3 Ways Offering Promotional Products E-Commerce Platforms Can Boost Business
In the first quarter of 2020, U.S. retail e-commerce sales increased more than 14 percent over the same period last year, according to the Census Bureau. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have contributed to the increase at the end of March, the numbers have been steadily rising over the past few years.
E-commerce is now more than a trend. It’s essential. With a global pandemic, many are relying on online shopping even more than usual. Online grocery shopping has spiked with 42 percent of people ordering food online during the pandemic—20 percent more than in 2018, according to GeekWire, which also noted Instacart experienced a record 300 percent increase in demand over the previous year.
And let’s not forget about mobile shopping. It’s becoming so popular that a new term for it has emerged—m-commerce. Last year, m-commerce comprised about a quarter of e-commerce sales, but Business Insider Intelligence predicts it will surpass typical e-commerce shopping within the next five years.
If that’s not enough to convince you to offer online stores, here are three ways an e-commerce platform can help your promo business. You can also read more about adding e-commerce offerings and related topics in The Promo Distributor's Guide to Apparel Decoration.
1. Growth opportunities
E-commerce opens up a whole new set of sales opportunities with current customers as well as those located outside of your typical sales area. Kelley Rice, owner of Oswego, Illinois-based Imagination Print & Design, primarily services local customers, but ships orders across the country and notes she has a cluster of customers in the Boston area due to referrals.
All of your current clients from corporations to little league teams could use stores to streamline orders. Mitch Hammer, senior director of marketing at Dallas-based OrderMyGear, explained how a corporation could receive a link to a company store that includes about 15 products branded with the company’s logo—whether it’s official uniforms or merchandise for purchase. The store can be duplicated and edited for the same client annually or for a new client to avoid starting from scratch. It’s simple to create a sample store for a sales pitch as well. Either way, it takes about an hour.
“You really want to look for an e-commerce solution that fits your business and will help you grow, so we consider strong e-commerce solutions as a way again to help distributors to grow their business and expand their client base,” Hammer said.
2. Streamlined workflow
It also moves the burden of order management off of your shoulders so you can focus more on acquiring new customers. It eliminates the back and forth calls, emails and in-person chats on each order. After the initial discussion on the project, orders of how many of each shirt, cap and pen, as well as in what colors and what sizes, can be streamlined through the site. This helps with the decoration workflow by allowing a decorating distributor to close the store and complete all orders at once instead of one-offs as orders are submitted. When Rice recently received an influx of thousands of yard sign orders for graduating students, she created an online store to streamline the orders instead of taking each order individually.
“I just did a class of 2020 store, and every time someone would request one, I would add it on there because it’s super easy,” she said. ... So, instead of just fulfilling their order, I’d put it in an online store and tell them to just buy it from that, and then they’d share it [on social media]. That strategy right there really worked.”
E-commerce platforms also integrate everything from accounting software to payment input to supplier inventory. OrderMyGear, for example, has relationships with major suppliers like adidas, alphabroder, S&S Activewear, SanMar, Under Armour and more. These brands provide live integration of their current inventories, so you’re not selling anything that’s out of stock or only available in limited quantities. The platform has 70,000 products from these suppliers in a searchable database that can be added to a store. If a product isn’t in the database or is homemade, it can be manually added.
3. Managing costs (and profits)
Yes, e-commerce platforms add to your overhead, but those costs can be covered in your product pricing. For example, one OrderMyGear feature offers an historical pricing tool that leverages past data that can be used to determine item costs.
“It allows you to drill down into any region in the United States and just look at, ‘Hey, what are the average prices on particular products?’” Hammer said. “That way you know how to price. Or, ‘I just want to look and see how have I priced historically? What have I typically charged for this type of shirt?’ So there are things like that by leveraging all of our data that flows through our platform, we are able to provide our dealers and distributors insights into what performs well.”
When it comes to upfront costs, there are two common e-commerce platform models—monthly fee or percentage of sales. Depending on your usage, you can figure out which is best for your business. Some distributors with seasonal business, like Imagination Print & Design, prefer the latter where they pay only when using the platform. Since Rice’s store customers are primarily schools, she has busy seasons for e-commerce as opposed to consistent year-round business. To offset the fees, she builds them into her product pricing.
“If something sells, it’s paid for,” she said. “If it doesn’t, no worries. So, we can just create e-commerce stores willy nilly, and it’s not a big deal.”
Want to learn more about integrating online stores? Check out The Promo Distributor's Guide to Apparel Decoration, a free resource for distributors looking to find the right decorating partner, add in-house decoration or build business through e-commerce stores. Download it here.