Maybe you have a following or an online existence that you want to monetize by selling custom products.
And maybe you don’t have any following, but still, you want to learn how to create and sell your merchandise online, starting with a low budget, and maybe even with no inventory.
You are in the right place at the right time, because I have created this 5-step guide in order to help start the right way and learn from my mistakes that caused me time and money when I started several years ago.
How to Create and Sell Merchandise Online?
1 – Decide on Your Niche or Audience
You need to choose a certain group of people in order to create and market your merchandise to them effectively.
If you already have a following to your personal brand or business brand, then that’s your audience.
But if you are just getting started, then you need to select your niche (audience) if you want to really succeed.
The reason for that is that when you have a specific group of people with a common interest, it becomes easier to get ideas for designs and products faster.
Also, it is much easier to build a following and market the different products in the same niche than marketing every single product to a different audience.
And above all, when you have different merch products in the same niche, you can market them to the same audience as upsells and cross-sells, and you can increase the AOV and LTV of your customers.
A niche could be any group of people with a common interest or condition, such as:
- Your own personal followers if you have a personal brand.
- People who love a certain dog or cat breed, or any other pet.
- Guys who like fast cars.
- Truck drivers.
- People who live in a certain city.
- Women who practice yoga.
- People who love a certain sport.
- People who practice a certain hobby.
- People who go to the gym.
2 – Decide Which Merch Products to Sell Online
Most people think that selling merch products means selling t-shirts and mugs only, especially that these two are the ones that almost everyone would use on daily basis.
But that’s not the case anymore.
There are many options that are available today to sell online as your own merchandise, such as:
- Phone cases.
- Jewelry like necklaces and bracelets.
- Leggings and yoga pants.
- Tank tops.
- Socks and shoes.
- Wall art.
- Ceramic and enamel mugs.
- Back bags and tote bags.
- Bottles and tumblers.
- Pet banana collar and tags.
- Blankets and pillow covers.
- And more.
Choosing your merch products in advance helps you choose the right platform and fulfillment service.
You can start with t-shirts and mugs of course, and then expand into other products.
3 – Choose a Platform & Setup Your Store
There are many online platforms that you can list your merch products on.
These belong into two main categories:
- Marketplaces such as: Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Teespring, …etc.
- Platforms that allow you to build your own separate store such as: Shopify, WordPress, Sellfy Print on Demand, …etc.
Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages.
For example, selling your merch on Amazon can help you get eyeballs on your products if you still don’t have a personal following and want to leverage Amazon’s existing traffic.
But at the same time, your potential customers will get distracted by other products on the marketplace from other merchants, especially that these marketplaces are already competitive.
Also, on a marketplace like Amazon, you can’t contact your customers in order to offer them other products later, because Amazon owns these customers, which means, a lower customer lifetime value.
And on top of that, you don’t build a real business as Amazon can close your store anytime they decide for any reason, and you can’t argue with them.
While if you choose a platform that allows you to create your own store on your own domain name, like Shopify, then you can list your merchandise products only and invite your potential customers to your store knowing that whatever they buy, it will be your product.
You can offer them upsells and cross-sells to buy in addition to what they came to buy in the first place.
For example, if they came to buy a coffee mug, you can also offer them an insulated bottle or a tumbler.
And with this method, you get your customers email addresses, and you can remarket to them later to buy other products from your store, and thus, increase the LTV of your customers.
My recommendation is to build your online merchandise store on a platform you own for long term success and potentially more profit.
Sellfy Print on Demand is an easy way to get started, and they can create and ship the products on your behalf, after you create and upload the design to be printed on your merch products, but there is a limited number of products that you can sell there.
Shopify on the other hand is one of the most advanced and easy to use online store builders, and they allow you for many integrating that allow you to sell your merchandise online, whether with or without inventory.
And Shopify offers a 14-day trial that you can sign up for in order to get started and try the platform for two weeks before paying anything.
4 – Add Your Products, or Get a POD Service
If you already have your merch products in stock, then you can start listing them to your online store by uploading the photos, filling the product name, description, price, shipping time and cost, …etc.
However, if you still don’t have your merch products created, and don’t know where to go, or don’t have a budget to create and store your merch in bulk, then I have good news for you!
You don’t have to create, store, ship, or even touch any product in order to sell your merch online.
There are many print on demand (POD) services that allow you to just create the design, add it to a certain product, and list them on your store for the price you want without having to pay anything in advance.
And when someone buys any product from your merch store, you then pay the POD company their own price and keep the difference, forward the customers address to them, and that company will create the product and ship it directly to the customer on your behalf.
There are many POD services that offer a wide range of merch products.
However, two of the best and biggest companies are Printful and Printify, which allow for many integrations with different ecommerce platforms, so that you can use them if you want to build your store on a marketplace such as Amazon, or on your own domain name using a platform like Shopify (preferred).
Once again, I recommend using Shopify that allows you to sell without inventory, and it offers easy integrations with many print on demand services.
And there are many ways to get designs for your merchandise:
- Create them using online tools like Photoshop, Gimp, Canva (beginner-friendly and has a free plan), …etc.
- Hire professional designers from freelancing marketplaces like 99Designs and Fiverr.
- Buy designs in bulk with a license to use them on your own merch products.
If you don’t have idea on what designs to use on your merch, then one of the easy ways is to use quotes that are related to your niche and ones that your audience can relate to.
In any case, you remember to check if these quotes where copyrighted before using them, so that you don’t get sued.
And the same applies for image designs.
5 – Market Your Merchandise Products Online
Now you have created your merch products and listed them online, you need to get your target audience to see them.
And there are many ways to do so.
If you are selling your merch on a marketplace like Amazon or Etsy, then your audience might find them when they search using the same keywords you used to title your merch products.
Add to that, if you have a following on your YouTube channel, Facebook, Instagram, or if you have a blog with consistent traffic, you can link from there to your merch store or to specific products, either in the description of your profile or account, or in a single video or post.
Or you can connect your Shopify store to FB and import the merch products with few clicks as JP Sears does with his FB page.
And you can send a broadcast email to your list informing them about your products once they are launched.
And if you are selling your merch on a domain that you own, like selling your merch on a Shopify store, then you can use many paid and free ways to get traffic, such as:
- Using an existing following to sell merch on YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook, if you have any.
- Using search ads targeting keywords that your audience uses.
- Optimizing your merch store for search engines in order to rank on page 1 and get free traffic consistently.
- Using display ads using the Google Ads network, or on Facebook and Instagram.
- Building a following on Instagram by creating a profile about a certain niche, posting relevant posts regularly and using proper hashtags to get more reach and build a following, and then marketing your products to these followers without ads. Check out this guide for selling merch with Instagram.
- Connecting your store to a Facebook page that you own, which automatically lists the merch products on your FB page.
5 Tips to Increase Merchandise Sales Online
Selling one merch product to your customer on the first visit to your store can make you some money, but if you want to amplify your revenue and profit, then here are some few tips:
1 – Do Remarketing
Most people don’t buy from an online store on the first visit, and many of them need to be reminded about the product they saw or they won’t come back and purchase it.
If you sell your merch on a marketplace like Amazon, then there’s no way that you can get back to them.
While if you build your own store using Shopify or WordPress, then you can connect it with Facebook and Google in order to show retargetting ads to remind them of the product, and maybe, offer a small discount in order to encourage them.
And this doesn’t apply only to those who didn’t buy, but even to those who purchased one of your merch products.
It is estimated that it is 5-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to sell an existing customer.
You can also market to them again using Facebook or Google ads, or even through email, and offer them other merchandise products from your store.
That’s why I always recommend that you build your own merch store on a domain name that you own instead of using a marketplace like Amazon where you don’t get to contact the customers in any way.
2 – Double Down on What Works
If you find a design that sells well on a certain merch product like a t-shirt, why not use the same, or a similar, design on another product like a hoodie, a tank top, a mug, or a phone case!
It might get sales more than other designs, since your audience liked this design for some reason.
And by doing so, you can remarket this product to the same people who purchased the original product.
3 – Offer Merch Upsells, Cross-Sells & Bundles
Upsells and cross-sells work well in increasing the average order value by offering more relevant products when someone is browsing one of your merch products, or during the checkout process.
It is like if you have put the effort and money to sell one merch item, and then the customer purchased an additional item without you putting the same effort and cost in marketing from your side.
And when it comes to bundles, you can offer a discount when someone purchases more than one unit of the same product during one checkout process.
Note that this can mainly be done if you are selling your merch on your own store, while if you sell on Amazon for example, then they decide what to offer as an upsell or cross-sell, and it might not be your product.
That’s another reason to use a platform that allows you to create an independent store, like Shopify does, with tools that give you the ability to create such offer.
4 – Offer Discounts & Free Shipping for a Certain Order Value
When creating a merch store on your own domain, you set the shipping costs based on the order size and the customer location.
You can use certain settings that allow you to charge a shipping fee for orders that are up to a certain order value, and then offering free shipping if the order exceeds that value.
This encourages some customers to add more merch products to the cart before going to the checkout page in order to get the free discount, and it will increase your revenue, and potentially profit.
5 – Launch Merch Giveaway Contests
If you build a following on YouTube or on a social media platform like Facebook, you can create weekly or monthly contests and offer giveaways for certain products of your merchandise.
This will create engagement with your audience, and will make them feel more involved and increase loyalty to your merch brand.
And when someone wins the product and you ship it to them, ask them to send you a photo of them with the product, and then share it with your audience.
This will encourage them to purchase your merch products and keep taking part in your future contests, and even invite their friends and families, which could help your brand and merch products go viral.
Conclusion – Can You Succeed Selling Merch Online?
Yes you can, but it takes some work to start getting traction and profiting from selling your merchandise online.
If you already have a social media following, a YouTube channel, or a blog, then you might be able to start creating and selling your merch products even today.
And if you still don’t have a following in place, then you can follow one of the methods mentioned earlier in order to market your merch products to your potential customers.
It is up to you whether to list your merch products on a marketplace like eBay or Amazon where you have no control, and there’s a big risk in losing your store overnight, or to start your own merch store on a domain name that you own.
From my side, I recommend that you use a beginner-friendly platform like in my guide for selling merch on Shopify, since they have a free 14-day trial.
And it is faster to start with them than to start with Amazon or other marketplaces that take time to review your store before publishing it.
And anyway, Shopify’s cost is negligible to the reward as you have more control on your customers, and you can increase your merch store’s average order value and your customer’s’ lifetime value, and you build a real merchandise business that you own this way.
I hope that my guide has helped you find out how to create and sell your merchandise online and even without inventory and on a low budget.
If you still have more questions, ask me in the comments’ section below, and I will do my best to help you out.
And if you know someone who might be interested in starting their own merch, then feel free to share this guide with them 🙂