What’s in store for online garment and promotional item decorators in 2018? Colin Marsh, managing director of Resolute DTG, offers hints and tips on running a successful e-commerce website.
Since Pierre Omidyar created the eBay auction platform in the late 90s, the online retail shopfront presence has exploded. I think it is quite safe to say, no matter what the product is, a printed T shirt or a personalised champagne glass, if you can buy it, you can buy it online, and very often quicker and cheaper.
During the aggressive online retail growth, post-1998, many pitfalls became visible and a lot of people gained and lost substantial amounts of money. Thankfully today’s reputable online stores take great measures to protect the consumer and the vendor from fraudulent activities and bogus transactions.
So what does this mean for companies just getting into garment decoration and promotional items? Let’s cover a few facts that you may or may not know first.
It is important to remember, when selling online you are still exposed to some things that can catch you out. PayPal and credit card companies can issue chargebacks if the service you provide is not acceptable or fraud is detected, thankfully you should not experience anything like the pitfalls with earlier online transactions back in the late 90s.
In the beginning
When you start to sell online you will first need to choose a platform on which to sell your products. Subscription or commission based platforms are a quick and easy way to sell online that require very little web/HTML knowledge. eBay, Amazon, Etsy and Not On The High Street, are currently the four most popular ways to do this. These are great to get started but they do come at a high cost.
In some cases, you will pay around 10% of your sale price in commission and very often a subscription on top. The more you sell the more discount you will attract, but these methods of selling will always cost more than running your own e-commerce website, they do however have some of the best SEO (search engine optimisation) algorithms in use meaning your products will sell and very often quickly. If you want an easy online life and don’t mind paying per sale these methods are a good solid choice.
However, very little customisation is available on a standard sales platform. If you want to offer this service be prepared for some setup costs to either, have your own website developed or use a specialist service which will integrate into an industry standard RIP software. Your RIP (raster image processor) is what drives your printing device, a complex piece of software, although it should be easy to use, that controls your colour profile, size, imposition and many other factors in most digital print jobs, not just textiles. It can in some cases drive multiple devices like a printer, cutter and pull jobs in directly from your custom website. The rewards for offering online customisation when done correctly can be massive. Direct to substrate, pens, tins, bottles, you name it, can all generate much higher profits when personalised for an individual. When personalisation is introduced to garments, you can also attract customers who are willing to spend that little bit extra to make their event, wedding, stag or hen do, birthday etc that little bit extra special.
If your website attracts people buying for events, you should consider offering other methods of personalisation that are probably not on your radar. If you are ordering printed t shirts for a hen do, a customer would certainly be attracted to using the same theme on the same website for perhaps printed sweets, cakes, cookies, marshmallows etc to use at the wedding. All kinds of products can be run through the same website and RIP software to multiple devices, by widening your product range you will increase your sales with no extra website costs.
With more than 50% of searches now performed on mobile devices it is essential to make sure your e-commerce or personalisation website is mobile compatible. Simplicity is a major factor in winning orders on mobile devices, payment should be made quick and easy. The text and images are small no matter what smart phone you are using, make sure the software compensates for this and changes the view to suit mobile devices, this is key to making the consumer experience a success and winning the order.
There are many other points I would like to cover on this subject but I am afraid it would take up to much space. If you have a question or would like to discuss decoration and e-commerce please feel free to make contact. I will be happy to pass on my personal experience on how to build a successful e-commerce business.