Are you looking to re-engage a hot lead gone cold? Searching for cool merch that gets noticed? Or, maybe you want to boost morale in the office (and elevate your company’s Instagram while you're at it)?
Well, we have good news for you: the best swag companies can assist on all fronts. And, if you don’t have time for handwriting hundreds of customized notes, repackaging and re-wrapping gifts, shipping orders, and more, companies like Gemnote can help with that as well.
The tough part? Deciding which of the best swag companies one you use. So how do you separate the good from the great? More importantly, understanding which company will help you curate in-demand items to increase ROI and employee satisfaction levels. Here, we will walk you through what is this type of company, to the best swag companies you'll find, we'll breakdown and compare them all, so you can find the one that's best for your business.
What is company swag?
First off, you may be surprised to know it stands for ‘stuff we all get.’ While swag used to mean those little impersonal knick-knacks you picked up at conferences and trade shows - think bottle openers, branded pens - and they were relegated to the bottom of your purse or the back of your kitchen drawer. Not anymore. Now with the rise of swag stores you’re more likely to want to hang on to some of these gift items. That’s because the landscape of how to choose the best swag companies and their product partners has changed. Now all company merchandise for employees and customers is, ideally:
- packaged to perfection;
- personalized or customized in some way (especially for employee swag);
Swag or custom merch can include high-quality jackets, water bottles, backpacks, leather notebooks, and chargers. Check out this post on best swag for employees for more ideas on products they'll use everyday.
But creating items people like (and will keep) isn’t as easy as it looks. For instance, brainstorming swag ideas for conferences looks vastly different to coming up with unique swag or the best wearable swag for team-building days!
This is where picking a good swag store becomes so important.
Before we dive into our top 5 picks, we’re going to run through the key criteria you should be looking for. That way, as you’re narrowing down your search, you can be sure to ask the right questions.
What to look for in a swag store:
Customized swag has the potential to make that all-important emotional connection because it can be so deeply personalized. So look out for companies which offer embroidery, screen-printing, leather embossing, imprinting, glass-etching, and digital printing.
This will give you a wide range of options to choose from depending on your recipient. And if you’re on the lookout for inexpensive swag for employees: make sure they offer a variety of customization options that match your budget.
That means anything from handwritten notes, to ethically-made tote bags, to screen printed t-shirts. These are all examples of employee swag that won’t break the bank, and coincidentally, are frequent top picks for best swag items of 2020. It’s a win-win!
Also worth noting here: the best swag store will offer the ability to curate your options for you.
This essentially means if you’re stuck on how to choose your swag - from coming up with unique swag ideas for conferences to deciding on company merchandise ideas for employees - they can help guide you. They take the vision you have for your employee swag and create the best wearable swag gifts for your approval. No angsting over color-coordination, font style, or patterns on your part!
2) Swag portal and software integrations
Did you know several best swag companies stores can help you to track your gifts, from creation to delivery, through a swag portal? And did you know there’s even tools that help you analyze - down to the dollar - the ROI from using their swag store?
Let’s break down the top software tools for integration:
You now have the option to send the best swag items of 2020 to prospects without even exiting out of the Salesforce tab. Gemnote, Sendoso, and Printfection are among the best swag companies stores offering this integration. Even better? Tracking through this integration helps you see the impact of your swag gifts on your closed sales.
- Tracking software:
The best swag companies should have tracking software that lets you know in real time when your delivery has shipped and when it’s scheduled to arrive.
- Management software:
Think of this as a kind of swag portal. In an ideal world, you’re not shopping for merch stores each and every time you need to order gifts for your office.
You want to streamline the process to make it as easy and time-efficient as possible. Manage all your inventory in one place, and easily send new kits with the click of a button.
3) High quality products
In a survey conducted by Knack in 2018, a Seattle-based B2B gifting company, they found that 57% of respondents felt receiving swag could have a positive or negative impact on their view of a company. The message here: tread carefully and only send good swag!
This sentiment was echoed in a study carried out by Saleshacker. Guess what type of swag increased booked meetings and close rates? “Sticky” swag. AKA swag that is cool, high quality, and the type recipients will use over and over.
So when on the lookout for the best promotional product stores, look at the inventory on their site. Does it look well-presented? Is it both functional and aesthetically pleasing?
Also, take a look to see if they’re keeping up with the trends. We saw that water bottles were very popular and among the best swag items 2020 - you’ll want a store that’s keeping up (or better yet, leading the way!) with the hottest products people like.
Pro Tip: if you go to the blog (or their main site), they should have resources on how to choose items, swag ideas for conferences, best wearable swag, etc - and you can see if you like their suggestions, or if you’re left feeling a little lackluster.
The next step? Request a sample.
Even if you’re looking to start off with relatively inexpensive swag for employees, don’t be afraid to ask for examples of their more affordable best swag items of 2020, like their cute mugs, handwritten notes, and stickers!
4) Shipping capabilities
You’ll definitely want to check beforehand that you partner with best swag company that can help with international couriers that are high quality and reliable.
The last thing you want is a company-wide employee swag gifting and all but one office gets their merchandise. Not quite the boost to morale you were planning, right?
Lastly, look with a critical eye at the processes involved for receiving your initial inventory and dispatching your perfectly-packaged swag.
Especially if you’re going to be investing in unique swag or large quantities of employee swag, for instance, then your chosen swag store should:
1. be doing quality assurance before any orders are shipped (this should also be tracked);
2. offer bulk shipping;
3. be able to handle the number of shipments you have in mind.
5) Warehousing / fulfillment capabilities
So let’s say hypothetically you’ve found one of the best swag companies. They have unusual swag, best wearable swag, inexpensive swag for employees - all the bells and whistles! At that point you’ll probably want to plan ahead for the calendar year. Order your inventory, have your store curate the right pieces, sign off, and have it ready to go. Time-saving and efficient, for sure. But where are you going to store it? So just check ahead of time and ask: does your store have a warehouse where clients keep their inventory? How many items will they hold? How much does it cost? Are they able to kit everything at this warehouse?
6) Customer service
Put this one at the top of your list. Then underline it! You’ll want customer service that’s responsive and actually cares. Be sure to ask them about the ‘what if.’ What if because of unforeseen circumstances - like COVID - your shipment gets delayed? What if something arrives broken? Also be sure to ask them about how they help you choose the best swag items of 2020 or the most unusual swag. Do they have a curation team to help you find the right picks? Or is their design process completely hands off? Check to see what support they have in place to help you create merch people like.
The Top 5 Swag Platforms
We’ve broken down each company into 2 categories: 1) general overview, and 2) key strengths.
We’ll first outline how each of the best swag companies performs across the criteria mentioned above, and then we’ll hash out the top stand-out benefits so you can see which one is best suited to your needs.
Sendoso ticks off many of the boxes we spoke about earlier. In particular, if you’re looking to integrate your current workflow with a gifting software, this is definitely a company worth looking into.
- Excellent software integrations. - If you go to Sendoso’s website, you’ll see their messaging is very much geared towards corporate gifting to increase sales and a company’s ROI. They’re not only integrated with Salesforce, Salesloft, Hubspot, and Marketo (the list doesn’t stop there), but they also offer ‘intelligent analytics and reporting.’ This is an excellent way to visualize your swag’s impact on your bottom line. Through their software integrations, they also allow teams to send out gifts as part of their sales cadence. This can be a stand-out way to engage high-value prospects and, at the very least, butter up warm leads.
- Flexible shipping - Sendoso ships to over 165 countries around the world! They also have global warehouses where they fulfill, package, and ship your personalized inventory. So if you’re an international company with offices over the globe, this could be a useful feature to help reduce the unpredictability of overseas shipments.
Gemnote knows that for swag to be effective, it needs to be high quality and long-lasting. We take a personalized approach to employee swag and customer swag so that your marketing spend has maximum impact across all your channels.
- Excellent software solutions - Gemnote is not only integrated with the most popular sales tools like SalesForce (say goodbye to manual entries with our chrome extension), but also offers a swag portal that is customized to you and your team for branded products. One of the many features is the ability to access The Boutique, a pay-as-you-go shop that carries modern, practical, and well-designed products without customization. Through this feature, you can find and send swag with almost zero upfront time investment - an ideal option if you want to send a last minute client gift after a particularly good meeting!
Use the platform to manage your inventory in our warehouse, expedite shipping, track shipments, send new hire kits, anniversary kits… the list goes on.
The platform can be fully utilized by HR, sales, customer service teams, you name it. With the click of a button, invite users, change permissions, and remove users so that others on your team can take full advantage of B2B gifting.
Finally, you can also create your company’s own swag store. This is high-quality, uniquely designed employee swag just for your company, all in one easy-to-access location. Employees can then redeem their gifts using unique promo codes and have it shipped to them within a few business days.
- World class customer service - We’ve worked with Google, Slack, Gusto, and others to create special, long-lasting pieces that really resonate with your recipients. With a satisfaction rating of 98% across our 250+ clients, we believe at the heart of any company gifting lies the message that your recipient is valued and appreciated.
- Above and beyond curation and design - We curate the perfect products for your particular audience, and then we customize them to your brand. Take your pick as to whether you want your swag screen-printed, glass etched, embroidered, digitally printed, imprinted, or leather-embossed. Our goal is to provoke joy and delight when your recipient opens their gift, and the way we go about this is to take a hands-on, extremely personalized approach when picking and customizing your high quality gifts.
So if you’re looking to purchase swag through an all-in-one solution, with swag portal, software integrations, bulk shipping, quality assurance, and curated bespoke designs included - look no further! We work with our clients to get their employees and their prospects the gifts they deserve.
If you wanted swag.com summed up in a word, we’d say ‘variety.’ They have a lot of products you can choose from - including all the best swag items of 2020 - and then some. Find everything from home office to outdoors to wellness (think lip balm and face masks). For a no-frills employee swag or an unique swag purchase, they’re certainly a top contender.
- Streamlined customer buying experience - It’s super easy to sign up and get going with this. Whereas with Sendoso you’ll need to sign up to a demo first, with this platform you can get going ASAP. In their words: “find what you’re looking for, upload your design, mock up your products, and check out.” If you’re looking for relatively simple employee swag (particularly the best wearable swag, like t-shirts and sweaters), we think this store offers great products with little upfront time costs.
- Cheaper swag ideas for conferences and giveaways - Swag.com is the place to go if you’re looking for inexpensive swag that maybe isn’t curated and personalized to perfection, but offers great bang for your buck.
Because of their wide variety of options - they customize everything from Jenga sets to socks - if you’re looking to spice up your swag ideas for conferences or other company-wide events, this is the right place.
This store even has their own Trade Show items tab, as well as other niche, quirky specializations, so just by surfing their site we’re confident you can find new company merchandise ideas for employees and customers!
This store store stands out for specializing in not just one or two pieces of employee swag, but full packs with multiple items inside. That, alongside some of their key offerings, earns them a place on our list.
They offer both pre-set and build-your-own packs. Their basic option (the Starter pack) includes almost all the best swag items of 2020. It comes with staples like a customized screen printed t-shirt, laptop sticker, water bottle, and canvas tote bag.
An added bonus: their packs offer inexpensive swag for employees, starting at just under $30 per pack.
- Free samples - try before you buy! - This one does a great job of eliminating risk: request a sample pack on their website, and they promise next business day delivery (for national customers only), totally free. That way you can see - at no cost to you - if their packaging and product quality is up to par for your company’s swag needs.
Printfection’s value proposition is simple: take a strategic approach to swag. They encourage you to leverage the best swag items of 2020 to re-engage prospects and carry out industry events with ease.
- Swag ideas for conferences - Look at Printfection’s website and you’ll see creative swag ideas for conferences, as well as some of the best wearable swag out there when it comes to events. You take your pick of inventory (and if you need help on how to choose items, they say they’re happy to assist on that front); then Printfection manages, stores, and gets all your merchandise event-ready.
In a few clicks you can drop shipments straight to your office, or your event space, on your desired date and all the products are neatly pre-packaged. In particular their t-shirts, available in a wide variety of colors and designs, offer a reliable option for products people like. Once they’ve arrived, just take them out of the box and you’re good to go!
- Swag giveaways - Through Printfection you can set up giveaways for employees, prospects, loyal customers - you name it. Just set up your store page on the swag portal, pick your items, and send out the giveaway links via email. The recipient then enters their name and address, and Printfection will handle kitting and delivery.
Printfection points out this is a great way to draw attention to hard-to-fill positions in your organization, or get more traction across your socials (or both). Afterall, everyone loves a giveaway!
Swag can serve a number of purposes when done right - from re-engaging cold prospects to rewarding your remote workers to spreading the word about your business.
As you shortlist the best swag companies, keep an eye out for the key criteria we’ve outlined in this post, and you’ll be in a strong position to find the best store for your business needs.
As for Gemnote, we've helped the likes of Google, Slack, Starbucks, and Gusto create fantastic merch that boosts ROI and keeps employees happy. And we’d love to partner with you on your next brand adventure.
Check out our Lookbook!