If you’re interested in how to make merch and sell it online for a tidy profit - then you’re in the right place.
First of all, let’s square some things away: what is merch exactly (otherwise known as “merchandisable design”)? Merch is short for merchandise, and it consists of products and goods which are often customized and marketed to a particular fan base. The most well-known examples of merch usually come in the form of hoodies, t-shirts, and jackets, although now Youtubers and other content creators have expanded into previously under-utilized categories such as jewelry, socks, tote bags, jogging pants, and phone cases.
How do you make and sell your own merch?
Essentially, the world of merch has become so big that if you can fit a design on a product, chances are you can create merch. However, as we all know, the difficulty is not in creating the product itself, but creating demand.
So with that said, what constitutes good merch? And what do you need to be able to generate buzz for your products and sell your items? Those are the questions we’ll be answering today. What constitutes good merch? This is a critical component of making merch that sells, earns word of mouth referrals, and brings in repeat customers.
When first searching for stores to create your merch with, don’t get swept up in the fancy designs, bright colors, and stand-out graphics. First and foremost, pay attention to the basic materials the store is using. Depending on what type of product you’d like to sell first, you should be on the lookout for different premium materials.
For instance, if you’re looking for a good-quality T-shirt, and you know your target demographic is based in a warm climate (or you’re marketing a summer shirt), be uncompromising in searching for 100% organic cotton Ts. These are breathable, light, and sweat-absorbing. (Linen is a great fabric for warmer weather too, but since it wrinkles so easily, this is best avoided if your merch is meant to be highly wearable and casual).
As far as fabrics go, 100% cotton is an excellent choice for hoodies, t-shirts, joggers, and denim jackets alike for several reasons: 1) it is a non-irritable fabric and ideal for those even with sensitive skin, 2) it’s easy to take care of, and 3) it’s inexpensive and well-loved by most people.
When looking for materials, stay away from synthetic fabrics like acrylic and polyester, as they aren’t very breathable and can be hit and miss as it relates to quality.
This goes hand in hand with choosing the right fabrics, but make sure that your merch isn’t a product that someone is going to wear once and throw away. Afterall, the whole point of merch is to strengthen brand awareness, generate buzz, and create a sense of community. So what does this mean for you? Well, make sure that your product stands the test of time.
To ensure this: 1) opt for high-quality materials that are enjoyable to wear, and 2) choose a unique, interesting design that doesn’t overpower the base product (when in doubt, keep it simple).
We also encourage you to order a sample of your design before you promote it on any website or social media. Make sure that you wear your product (if applicable) in a number of circumstances and weather conditions to see how it fares. At that point, you can decide if you need to opt for a different design, choose a different fabric, or opt for a different supplier.
3. Focus On One Key Feature
Notice how the best merch websites often have products that are signified by one plain color - black or white - and one key, eye-drawing element. Keep things simple by choosing bold, contrasting colors, and pairing them together in an understated, cool way, to get people adding to their baskets.
4. Figure Out What Merch Sells Best
In order to sell merch online successfully (and profitably), you first need to figure out what merch people want the most. This analysis indicates that, by far, the most popular merch items are as follows:
- Baseball hats
T-shirts are considered a “mainstay product” (90% of Youtubers sell them) and are often the staple piece of any merch set. However, sweaters are fast becoming a key item (at 33%) and socks as well (at 26%).
5. Design Thoughtfully
Designing a profitable, well-liked product is easier said than done. In fact, if you’re on the fence about whether to design your own merchandise or not, and graphic design or art aren’t your strong suits, we strongly suggest you consider working with a professional.
This doesn’t have to include massive upfront cost, either: you can hire an independent contractor via Upwork or Fiverr for a relatively small amount (try to spring for a designer above the $300 mark to ensure you get quality work that isn’t created in a flash).
Just remember not to scrimp and scrape on this front - you’ll find that going too cheap can be somewhat of a false economy, as low-paid designers will be less incentivized to provide quality, on-time results.
6. Contact YouTubers Directly
Once you’ve got some super cool designs ready to go, we recommend getting in touch with YouTubers directly! Here, we recommend starting off with nano or micro-YouTubers, or those under the <50k subscriber count. The reasons for this is as follows:
- Bigger YouTubers will be harder to get in contact with, by virtue of their popularity
- (They most likely will have a marketing team working for them who screens their emails before they even see them)
- It’s proven that smaller influencers get higher engagement rates
- Research indicates that bigger is not always better - smaller influencers, or those that fall under the 10k follower mark, get higher engagement metrics than their bigger counterparts.
- This is most likely because they feel more connected to the influencer, by virtue of them being one member of a relatively small audience
Get in touch with them either via email (which should be listed in the description boxes of their videos) or directly over Instagram. If you have recently watched the YouTuber, or have been a long-time subscriber, make sure to note this in your polite message! Lead with what’s in it for them, why you want to create merch with them in particular, ideas for potential designs, and inquiries about any thoughts they have. Good luck!
How Can You Create Demand?
In contemplating how to sell merch, there are a number of avenues you can go.
7. Partner with an influencer
This is one of the best ways to create and sell merch online as you have the benefit of a built-in audience. To get the best results through this medium, we recommend you :
a) Partner with an influencer who, in the comment sections of videos and posts, you see demand for merch, but based on your research, they currently are not selling merch.
b) Next, if you have been able to contact and come to an agreement with said influencer, it’s important that you agree on what platforms (and when) you will promote the merch. Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Tumblr, Spotify, and Facebook are some of the best mediums available to generate buzz.
Side note here: if you’re partnering with a Twitch gamer and your dream is to create a merch store for streamers, then we recommend targeting multiple streamers who are popular and creating cool, distinctive merch for each one. Then make agreements with each gamer to promote the merch beyond just this platform (preferably over Twitter and Instagram as well) and lure visitors from multiple fan bases.
8. Open a Shopify Store
If you don’t have your own website, are you even a real business? We’re kidding - but that’s how it feels in 2021. Shopify is an excellent way to get your e-commerce business going with as few hiccups as possible, precisely because it’s engineered to make you sales through the website.
Keep in mind that WordPress also has an e-commerce plugin, called Woo Commerce, and this is an excellent alternative to Shopify if you’re more comfortable using this platform.
Next, learn everything you can about SEO to understand how to get ranking in Google’s organic search results, and in the meantime, consider investing in some paid advertising through Google too. That way, when anyone searches for your targeted merch, you’ll show up as a result.
9. Use Digital Advertising
Once you’ve got a site up and running and all operations in place, go over to Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest and invest in some social paid advertising.
This is a great way to get leads to your website, learn more about your target demographic, and make some sales at the same time. Pro tip here: make sure that your graphics, copy, and pictures are all of the highest quality to snap up these paid visitors and convert them into repeat customers (oh, and don’t forget to set up a Google Analytics account too for your website - this is an excellent way to learn as much as possible about your target market!).
Ultimately, you want to find the best merchandise maker for your social media following on Instagram or TikTok (or merch maker for YouTubers). When you partner with a well-known, high quality merchandise maker company, they will ultimately guide you through the steps of making your brand successful.
Well, that’s all from us on this topic. If you decide you want peace of mind that the materials you’re ordering are of the highest quality, and your products you choose are curated to perfection, then check out examples of our custom merch.
We’ve created merch for everyone from Netflix to Slack, and we specialize in making fresh, high-quality products that grab attention. If that sounds like something you’re looking for, then get in touch here.