes a different sort of appeal: “Our sales and inventory are often limited, and we can’t guarantee that the products left in your cart will still be available when you decide to pull the trigger.”

There’s a sense of urgency. If you really wanted those items, then you shouldn’t delay. Scarcity is a powerful psychological sales trigger that smart online retailers know to take advantage of. Customers are afraid that something they want to buy might sell out. Huckberry taps into that anxiety and urges its customers to buy soon.

All six of these stores are using great copy, in addition to other tricks, to entice customers to go back to their cart and make the purchase.


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Include a call-to-action (CTA) button

A CTA button is the button you use in your email to guide viewers’ toward their cart. It’s the part of the email a viewer needs to click to take the action you want them to take. CTA buttons vary in style depending on your brand, but they all have the same goal: get people back to their shopping carts.

You can use a standard CTA like Return to Cart or Shop Now. Or you can get more creative and use a CTA like Society6, which says “Get My 30% Off.”

Society6 Abandoned Cart Email example
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

Aim to use a CTA button that is action packed. Use verbs like “get” or “shop” to motivate people to buy items in their cart. You can also test different CTA text in your email marketing software to see which resonates with your audience. This will help you see higher revenue per recipient and improve the results of your cart abandonment series.

Abandoned cart email strategy tips

Every abandoned cart email needs compelling copy and an easy way to get back to the cart, or at least a display of the items that were abandoned. The following tips are not must-haves, but nice-to-haves, if you can implement them.

Consider timing

Recent studies show that the sooner you send an abandoned cart email, the better results you’ll get. Email marketing agency Rejoiner confirmed this after analyzing millions of cart recovery emails in its platform. The goal was to find the best timing that drove revenue for its clients.

The result? Rejoiner found that sending a follow-up email after one hour resulted in an average conversion rate of 16%. If you send an email too soon, you’ll likely see lower conversion rates. If you wait too long, the results are even worse.

research on cart abandonment send time
Image courtesy of: Rejoiner

Rejoiner also found that although the first email is the most effective, it won’t recover all the lost sales left by cart abandoners. It recommends using a three-part series to capture the most revenue possible:

  1. First email, sent one hour after abandonment
  2. Second email, sent one day after abandonment
  3. Third email, sent three days after abandonment

Setting up an abandoned cart email sequence like the above is easy in Shopify Email. Learn more by reading How to Build an Abandoned Cart Email Sequence.

Offer a discount

Most customers abandon their carts because the final price is more than what they expected.

When people think about how much they’re going to pay, they’re usually adding up the prices of each item in their cart. They don’t always think about taxes or shipping, and if they do, they often lowball the estimates.

That’s why the top reason people abandon their cart is because extra costs were too high.

And there’s a simple way to recover the customers who have been scared away by the final price: issue a discount.

Alex Mill’s abandoned cart email subject line is clear: “Get Them For 15% Off!.” Once you open the email, you’ll notice the items you left behind paired with this 15% off discount. The results? Likely a sale.

Alex Mill abandoned cart email example
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

Discounts are easy to create. Simply decide on the amount, generate a discount code, and leave it in the abandoned cart email.

Now, you’ve got to decide carefully whether discounts make sense for your business. You know that a lot of customers are abandoning their carts, but no two stores face the exact same mix of reasons. You have a good chance of encouraging your customers to make their purchases after a discount or free shipping costs, but you also don’t want to lose too much in sales.

That’s a fine line to walk, and you have to decide if or how you offer your discounts. There’s no right answer; your customers may walk away from deals because of prices, or for reasons that have nothing to do with them. It’s up to you to discover how they behave.

Include social proof

Social proof is one of your most influential marketing tools. It’s the best way to build trust with cart abandoners and can encourage them to complete a purchase. Social proof makes people pause to check out what others have to say about a product. It gets them to take a chance with your brand because others are saying good things about it.

In the Adidas email described above, the brand also includes social proof in its messaging. Viewers can see what recent buyers have to say about the shoes they left behind through customer reviews.

adidas abandoned cart email example with social proof
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

Reserve the items in the cart

Remember how we discussed that Huckberry uses the possibility of your item selling out to encourage a purchase? There’s another way to take advantage of that scarcity effect.

Here it is: your customers may be encouraged to go through checkout if you guarantee that you’ll hold the abandoned items for them for a definite but limited time.

Customers know that small stores without super-sophisticated supply chains frequently sell out of popular items. Knowing that the items will be held for them may push them to buy.

The following email from Beardbrand informs shoppers that the items in their cart are reserved, but will expire soon. It uses this psychological trick to motivate people to buy before supply runs out.

beardbrand abandoned cart email example
Image courtesy of: Really Good Emails

We’ve designated “reserve the items” as a great-to-have and not an essential because we know that you want to ship to the customers who have already paid in case supply is short. And you absolutely should. So only offer to reserve the cart if you’re sure that your stock is generous and you can afford to hold the items for many who potentially won’t pay.

Test abandoned cart texts

An abandoned cart text is similar to an abandoned cart email, but the message is sent to a person’s mobile device. It’s a newer sales recovery tactic, but works because people are more likely to see an SMS push notification than an email in their inbox, which can lead to higher click-through rates and sales.

abandoned cart sms example from lock screen
Image courtesy of: ManyChat

You can use data you collect about a shopper, such as name and the products they left behind, to personalize a text message. Some SMS marketing providers like ManyChat even let you include one-click links to bring customers back to a Shopify product page.

abandoned cart sms example
Image courtesy of: ManyChat

Learn how to create an abandoned cart text by reading How to Reduce Abandoned Cart Rate with SMS.

How do I start sending abandoned cart emails?

By now you should see that abandoned cart emails needn’t be too fancy.

If you’re on Shopify, you can find out how to set up abandoned checkout recovery emails here.

In addition, there are several well-reviewed apps that can give you other sorts of functionality:

If you’re not on Shopify, you still have options, such as Rejoiner. Most of these programs will have abandoned cart email templates you can use to start sending right away. You’ll just need to update the copy, images, offer, and any other tweaks to make it feel like your brand.

If you want a little more help on the creative side, check out the following free abandoned cart email templates:

Recover more sales in your ecommerce business

Whether you’re an ecommerce marketer or online store owner, abandoned cart emails are crucial to increase sales. They are easy to set up and really should be something everyone does, given the high average shopping cart abandonment rate. Learn from the pros above, and get started on recovering sales today.

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

Abandoned cart email FAQ

Do abandoned cart emails work?

Yes, abandoned cart emails work to recover lost sales. According to a recent benchmark by email service provider Klaviyo, businesses that use abandoned cart emails regain between 3% and 14% lost sales, with an average revenue per recipient of $5.81.

What should I write in an abandoned cart email?

Every abandoned cart email should include a reminder of the items left behind, actionable copy, and a call to action that motivates people to buy.

Can I send abandoned cart emails?

Anyone can send abandoned cart emails through an email service provider. You can build an abandoned shopping cart automation that triggers messages to send over time so you don’t have to do it manually.

How many emails does an abandoned email order have?

The standard abandoned cart email campaign should have a minimum of three emails: one that sends after the first hour, another after the first day, and a final email on the third day. But you can create any length of abandoned cart series you prefer

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Why It Is Important For Dropshippers in 2021?

Why It Is Important For Dropshippers in 2021?

If you’re looking to open an online business, dropshipping is one of the simplest business models that you can choose, no matter how much experience you have.

It’s simple. When you’re dropshipping, you’ll never need to worry about storing or shipping your products.

In fact, all of your products will be held in your supplier’s warehouses until you make a sale. 

Once a customer makes a purchase from your store, you pass the order on to your supplier, and they’ll ship your products directly to your customer’s doorstep.

This means that you can run a store without ever touching the products that you’re selling.

But you really should verify your products yourself before you start selling them. And that’s where a test order comes in the picture.

Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Hire yourself and start calling the shots.

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What Is a Test Order?

A test order is an order you place on your online store to ensure your checkout process and settings for inventory, shipping, order processing, taxes, and email notifications are all set up correctly.

Ecommerce platforms like Shopify recommend placing a test order. Shopify actually recommends store owners to place at least one test order during their store setup or whenever they modify their payment settings. 

In a nutshell, you should do a Shopify test purchase before you launch your general or niche-based store.

Why Are Test Orders Important? 

Here are a few reasons why placing test orders can help streamline your ecommerce business.

Trust Your Suppliers

Trust is a critical success factor for businesses across the globe.

You’re probably already aware that the trust between your customers and your business is paramount.

But, you need to have a strong line of trust with your suppliers too, especially when you’re dropshipping.

After all, you can have a beautiful online store, unique products that your customers love, and stellar marketing tactics, but none of that will matter if your supplier isn’t meeting the mark.

And what’s the best way to figure out if your supplier is a good fit for your dropshipping business?

Yep, you guessed it. You need to place a test order.

What if you’re selling products from more than one supplier? Place a test order with each supplier.

And don’t worry, we know. That’s extra money that you could be using to improve your store in a variety of different ways.

But, honestly, placing test orders and getting an understanding of how your suppliers operate is one of the best ways that you can spend money as a dropshipper, especially as you’re launching your store.

Think about it.

If you find that your suppliers are shipping out high-quality products in well-packed parcels, and they arrive within the given timeframe, you can relax. You can trust the supplier, and focus on growing your business and making sales.

On the other hand, if the products don’t seem great, or they arrive later than the expected delivery date, it’ll be you who finds that out. Not your customer.

So yes, you’ll need to spend a bit of extra cash to place your test orders, but it could end up saving you much more money in the long run – think of all those returns or refunds you could avoid by dodging lower quality suppliers.

Verify Your Products

As we mentioned earlier, one of the main benefits of dropshipping is that it allows you to be hands-off with the operational side of running a business.

But, you’re still the business owner.

That means that it’s your responsibility to make sure that you’re providing a high-quality service for your customers, regardless of what you’re selling, or where you’re sourcing your products from.  

That’s also why it’s so important for you to place test orders.

You need to be able to have the confidence to sell your products to your customers knowing that they’re going to receive something that they’ll be happy with. Something that’ll justify the price tag that they’ve paid.

As a general rule, if you’re selling products that you yourself wouldn’t be happy to receive, you probably shouldn’t be selling them.

And the only way that you’ll be able to properly assess the quality of the products that you’re selling is to check them yourself.

Follow Your Shipping Process

Shipping times are one of the most common concerns for entrepreneurs who are new to dropshipping.

And this is the reality: most dropshipping businesses cannot offer guaranteed two-day shipping for their products.

But, you know what? That’s totally okay.

You’re not running a huge, established ecommerce business yet, so it’s unlikely that your customers will expect you to be able to compete with Amazon-fast shipping times.

Your customers will be excited to receive their brand new products though, so it’s important that you can provide them with a realistic timeframe for when the delivery will arrive.

Yet another reason why test orders are essential for dropshippers.

When you’ve placed a test order for the products that you’re thinking of selling, you’ll be able to track exactly how long it takes for your products to be delivered.

And once you’ve got that first-hand experience with your suppliers delivery services, you’ll know exactly what your customers will receive too.

That means you’ll have a much easier time setting realistic expectations for when your customers will receive their products, and you’ll be able to avoid any unnecessary complaints about delivery times.

So calm any concerns you have about shipping times, and place test orders before you launch new products to your store.

Also check out: 13 shipping tips to make your life easier

Create Unique Marketing Material

Creating engaging marketing materials for your business is incredibly difficult if you’ve never actually seen your products first-hand.

Sure, you can use the stock images from your suppliers and websites, but they’re suboptimal.

Everybody else has access to those, and it’s tough to make your business stand out with stock images alone.

And when you consider that 64% of shoppers make a purchase after watching branded video content, you’re going to want to try nailing your video marketing efforts too.

But this isn’t easy either when you only have stock images at your disposal.

This is yet another reason why dropshippers should place test orders for their products.

Test orders will allow you to verify the quality of your products and suppliers, and create compelling marketing content which nobody else in the world has access to.

And don’t worry, you don’t need to be a professional photographer with expensive equipment to create engaging visual content with the products that you receive.

You can take stunning photos and videos with just a smartphone.  

Of course, the visual content that you create can be used on your product pages, for your paid ads, or for your social media accounts.

Honestly, trying to succeed with marketing is tough enough. You don’t need to make it harder for yourself – verify the quality of your products with test orders, and take advantage of the opportunity to create unique marketing materials.

BONUS: Check out our ultimate guide to Facebook advertising and learn how to put your unique marketing materials to good use.

How to Place Test Orders With Oberlo

Okay, we’ve gone through the multiple benefits that dropshippers across the globe can gain by placing test orders for their products.

Now it’s time to go through the exact steps you’ll need to take to place your own test orders when you’re using Oberlo.

Adding a Product to Your Store

Let’s start from the very beginning.

First things first, you’re going to need to add a product to your store.

That means you’ll need to sign up for Shopify, and install Oberlo.

Then, sign up for Oberlo, and head over to the “Products” tab that you’ll see on the left-hand side of your screen.

Place test order oberlo

From here, you can enter specific terms that match the products that you’re looking for into the search bar.

Alternatively, you can browse through the different featured products on the Search Products page

Once you’ve found a product that you like, click on it, and you’ll land on the corresponding product page.

Then you’ll need to add the product to your Import List.

Next, you’ll need to head over to your Import List, which you can find on the left-hand side of your screen.

Oberlo import list

Locate the product that you’ve just added to your Import List, and click on “Import to store”.

This action will import the product from Oberlo to your Shopify store.

Okay, we’re done on the Oberlo side for now. Next, we’ll need to head over to Shopify.

How to Do a Test Order on Shopify

Go to your Shopify admin page, and select the “Orders” tab, which you’ll find on the left-hand side of the page

From here, you’ll need to click on the “Create order” button, as highlighted in the image below.

Then you’ll need to click on the “Browse Products” button on the next page and enter the name of the product that you just imported from Oberlo into the search bar.

After that you’ll need to enter in the address where you’d like the test order to be delivered to in the “Find or create a customer” tab.

After that you’ll need to click on the “Add discount” button, as shown by the arrow in the image below, and discount the order by 100%.

Once you’ve discounted the item by 100%, you’ll notice that the “Pay with credit card” and “Mark as pending” buttons will now be greyed out. Check that everything looks correct, and then you’ll need to click the “Mark as paid” button to proceed.

After you place a test order, you can immediately cancel it and refund the payment. The payment processor you use might charge you a transaction fee, which isn’t returned to you when you apply for a refund.

Test Order Shopify Bogus Gateway

Don’t want to use a real payment provider? No problem; Shopify allows you to simulate a test order transaction via its Bogus Gateway. With this gateway, all orders you create are test orders.

Here are the steps:

  1. Open your Shopify admin, then head to Settings > Payments.
  2. Deactivate enabled payment providers by clicking Manage > Deactivate, then confirm the command. 
  3. Now click Choose third-party provider from the Third-party providers section.
  4. On the webpage for third-party payment providers, select (for testing) Bogus Gateway > Activate (for testing) Bogus Gateway.
  5. Open your ecommerce store and make an order like a customer would. Then enter the following credit card information at checkout: 

Card name: Bogus Gateway

Card number: 1 to simulate a successful payment, 2 to simulate a failed payment, and 3 to simulate an exception

CVV: 111 (or any 3-digit number)

Expiry date: Any future date

Once tested, click Manage besides (for testing) Bogus Gateway > Deactivate (for testing) Bogus Gateway to remove the test gateway from your checkout.

Just remember that the buying amount has to be more than the equivalent of $1 USD regardless of the currency.

You can also place test orders when you’re using Shopify Payments. Refer to Testing Shopify Payments to learn how to enable Shopify Payments test mode.

Place a Test Order Today

Okay, so that’s it – now you know exactly how to place a test order, and why they’re so important for entrepreneurs who dropship their products.

It’s important that you try not to think of expenses that you incur when you’re placing test orders as wasted money.

Try to think of those expenses as an investment – one that you’re putting towards the long-term success of your business.

So, do you have any questions about test orders, or ecommerce in general?

Let us know in the comments section below – we read them all!

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How to Source Products (+10 Top Websites and Apps) [2021]

How to Source Products (+10 Top Websites and Apps) [2021]

To build a successful ecommerce business, you need an effective way to source products — but like so many things in life, this is easier said than done.

Before you can source products, you must choose a product sourcing method that works for you, evaluate different product sourcing companies, and then select a supplier to work with.

If that’s not enough hard work, there are so many options out there — which ones should you consider?

No need to worry — we’ve got you covered.

In this product sourcing guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to get started. First, we’ll explore 3 popular product sourcing strategies. We’ll then take a look at 10 product sourcing websites and apps that you can use.

But first, let’s get on the same page:

Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Hire yourself and start calling the shots.

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What Is Product Sourcing?

Here’s a quick product sourcing definition:

Product sourcing is the act of acquiring products that you can sell. Today, most businesses source products online via B2B marketplaces, but you can also source products locally or at trade shows.

How to Source Products for Your Business

Basically, there are 3 main product sourcing strategies — you can source products from:

  1. Dropshipping suppliers, for a hands-off experience
  2. Wholesalers, to sell third-party goods
  3. Manufacturers, if you want to create custom products

Each of these product sourcing methods will affect virtually every aspect of your business operations and sales efforts, so it’s vital to choose the best one for you.

Let’s explore each one in a bit more detail so you can decide how to source products for your business.

1. Dropshipping Sources

Dropshipping is hands-down the simplest way to source products. The best part? Dropshipping isn’t just a product sourcing method — it’s also a fulfillment method.

So, how does dropshipping work?

First, you would partner with a dropshipping source and select the products you want to sell. You can then add these products to your store and start marketing them online. Then, when you receive an order from a customer, your dropshipping source will be notified, and they’ll send the product to your customer for you.

The image below illustrates this process:

Dropshipping Sources Explained

Dropshipping’s key strength is that you don’t need to buy inventory upfront — which means you can start an ecommerce business for just $29 per month with a Basic Shopify account.

What’s more, you can test as many products as you like without risk of losing investment. 

It’s also easy to scale since you can add products to your store without a time-consuming and costly product sourcing process.

That said, dropshipping can be very competitive thanks to a low barrier to entry. Also, profit margins are relatively low as you have to pay your dropshipping supplier to produce, store, and ship products to your customers.

Plus, it can be tough to differentiate your store from competitors’ if you’re selling generic products. But you can get around this issue by selling print-on-demand products — a type of dropshipping where your supplier adds your designs to products before shipping them to customers.

2. Wholesalers

This next way to source products kicks things up a notch. With this method, you would purchase products in bulk from a wholesaler.

Now, if you’re just starting out, it’s possible to have the goods shipped to your home. You could then store them in a spare room or in your garage and ship orders to customers yourself.

However, as your business grows, you’ll have to set up a warehouse and onboard a fulfillment team or hire a third-party fulfillment service to manage these tasks for you such as Shopify’s Fulfillment Network.

Shopify Fulfillment Network

The key advantage to purchasing products wholesale is that you’ll get a low cost per unit — and the more units you buy, the cheaper the unit will be. Consequently, the more money you invest upfront, the larger your profit margins will be — this is referred to as ‘economy of scale.’

Sourcing products in this way is also a relatively straightforward process.

Some wholesale suppliers also provide private label services — this is when you would purchase products in bulk and have the supplier add your branding to them. For example, Havlu Sport Beach & Swim Towels allows businesses to purchase a label package and sell towels under their own brand.

Sourcing Products From Wholesalers: Private Labeling

However, just like with dropshipping, it can be challenging to differentiate products from competitors if you don’t opt for private labeling.

And investing in inventory upfront brings financial risk as no product is guaranteed to sell. Although, you can reduce risk by selling pre-validated products from established brands.

Also, as your business grows, you’ll likely need to source products from many suppliers, which can create management challenges.

3. Manufacturers

Manufacturing is, without a doubt, the most challenging way to source products for your business.

Typically, you’ll start with product designs and prototyping. Then, once you have a finished design, you’ll evaluate manufacturers and order test batches before you select a supplier.

It’s also worth mentioning that it’s possible to work with a manufacturer to alter or improve a generic product they already make. That said, it’s nearly impossible to retain exclusive rights to the product you create if you do this. And so, the manufacturer is likely to sell the improved product to your direct competitors.

Still, if you have an original product idea and want to create something unique to set yourself apart from competitors, this is the only way to go.

Unsurprisingly, this product sourcing method is the most expensive and time-consuming approach. Manufacturers typically require high minimum order quantities to start production, and lead times can take months.

Plus, sourcing products in this way comes with all the same drawbacks that you’d encounter when purchasing goods wholesale, such as the need for an upfront investment, storage space, and fulfillment infrastructure.

To make things even more complicated, it can also be challenging to find a trustworthy and cost-effective supplier — especially if you’re sourcing products from abroad.

Choose a Product Sourcing Strategy

Now that you understand the 3 main ways to source products, which strategy is right for your business? Here’s what to do:

  • Dropshipping sources: If you’re just starting your entrepreneurial journey or would like to expand an existing business quickly, opt for dropshipping. This product sourcing method will allow you to hit the ground running and hone your business skills before risking capital purchasing upfront inventory.
  • Wholesalers: If you have experience running an ecommerce business and have some money to invest, consider purchasing products wholesale. Although you’ll need to set up a supply chain or work with a fulfillment service, you can enjoy higher profit margins and build a brand with private labeling opportunities.
  • Manufacturers: If you’re an experienced ecommerce seller with a unique product idea, capital to invest, and a willingness to take on complex challenges, consider sourcing products to sell from a manufacturer.

10 Product Sourcing Websites and Apps

Once you’ve chosen a way to source products, what’s next? Now it’s time to check out some sourcing websites and apps to find products for your business

Here are 10 product sourcing websites and apps to consider:

Dropshipping Sources

  1. Oberlo
  2. Printify
  3. Printful
  4. Dripshipper
  5. Creative Hub
  6. Lulu Xpress

Wholesale and Manufacturer Product Sourcing Websites

  1. Handshake
  2. Alibaba
  3. IndiaMart
  4. Made-In-China

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Dropshipping Sources

1. Oberlo

Dropshipping Sources: Oberlo

Oberlo is Shopify’s official dropshipping app that provides a way to start selling products online in less than an hour!

Simply sign up for Shopify, add the Oberlo app, browse products, and add them to your store.

There are millions of products available in virtually every niche imaginable. However, it’s smart to create a branded store with a selection of complementary products in a particular vertical.

There’s a free plan available, too!

2. Printify


Printify is one of the best product sourcing apps for print-on-demand items.

It connects you to a host of print-on-demand suppliers all over the world, so you can choose a supplier that’s geographically close to your customers for faster shipping. There are also more than 300 products to choose from.

This product sourcing app also provides a super simple mockup generator to help you customize products with your designs.

Like Oberlo, Printify also has a free plan that you can use to get started.

3. Printful


Printful is another popular print-on-demand product sourcing app with more than 220 products that you can dropship.

It offers a range of printing and customization options, such as direct-to-garment, cut-and-sew, and embroidery. This product sourcing company also enables you to customize product tags and include branded inserts in the product packaging.

4. Dripshipper


Dripshipper offers print-on-demand artisan coffee — so if you’re passionate about coffee, this is the dropshipping source for you!

The service ships whole beans the same day they’re roasted and ships ground coffee the day after it’s roasted. The service is based in the US but will dropship coffee worldwide.

5. Creative Hub

Creative Hub

Creative Hub is a print-on-demand company for art. It provides a complete white label service so you can sell art under your own brand name.

You can use Creative Hub to sell your art or contemporary art from the service’s library (if you do this, you would split the profits with the creators of the art that you sell).

The service is based in the UK but ships anywhere internationally for just £7 plus VAT.

6. Lulu Xpress

Lulu xPress

Lulu xPress is a print-on-demand service for books, calendars, comic books, and magazines.

The service offers plenty of customization options, and there are no set-up charges or handling fees. Also, this dropshipping source will ship products to your customers globally. 

It’s also worth noting that the company is a certified B Corporation and sources materials in a sustainable and environmentally conscious way.

Wholesale and Manufacturer Product Sourcing Websites

7. Handshake


Handshake is Shopify’s wholesale marketplace. It features a selection of handpicked US suppliers offering more than 150,000 high-quality products in a variety of niches and verticals.

The platform is simple to navigate, and all suppliers have been pre-vetter and pre-approved. So, if you’re looking to buy products in bulk from USA suppliers this is the perfect product sourcing website to start with.

8. Alibaba


If you’re interested in sourcing products wholesale or want to find a manufacturer, check out Alibaba. This platform is the largest B2B marketplace in the world. It houses suppliers from more than 190 countries and regions, although the majority are based in China.

If you use Alibaba, tread carefully — scammers use the site. However, there is a service called Trade Assurance that’s designed to help you find high-quality, reliable product sources.

9. IndiaMart


IndiaMart is the second-largest B2B marketplace globally and lists thousands of manufacturers and millions of products for wholesale.

As the name may suggest, most of the platform’s suppliers are based in India. IndiaMart also has a service to help buyers identify the best suppliers to work with.

10. Made-In-China


Made-In-China is another hugely popular B2B marketplace that exists to connect suppliers in China with global buyers.

The platform offers a service that allows you to purchase reports detailing suppliers’ financial situation, product capacity, work environment, and more.

Summary: How to Source Products

Before you start looking for products to sell, it’s a good idea to choose a product sourcing method. In summary, there are 3 main ways to source products:

  • Dropshipping sources
  • Wholesalers
  • Manufacturers

Remember, if you’re new to ecommerce, it’s a good idea to avoid large risks and to hone your skills with dropshipping. But if you’ve got a little experience under your belt and some money to invest, consider sourcing products wholesale or work with a manufacturer.

To finish up, here are 10 of our favorite product sourcing apps and websites:

  1. Oberlo
  2. Printify
  3. Printful
  4. Dripshipper
  5. Creative Hub
  6. Lulu Xpress
  7. Handshake
  8. Alibaba
  9. IndiaMart
  10. Made-In-China

Which of these product sourcing apps are you interested in using? Let us know in the comments below!

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12 Business Ideas for College Students [QUIZ] (2021)

12 Business Ideas for College Students [QUIZ] (2021)

After studying some of the one million business owners who use Shopify, we discovered that founders tend to fall into one of five personality types. Which one are you? Start with our quiz.

Summer solstice is approaching, Stargazers, and with it comes long, hot days. For those of us in the full-time working realm who have a few vacation days saved, summer is a time to sit back and sip some sunshine. But if you’re a college student, summer may look more like opportunity—opportunity to reduce tuition debt, gain some real world experience, and set yourself up with a flexible side gig once classes resume.

The future is bright for those who seize it. Even better news: there are ways to design your summer around something you enjoy, where you set your own hours and make money. There is no shortage of clever small business ideas for college students. But which one is right for you? Well, it might depend on your entrepreneur personality type. 

In short, your summer startup should reflect your interests and leverage your strengths. Join us as we explore ways to make the most of your summer break and answer questions like:

  • Which is the best business for college students like me?
  • What is the best business for beginners?
  • What are the most successful small businesses?
  • How do I get started?
  • What are the benefits of starting a business as a college student?

You’re done with exams, young Stargazer, but we have just one more test. We need to know a little more about you so we can make recommendations tailored to your unique personality. Take the quiz below and sign up to join the Founder’s Zodiac community. Already know your Founder Sign? Skip ahead.

7 benefits of starting a business as a college student

If I could leap back in time, do it all over again, I’d have dipped my toes in entrepreneurship much earlier. The lessons I learned from side gigs have helped me grow personally and professionally. There are several benefits to pursuing business ideas in college—and it’s not too late for you to cash in on them:

  1. 📊 Gain real world experience in business. Sure business school can teach you theory and formulas, but there’s nothing like doing business to learn the ropes. 
  2. 🛠 Learn skills that may not be taught in the classroom. Strengthen your skills in empathy, delegation, stress management, customer service, and more. Student entrepreneurs have a leg up on fellow graduates once they hit the job market. The skills you learn outside the classroom become just as valuable as those learned in a lecture. 
  3. 🤝 Build your professional network. By the time you graduate, you already have a contact list full of people to approach for references, mentorships, and even jobs.
  4. 👩🏻‍🎓 Try out an industry before you graduate. Studying fashion management? Try running your own business selling clothes online to get a taste for the industry.
  5. 📝 Flesh out your resume. As a new graduate, your CV may be pretty sparse. But if you run your own business in college, you can add “CEO“ to your list of accomplishments.
  6. 💰 Earn extra cash. Saving to pay expenses and minimize debt is a good idea if you want to lessen the burden after you graduate.
  7. 📆 Enjoy an income source that works around your studies. As your own boss, you make the hours. The common struggle of scheduling a part-time job around studying and classes can add stress. Work on your own business on a flexible schedule and then go all in on your summer break.

💡 For parents and teachers

Know a college student looking for a summer opportunity? Share or use this guide to help them start a business that sets them up for success. For younger students, we’ve developed a useful resource on small business ideas for teens and kids.

12 business ideas for college students

Whether you’re fresh out of high school or you’re on break before your senior year of college, this is your moment. When else in your life will you have this much time—and youthful energy—to make a leap? There are plenty of business ideas for beginners that require little upfront investment, and can even be run from your home (or dorm room). 

Before we look at specific ideas picked for your personality type, get inspired by this list of the best business types for college students:

    1. Teach, mentor, or tutor. Help high school students with summer studies or younger college students prep for classes that you aced last semester.
    2. Sell handmade goods. If you’re creative, take a break from the books to work with your hands. You can sell your goods through an online store, marketplace, or in-person event like a local market. 
    3. Start a service-based business. What services can you offer in your city or town? Launch a basic website to advertise services for childcare, pet-sitting, delivery, personal shopping, maintenance, landscaping—there are endless possibilities.
    4. Try dropshipping. Dropshipping lets you sell goods to customers without ever having to buy product upfront or manage inventory. This is a great idea for those with skills in design and marketing. The products are less important than how you curate, market, and position them.
    5. Start a community-focused business or non-profit. If your goal isn’t to make money but to gain skills and experience, you could start a cause-based business that gives back to a charity or community organization that you care about.
    6. Monetize content or a personal brand. If you’re already a minor superstar on a social media platform like TikTok or Instagram, consider leveraging your growing audience to make money. Do sponsored content or set up an online store that sells merch to your fans.
    7. Sell print-on-demand goods. This is another great option for starting a business on a low budget. If you have creative skills, you can sell your art or graphic design printed on anything from t-shirts to camp mugs. 
    8. Become a freelancer. Make yourself available to take on freelance work like editing, copywriting, web design, or whatever it is that you do best. You can set up a portfolio site or create a listing on a site like Upwork.
    9. Create experiences. While the world emerges from lockdown, the masses are craving in-person connections. Can you create and sell experiences to tourists, for example? Think biking or culinary tours of your city’s favorite spots.
    10. Become a reseller. If you have an eye for potential, scour local buy-and-sell sites or thrift stores for interesting and vintage finds. You can curate a unique experience by fixing up old home decor or vintage clothing and selling them on a dedicated website. 
    11. Sell at pop-up shops and markets. Grow your own veggies and make preserves, bake cookies, make handmade goods, or curate vintage. Whatever your skill or interest, consider how you can make extra cash selling at weekend markets or a temporary pop-up. 
    12. Run a summer camp program. Alleviate parent burnout after a year of tenuous childcare and schooling. Choose one your interests—say math, drama, or wilderness exploration—and create an engaging camp program for young kids.

But wait, how do I get started? It’s as easy as just doing it. Set up an online store and get a feel for the tools before committing to a plan, then learn as you go with free resources like the Shopify blog.

Predict your own future. Start a college business and try Shopify free for 14 days

Handpicked summer business ideas and tips for college students

Hey, what’s your sign? We’re less interested in when you were born and more in what makes your tick. Here, we’ll hone in on your unique personality type and offer college business suggestions curated just for you. 

👟 Skip to your sign:

Feature sign: The Outsider

Illustration of The Founder's Zodiac sign, The Outsider

You’re our feature sign this month, Outsider, because you’re the most likely to already be planning for your financial future. Taking on debt to attend college was likely stressful enough for someone who avoids risk at all costs. If you’re already contemplating debt repayment, there are plenty of ways to get ahead of it now, even while you’re still studying. For you, starting a business in college could provide some financial peace of mind—allowing you to focus less on money and more on graduation.

Which is the best business type for Outsider college students?

You’re a reliable person, always submitting work on time and up to your high standards. Pick a business that doesn’t interfere with your dedication to your studies. Make your own hours and set your own boundaries so you don’t get overwhelmed. And remember to carve time out for social pursuits—the lessons you learn by joining teams or clubs or attending campus events could be just as valuable to your future.

3 college business ideas for Outsiders

Businesses that work well for you, Outsider, are those that you can run solo and without a lot of upfront investment. Here are a few to get you started:

  1. Offer a service to other students based on your craft or field of study. As someone who goes all in on one thing, your expertise likely exceeds that of many of your classmates.
  2. Sell handcrafted goods at local or on-campus markets. You may not be a natural salesperson, but the experience will help build those necessary interpersonal skills if you choose to run a business after you graduate.
  3. Sell digital products online. If you’re a business major, sell business plan templates. Photography major? Sell presets for photo editing software. If you’re studying music, sell licences to stock sounds or songs. Whatever your field, how can you add value and attract customers by running a low-investment business selling digital products?

💡 Learn more: The 13 Best Small Business Ideas (No Inventory Required) (2021)

The Mountaineer

Illustration of The Founder's Zodiac sign, The Mountaineer

You’re probably a bit of an overachiever, Mountaineer. Maybe you’re fast-tracking graduation. Or working two side jobs in the pursuit of getting out in the real world quickly and debt free. Maybe you’re already maximizing your summer break by hitting the pavement to scout out internships. Gold star! Whatever your ultimate goal, you’re chasing it non-stop. That’s why you’re likely the most suited of all signs to start a business while you’re still in college. The benefits are obvious—and that boss title is great for bragging rights.

Which is the best business type for Mountaineer college students?

While you’re quite self-motivated—reaching your goal is reward enough—you won’t shy away from a little deserved attention. You’re a natural performer. And even though you’re satisfied to call all the shots, you definitely thrive surrounded by people. Why not leverage your natural charm and leadership abilities to run your own student business?

3 college business ideas for Mountaineers

Lean into your strengths by making and monetizing content or running a service business—anything that puts you in the spotlight or surrounds you with people. Your best bets:

  1. Start or grow a YouTube channel. Find a niche or underserved audience and produce content that creates value. Once you build a loyal fan base, sell ads or promoted content, or set up a merch store to monetize your personal brand.
  2. Design a summer drama or sports camp for kids.
  3. Offer your services as a consultant, based on your specific skills or field of study. 

💡 Learn more: Like, Comment, and Thrive: How to Start a Successful YouTube Channel for Your Business

The Firestarter

Illustration of The Founder's Zodiac sign, The Firestarter

If you’re not already running several businesses from your dorm room, Firestarter, we’d be surprised. You’re the type to always be looking for opportunity, running schemes, and making as much money as possible with the least effort. We can’t fault you for it—your ease in the business world is enviable, and it pays off. But if you haven’t used your talents to start a business in college, there’s no time like the present! 

Which is the best business type for Firestarter college students?

You get bored quickly if things aren’t challenging, fast-paced, and a little risky. It’s important for you to be able to pivot easily. With that in mind, look for businesses you can spin up—or fold—quickly. Choose anything that allows you to be relatively hands off so that you’re nimble enough to pursue new ideas. 

3 college business ideas for Firestarters

Here are some business ideas suited to your personality that you can act on today:

  1. Start a dropshipping or print-on-demand business to sell trending products.
  2. Run a service business offering coaching or mentorship in the field that you study.
  3. Invest in other small businesses. If you have some extra money to play with, back some projects that excite you.

💡 Learn more: Trending Products to Sell in 2021

The Cartographer

Illustration of The Founder's Zodiac sign, The Cartographer

Among all the signs, you’re the best at managing your time and budget. You keep meticulous records. Heck, your 25-year-plan is probably color-coded and laminated. Because you’re so organized, you know exactly how much time and effort you can bring to a side job or project between studying and classes. Starting a small business during your summer break is therefore ideal for you, Cartographer. You also get to be the boss (just the way you like it) and the extra cash will help minimize debt—your natural enemy—before you graduate.

Which is the best business type for Cartographer college students?

You’re a lone wolf, happy to get lost in the details. You’d rather work late than delegate if it means things get done right—and your way. You’re best suited to starting a small business that you can reasonably manage alone on top of your studies. Look for low-risk business ideas for college students like you that can be run from home.

3 college business ideas for Cartographers

Online businesses are perfect for those who lean a little more introverted. An online format paired with your creativity and attention to detail is a winning formula.

  1. Make handmade goods and sell them through an online store or marketplace.
  2. Create educational content—say craft, design, or home organization tutorials—and sell them online. Set up social accounts with free content and teasers to help build an audience.
  3. Offer freelance digital services like design, branding, writing, templates, or website development.

💡 Learn more: Online Business Ideas: 16 Best Low-Cost Ideas and How to Start

The Trailblazer

Illustration of The Founder's Zodiac sign, The Trailblazer

Your best trait, Trailblazer, is sometimes also your downfall. You have the problem of two many ideas and it causes you to lose focus on just one thing. At the risk of distracting you even further from your studies, a small business could actually be the cure for you. The constraints of a typical student job can feel restrictive to Trailblazers like you. And since you’re a natural at balancing a million things, why not add a little side hustle into the mix? 

Which is the best business type for Trailblazer college students?

A small business will allow you to act out your ideas, pour your creativity into a passion, and pivot whenever something shiny catches your eye. Since your passion naturally attracts others, consider a business that brings others into the fold. Design a working environment that you’ve always dreamed of—no dress code, no set hours, and lots of collaboration. You’re the boss, after all.

3 college business ideas for Trailblazers

Pick a business that lets you be flexible and solve creative problems. Here are a few ideas for Trailblazers like you:

  1. Create a series of designs around a trend or interest and sell them printed on products like tote bags or travel mugs. You can use a print-on-demand service to automate many of the tasks. Want a collab angle? Commission work from design students and sell their work too.
  2. Invent and sell a product or service that solves a problem—especially if it benefits college students like you. You have a built in customer base while you’re in school. And if it takes off, create work opportunities for your favorite classmates.
  3. Start a marketplace (online or a pop-up on campus) to help foster entrepreneurship among your peers. Sell the creations of others and take a cut for your hard work.

💡 Learn more: 12 Profitable Hobbies That Make Money

If you’ve yet to determine your Founder Sign, take our quiz, then sign up for our newsletter. The Founder’s Zodiac runs every month and offers up advice and relevant content curated just for your type. 

Illustrations by by Alice Mollon

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How To Make Merch For Your YouTube Channel Or Podcast & Sell It Online

How To Make Merch For Your YouTube Channel Or Podcast & Sell It Online

Are you a creator with a following? Making merch is one of the best avenues you can pursue to monetize your audience. But how can you make merch? This article walks through the entire process of how to make merch so you can start making and selling merch now.

How to Make Merch: Types of Merch Products You Can Make

How to Make Merch Products

First, let’s start with your merch options.

There are so many merch products available to creators now, and you can get them printed with quotes and images your audience wants to wear.

Here are some popular merch products:

  • Sweatpants: Sweatpants have long been the leisurewear of choice for all generations
  • Shirts & Sweatshirts: They’re easy to source, comfy to wear day and night, and consumers can always be tempted by unique designs
  • Socks: This lightweight item is cheap to ship, they can make fun gifts, and they’re a subtle way for consumers to rep their merch
  • Hats: Functional and simple, yet a go-to merch product
  • Mugs: They’re easy to customize and market
  • Phone Cases: Since the general population is pretty much stapled to their phones, why not offer customized phone cases?
  • Jewelry: Earrings, necklaces, and bracelets can be special, more premium merch options. Selling jewelry as merch can be easier than you think
  • Laptop Cases: Customize laptop cases and/or opt for various waterproof and hard-wearing materials—all branded with your logo, of course!
  • Backpacks: A necessary and very functional accessory, you can personalize backpacks with your logo or with embroidered illustrations
  • Beach Towels: Depending on your brand and audience, beach products might be an ideal merch product. Print your logo, designs, or slogans onto a beach towel!
  • Blankets: Create cozy blankets with your logo, designs, illustrations, or slogans. Provide a choice of fabrics and colors to suit your customers’ tastes!
  • Canvases: Are you an artist, designer, illustrator, or photographer? Print your work onto canvases so your customers can purchase your creations
  • Tote Bags: Tote bags are an original merch product and for good reason—they’re functional, easy to source, practical, and consumers love to have multiple on-hand!
  • Facemasks: Let’s face it—facemasks are here to stay for the indefinite future, so lean into it and create facemasks for your merch line! Whether you design your own masks or work with a fellow creator to develop something unique, it doesn’t matter; it’s a cheap and easy way to use up material and sell easy-to-ship products
  • Pet Bandanas: Does your pet have a popular social media account? Make some merch for your follower’s pets! Pet bandanas are an easy-to-make and sell item that plenty of pet owners can appreciate
  • Babygrows: A parent’s go-to staple, make babygrows with cute slogans, illustrations, or anything else associated with your brand
  • Aprons: Appeal to foodies, cooks, bakers, and home chefs with customized aprons!

This list is by no means exhaustive, as there are tons of options out there. But when you start selling merch, what kind of products you sell is up to you! You can mix and match your merch to suit your brand and get as creative as you want.

Where to Get Your Merch Made

Now that you have an idea of what kind of merch you can make—where do you get that merch made?

The good news is, you don’t have to make your merch yourself.

Long gone are the days of purchasing wholesale t-shirts in bulk and screenprinting your own designs onto them. You can work with dropshipping suppliers to make your merch for you.

We recommend outsourcing the merch-making process to a dropshipping company because it’s easier and likely cheaper for you! They handle the printing, packaging, inventory management, and shipping so all you have to do is make designs and handle your online store and customer service.

Below are 3 of the best dropshipping services we recommend.

Note: Looking for more dropshipping suppliers you could source merch from? Our Dropshipping Suppliers Directory lists dropshippers of all kinds. Find the products you’re looking for there.


Make Merch with Printful

Printful (Printful Review) is one of the best companies you can make merch with. Not only are they simple to use, but they also integrate directly with Shopify (Shopify Review) stores so you can automate order fulfillment and get your merch dropshipped directly to your customers’ doors.

Printful also offers a massive selection of print-on-demand products that you can customize with your own designs, illustrations, artwork, and slogans so you can make each merch item your own.

There are also no minimum order quantities or monthly subscription fees, and items generally go out to customers within three working days. They also offer custom packaging options, so your customer’s orders can be branded with stickers, labels, and customized packing slips.

Check Out Printful’s Shopify App Here


Make Merch for Your Online Store with Gooten

Gooten is another reliable dropshipping supplier with a wide range of products to choose from. Their products are also print-on-demand so you can print your own designs, illustrations, slogans, etc. on each item, and they also integrate with Shopify stores.

We like to recommend Gooten because they offer print-on-demand products that other merch suppliers may not offer, like:

  • Journals and notebooks
  • Bathmats
  • Beer steins
  • Huggable body pillows
  • Compact mirrors
  • More ideas

Which can give you more choices that you may not see elsewhere.

If you’re looking to sell unique merch products, check out Gooten’s product selection to see what you can find.

Check Out Gooten’s Shopify App Here


Make Merch with Printify

Another great print-on-demand merch supplier is Printify. While their product offering is a little bit more curated, they provide high-quality items and promise quick turnaround times with their 90+ print provider locations.

Some of the items Printify offers include:

  • Insulated bottles
  • Enamel camping mugs
  • Desk calendars
  • Personalized lamps
  • Indoor wall tapestries

Check Out Printify’s Shopify App Here

Note: Like different products from all three of these merch suppliers? You don’t have to source your merch from just one supplier—you can source from all of them! To do this, it’s especially helpful if your store is on an ecommerce platform like Shopify so orders can be automatically fulfilled. Otherwise, you’ll have to manually track orders across all suppliers which can be confusing and lead to errors.

Getting Ideas for Your Merch Designs

If your talents lie in online marketing, sales, and lead generation, but you’re short on creative ideas for your merch, listen up!

You want to create designs that are distinct and tailored to the tastes of your specific audience. The important thing here is to avoid the generic. So, say you host a true-crime podcast. You’re going to want to make merch that’s tailored towards your audience and branded with your show’s title. Take True Crime All The Time as an example. They run a top-rated podcast and have successfully monetized their show by selling a wide array of branded merch.

Alternatively, if your YouTube, TikTok, or podcast shows have inside jokes, catchphrases, or different seasons, you can capitalize on creating products that your audience recognizes, loves, and identifies with. This is a simple yet effective way of uniting your online community.

If you’re still unsure what to print on your merch designs, reach out to your audience for ideas! Ask your followers to DM suggestions or leave comments on one of your posts. Run a competition for design/slogan suggestions where the winner(s) receive free merch and a shout-out on your social platforms. Or, run an Instagram or Facebook poll with multiple-choice suggestions where followers can vote for their favorite idea.

Designing Illustrations & Slogans for Your Merch

To actually create your merch designs, you have a few options. You can either:

  • Make Your Designs Yourself: If you’re up to the challenge, there’s plenty of software you can use to bring your design ideas to life, such as Canva and Adobe Photoshop. Check out YouTube or Skillshare tutorials to learn how to use the software if you don’t already know
  • Customize Design Templates: Find design templates on places like Creative Market and make them your own! This means you can still make bespoke designs without having to create them from scratch
  • Hire a Designer: If you don’t have the time nor the inclination, check out online marketplaces such as Upwork, Fiverr, and FreeUp to outsource your design work. A designer or illustrator will be able to turn your concepts into fully fleshed-out designs that look professional and high-quality

Setting Up Your Merch Store

How to Start a Merch Store

Now it’s time to set up your online merch store and generate some income and brand awareness!

If you’ve committed to a dropshipping supplier, it’s pretty simple to set up your store because you have no inventory to buy upfront, and you don’t have to wait until your merch has been made before you can start selling because your supplier can print on demand.

So, all you need to do is set up your online store using your chosen ecommerce platform, then integrate it with Printful, Gooten, Printify, or whatever other dropshipping partners you’re using. From there, you can import your products onto your online storefront and start selling.

If you’re starting from scratch, we’re going to briefly walk you through what you need to do to set up a Shopify merch store.

Let’s walk through it step-by-step.

Step 1: Pick a Name

Decide on the name of your merch store. This could be the same title as your podcast or YouTube channel, or TikTok profile, or it could be something associated with it (like a catchphrase) that your audience will recognize and remember.

For name ideas, check out Shopify’s Domain Name Generator!

Step 2: Register for a Shopify Account

It’s easy to sign up for Shopify and there are several payment plans to choose from—including Shopify Lite which is an excellent option if you’re just dipping a toe in the water. From there, you can upgrade your plan as you scale your business over time.

If you’re unsure whether Shopify is the right platform for you, they offer a 14-day free trial that you can start with before you commit.

Step 3: Set up your Shopify Store

Follow Shopify’s prompts to get your store set up—they’ll lead you through the most important parts. They also have a helpful guide that goes into detail and this checklist for starting a new Shopify store.

But, to give you a sense of what’s involved, these are the general steps:

  • Log into your Shopify account
  • Name your store
  • Choose your legal business name and address
  • Add your billing information
  • Choose your payment gateway and default currency. Shopify integrates with all the major payment providers and you can accept payments in multiple currencies
  • Set up your shipping options. If your customers are local, you could set up your store to offer local pick-up and delivery options
  • Set your taxes
  • Set up your domain name

Step 4: Choose Your Merch Supplier

After reviewing all your options, select a merch supplier that suits your needs best.

When you work with suppliers like Printful, Gooten, and Printify you have lots of flexibility; you can sell just one of their products and expand later, you can list a few products and change them around whenever you want, and you can even source from multiple suppliers.

Ideally, sourcing your products from a supplier who integrates with Shopify will make your life a lot easier, so we recommend making that a priority when you choose your merch supplier.

Step 5: Make Your Merch Designs

Make your merch designs or hire someone to make your designs for you!

Make sure your designs look exactly how you want them, ensure that they’re unique and don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright (this applies to slogans/quotes as well), and if you purchase templates, ensure that you purchase the correct licensing option (such as a commercial license) so that you have the right to print the designs on items that are being sold.

Step 6: Order Samples

This is a super important step—don’t skip it! Order samples to make sure the quality of the product meets your standards and the design is printed properly on your product.

Most dropshipping suppliers will offer discounts on samples so merchants can check their merch before they sell it.

Step 7: Take Product Photos

Take product photos of your merch to upload onto your store. Remember, these are what will attract customers, so make sure that they’re of good quality!

Step 8: Choose a Website Theme

Choose a website theme that best reflects your brand. Website themes can be customized in small ways to your liking, but the overall layout will generally stay the same so pick a theme layout that you like. You can customize the colors, images, menus, and sections later.

Step 9: Test Your Store

Test your online store to guarantee that everything actually works before going live. The last thing you need is glitches from the get-go!

The easiest way to do this is to run trial transactions, refunds, and order cancellations to evaluate whether everything is operating as it should be. It’s also worth appraising Shopify’s fraud analysis settings so you’re better positioned to identify any rare cases of fraudulent orders.

Step 10: Launch & Start Selling!

Launch your site and make it public so your audience can buy your merch! Remove your store’s password so your site is accessible to the outside world and orders can start coming in.

Step 11: Market Your Merch Store

Start marketing via your YouTube channel, TikTok profile, podcast, and social feeds! Let your audience know that your merch store is up and running so they can support you and grab the merch they want to buy.

You can also encourage your audience to share photos of themselves wearing or using your merch so you can share their posts on your profile. This kind of user-generated content not only cements the relationship you have with your audience but also doubles as social proof which goes a long way to add to your brand’s credibility and establish trust.


So now you know how to make merch that represents your brand and your audience will love! Go get your merch brand started—what are you waiting for?

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