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Five Universal Truths When Selling Online Merch

August 12, 2020

Merch can be a little bit feast or famine. A lot of artists do it really well when they're on the road, but...well, the online game is a bit lacking. We'll spend some more time talking about selling online merch by different platforms in the near future.

But for now, let's take a look at five universal truths when you're selling online merch.

1. The Most Obvious Choice Is Usually The Right One

When it comes to creating and selling merchandise, don’t overthink it. The obvious products are usually the right ones. Everybody sells t-shirts because t-shirts sell to everybody. As a general rule, don’t try to make new hoodies and sell them in the Summer.

There is nothing wrong with selling something a little unique — but ask your fans if they’d buy it, first. Simple online polls in your social media or email list are great for this. Would people wear your hat? If so, do they prefer flat bills, baseball, or trucker hats?

Should you include your logo or name on your merch? Well, if you’re trying to sell to your fans who would like to buy your stuff because they’re your fans…it usually helps.

Just use that big beautiful brain here.

2. They’re Not Buying Your Merch Because They Need A New Shirt. They’re Buying Your Merch Because They Like You.

There are very few instances in which your merch is a complete utility, and almost all of them have to do with selling merch live. What do we mean by that? People don’t buy *your* shirt because they need a new shirt. Unless they’re at your show and spilled something all over theirs so they just need something to change into. Or maybe you’re selling picnic blankets for outdoor amphitheater concerts where they don’t want to sit directly on the grass. You get the idea.

Even during the pandemic when bands started offering face masks (many with a charity component), it’s not like that was the fastest way to get a face mask.

Fans don’t buy your things because they “need” them from a utility aspect. They buy them because

  1. They want to support you
  2. They want other people to know they like you
  3. They like the design

That’s why it’s important for your messaging and presentation to be personal and for your merch to be a very obvious tie-in to your music and brand. That doesn’t mean you can’t be artistic and “inside” — in fact, merch with inside references and jokes usually does really well — just make sure your *fans* will get it.

3. Keep Track Of Your Customers And Be Cool To Them

“CRM” stands for customer relationship management and it’s a fancy acronym that marketers and salespeople like to use to seem fancier than they are. (Just kidding, we love you marketers and salespeople!).

Basically it’s the system you use to track your customers, contact your customers, and keep your relationships with your customers streamlined. The good news is that most platforms you’ll use to sell merch have some form of CRM component built in. We’ll talk a little more about that later, but this is why it’s important to keep in touch with your customers:

Repeat customers are 60-70% more likely to buy something than a new customer. And they spend 33% more on average.

What this basically means is that once you start to build a list of your customers you’ll sell more organically. Your business grows like a snowball heading downhill. By offering special discounts to repeat customers and checking in on them to include them in product surveys and other general updates, you’re strengthening that relationship.

4. Advertising Is Not A Dirty Word

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with advertising your products. The most successful companies in the world are all experts in advertising. And while we’re not going to get into things like Facebook/Instagram Ads, Google Ads, Snapchat Ads, or any of the other amazing digital marketing platforms in this here, just know they are your friend.

If you believe in what you’re selling and you’re advertising it to people you believe will enjoy it, then by all means advertise away. Somewhere along the line we let somebody get into our heads that good music and good merch doesn’t need to be advertised and that is just, frankly, bull dookie.

5. People Hate Extra Costs

Like, really hate them. We do too. Sales tax sucks. Shipping costs suck. Look, we’re going to pay them if it’s something we really want, obviously, but wouldn’t it be a lot nicer if we just knew what we were going to pay right off the bat?

There are very few instances in which bundling all the costs together isn’t a good idea. So if you worked out the math and found out you have to charge $30 for a shirt to not obliterate your margin, charge $30. Do not charge $23 and then have the extra $2 for sales tax and add $5 for shipping and handling.

Just. Don’t. Do it.

You stand to lose a lot more customers in the checkout process that way. Instead, be very clear with your messaging that the price the fan sees is the price they pay. Saying, “$30 — tax and shipping included!” feels like they stumbled onto a great deal. Clicking on a $23 product to watch it turn into $30 feels like some weird sucky magic trick.

And remember, you are liable for the sales tax costs. Some of these upcoming platforms handle all that for you. But if you go totally solo, be sure to put some aside to cover those expenses come tax time.

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