How Promotional Caps and Headwear Fit Into Today’s E-Commerce World
Much like T-shirts, hoodies and other garments, headwear experiences ebbs and flows in what’s trending. It might initially seem like there’s only one type of headwear, but the reality is there are many different styles, ranging from traditional baseball caps to trucker hats and even bandannas. What unites them is their ability to elevate most any branding campaign—which includes online and e-commerce campaigns and stores.
The COVID-19 pandemic expedited the growth of the digital retail world, forcing promotional products distributors and their customers to quickly ramp up their online presence. But to truly stand out in an inundated virtual world of ads, marketing and more, distributors must stay on trend with their headwear offerings in order to achieve the best ROI possible for everyone.
It’s helpful to start with knowing what’s actually popular these days in the headwear category. Some trends, like bold and bright colors, transcend the world of T-shirts into this space. But, of course, headwear isn’t shaped like a shirt, so there are other factors to consider.
Following in the footsteps of resurging ’90s styles, vintage colors and trucker caps remain hot-ticket items. “Anything with a mesh back, patch or vintage colors is back on top in the headwear space,” said Grace Schettler, vice president of sales at Fredericktown, Missouri-based Cap America. “This new generation is in their 30s or early 40s, and they grew up in Y2K. So, we’ve gone from full fabric hook-and-loop caps being the hottest seller to anything with mesh and a snap back.”
Also leading the charge is the focus on sustainability, yet another trend that carries from shirts to hats. “Recently, market studies have shown that the majority of consumers have a more favorable opinion of an advertiser if the promotional product is environmentally friendly,” observed Silvia Pallaro, country manager North America for New York City-based Atlantis Headwear. This is applicable to all headwear styles, including beanies. “Consumers and businesses are adjusting their mindset and purchasing decisions in favor of sustainable products and processes.”
Scott Thackston, director of marketing and product development for Bandanna Promotions by Caro-Line, Greenville, South Carolina, pointed out that even bandannas follow certain trends. “Old school is the new school—TV, movies, concerts and retro style—which is perfect for bandannas as fashion statements and branding wearables,” he said. He added that bold, bright colors are coming into play with the re-emergence of in-person events and the resulting attitude of positivity.
In addition to the Y2K generation making up the majority of today’s buying group, there’s another movement influencing these trends: the explosion of the digital buying world. “Headwear trends are driven by the marketing behind the brand,” said Schettler. “When a headwear company shows off a cool new hat with an interesting decoration technique on their social media, suddenly other headwear companies follow suit.”
“We are all aware that the future is going more and more digital,” added Pallaro. “This is positive because it helps ... put our products more easily in front customers and prospects.” Because of this, she continued, it’s crucial to ramp up digital advertising efforts.
Why wouldn’t you want to incorporate headwear into a branded merch line? Pallaro explained that utilizing headwear in the digital space is important because it allows your customers to create brand awareness and communicate all the hidden peculiarities of a product that, at first impression, might seem basic but actually has a more practical use.
Virtual Campaign Opportunities
Speaking of digital efforts, promotional products distributors most likely have already increased their own online presence (and if you haven’t, now is the time). But it’s equally important to make sure distributors help create unique headwear for their clients hosting e-commerce campaigns and online shops.
One way to do so is by offering options. “Buyers are looking for variety—in fabrics, colors and decoration techniques,” noted Schettler. “They don’t want to see the same four colors over and over again. They want lifestyle colors like olives and lilacs. They want to see a vintage-washed cotton and a poly sport blend. They want to see leather patches, embroidered patches, woven appliqués and 3D embroidery.”
“You can’t go wrong with a mesh back and a patch,” Schettler continued. “Even with just these two simple elements, you can create a variety of styles and looks to fit any brand, and a trucker with a patch will appeal to just about anybody.”
If you haven’t considered upping the game with additional styles like beanies or bandannas, now is the time to do so.
“Try new sizes of bandannas, [because] the right fit may be different for all on how and where you put your accessory style on,” Thackston recommended. “Make sure you’re not cookie cutter; one size does not fit all with colors, sizes and overall style. Make a mix for each age group and targeted demographic segment.” Doing so will encourage your customer’s online store to stand out among the digital noise.
But more than that, distributors must also focus on the message, something that can be easily lost in today’s virtual buying environment. “It’s all about giving a clear and right message; focus on fewer things, but do them well,” advised Pallaro.
For example, if sustainability is important to your customer, provide them resources to make that clear and obvious to their buying group. Pallaro said that distributors can download the Atlantis Sustainability Data Sheet with information and hand it to their client along with headwear that is traceable via a QR code applied on the inside label of every Atlantis product. That’s just one method that can work.
For those distributors who are still on the fence as to whether headwear belongs in their clients’ digital campaigns, Schettler put it succinctly: “A hat is a walking billboard at eye level ... People buy caps and people wear caps [and] it’s easy to house limited inventory.”
She stated that even on social media, headwear is often part of fun promotional campaigns that can be seen on friends’, co-workers’, and celebrity and influencer accounts. “A recent example of this would be oversized patches,” she said. “At first, you only saw a couple when scrolling through your feed, and now they’re everywhere: online, on social, on shelves, on heads.”
Which raises the question: Why wouldn’t you want to incorporate headwear into a branded merch line? Pallaro explained that utilizing headwear in the digital space is important because it allows your customers to create brand awareness and communicate all the hidden peculiarities of a product that, at first impression, might seem basic but actually has a more practical use.
And when it comes down to it, headwear makes sense for any occasion, any season and any event. Thackston described it as “the go-to wearable for most occasions and seasons that can be a true fashion accessory branding statement.”
Or like Schettler said, “Headwear is fun, it’s easy—it’s a no brainer.”
So, the big question is, if you’re not offering headwear to your clients for their e-commerce campaigns, what are you waiting for?