Switching your print on demand supplier? Get in touch with us here

1. What is merchandise marketing?

What is merchandise marketing? The ultimate guide

As you navigate the world of branded products, you'll find it incredibly crucial to engage and retain customers while driving sales. This guide, useful for international ecommerce entities, creators, and artists, unravels the concept, right from the basics to the advanced tactics that include product selection, design, and marketing channels.

By the end of this read, you'll be fully equipped with a better understanding of how to enhance your merchandise marketing strategy.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Merchandise marketing can drive deeper customer engagement and increase sales for your brand through branded merch and products.

  • As an international ecommerce entity, creator, or artist, merchandise marketing can present an opportunity to monetize your brand effectively.

  • Measuring the effectiveness of your merchandise marketing efforts through sales data, customer feedback, and engagement levels is crucial to refining your strategies and achieving desired results.

  • Achieving successful merchandise marketing plans involves various strategic elements such as selecting appropriate marketing channels, targeting specific customer segments, and balancing exclusivity with accessibility in product offerings. 

  •  By leveraging Gelato's print on demand network, businesses can offer a wide array of products without the need for significant inventory, making it easier to test different markets and products.

What is merchandise marketing?

Spring marketing brainstorming

Merchandise marketing is all about planning and promoting products to boost sales and get people to notice a brand. It involves setting the right prices, making products look appealing, and choosing the best places to sell them. This helps attract customers and encourages them to buy.

Merchandise marketing vs. promotional marketing

While both promote a brand, merchandise marketing and promotional marketing differ in their approach and objectives. 

Merchandise marketing involves creating and selling branded products to increase brand exposure and customer loyalty, making it a part of the product offering. It also creates an additional revenue stream, reinforcing brand identity every time the product is used.

Promotional marketing, on the other hand, involves temporary tactics, such as discounts and special offers or promotional gifts aimed primarily at driving immediate sales for a promotional product. Although promotional marketing can include branded merchandise, it's usually given for free to incentivize purchase.

Advantages of branded merchandise marketing

Branded merchandise at an event

Branded merchandise marketing offers an array of key advantages that go beyond merely promoting your products. It is an effective strategy that forms an integral part of a comprehensive marketing plan. 

Let’s delve further into the specific benefits:

  • Enhancing brand loyalty recognition: Branded merchandise provides a visual representation of your brand identity. Items showcasing your colors, company logo, and messaging deepen brand recognition, making you memorable in the eyes of new and existing customers. 

  • Building customer loyalty: Merchandise marketing fosters a sense of community among consumers and builds brand loyalty, leading to long-term customer satisfaction and retention. 

  • Cost-effective advertising: Compared to other forms of advertising, merchandise marketing is often more cost-effective, providing a higher return on investment as the branded items continue to advertise your brand each time they are used or worn. 

  • Versatility across marketing campaigns: Branded merchandise's ability to adapt to various marketing campaigns—be it seasonal promotions, product launches, or loyalty programs—gives it a versatile edge. 

  • Encouraging word-of-mouth referrals: A satisfied consumer donning your branded merchandise serves as a walking, talking advertisement, sparking conversations about your brand and encouraging valuable word-of-mouth referrals. 

  • Long-term brand exposure: Unlike one-off advertisements, branded merchandise provides long-term, repeated exposure for your brand every time a customer uses your merchandise, enhancing brand visibility and recall over time.

How to integrate merchandise marketing into your marketing mix

Planning merchandise marketing strategy

Developing a balanced marketing approach is essential. Let's determine how to effectively incorporate merchandise marketing into your broader strategy to optimize brand reach and customer engagement.

1. Select the right marketing channels

Identifying the perfect blend of marketing channels for your merchandise can significantly optimize your profit potential and brand awareness. Here are some steps to help you in this process: 

  • Evaluate digital vs. physical distribution: Analyzing the effectiveness of existing channels can help in decision-making. While digital channels offer a wider reach, physical channels can help deepen customer relationships.

  • Assess ecommerce integrations: Platforms like Shopify or Etsy provide an easy and effective avenue for ecommerce. Evaluate the potential of integrating these platforms with your merchandise marketing strategy.

  • Partnerships with influencers and content creators: In today's digital age, influencers have unprecedented reach and can create a high impact. Consider collaborating with them to expand your brand’s reach through a good content marketing plan.

  • Role of direct sales at events: Physically interacting with your customers at events and pop-up shops gives you direct feedback. So, consider this in your marketing mix.

  • Analyze customer preferences: Studying data on customer preferences for purchasing channels can guide you to where your efforts will yield the most returns.

  • Cross-promotion opportunities: Teamwork often pays. Look for opportunities where you can cross-promote your merchandise with other brands or products. This can broaden your local and global audience reach and make marketing more cost-effective.

2. Design merchandise for targeted impact

Think about your brand and how to represent it carefully. Here are some key considerations: 

  • Matching designs with brand identity: Your merchandise designs must align with your brand's overall identity and values. This offers consistency across all customer touchpoints and reinforces your brand message. Always opt for designs that can accurately depict your business ethos and make an emotional connection with your customers.

  • Enhancing brand recognition: By leveraging hallmark elements like colors, logos, and key messaging, your merchandise can serve as a constant reminder of your brand. Effective use of these elements not only makes your merchandise attractive but also fortifies the recognizability of your brand.

  • Factoring in trends and customer preferences: It's essential to stay on top of current design trends and keep customer preferences in mind when creating merchandise. Whether it's an emerging style, a popular color, or a trendy motif, incorporate elements that your audience is currently gravitating toward.

3. Target specific customer segments

When creating your merchandise marketing strategy, understanding who you’re reaching out to is equally critical. Here's how to go about it:

  • Identifying demographic and psychographic characteristics: Knowing the age, gender, location, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, and values of your target audience gives you a better sense of your audience's habits and preferences. By gathering demographic and psychographic data, you can offer products that cater to their lifestyle and values.

  • Developing personas for customer groups: It’s not just about understanding who your customers are, but also about treating them as unique individuals. Creating detailed buyer personas can help you envision your customer on a personal level, ensuring your marketing efforts are correctly targeted. Remember, these personas should be based on real data and insights.

  • Customize merchandise to appeal to different customer segments: Once you’ve identified who your customers are and developed detailed personas, the next step is to customize your merchandise to appeal directly to these different segments. Personalized merchandise that speaks directly to your customers can dramatically enhance your engagement and increase your sales.

4. Time your merchandise promotions

Timing is a crucial aspect of merchandise marketing, with well-strategized timing potentially translating into maximized impact. Here are some key timing practices to bear in mind: 

  • Aligning promotions with events or seasons: If your merchandise is seasonal or related to specific events or holidays, releasing it by those timelines can significantly boost sales. For instance, releasing summer-themed merchandise at the beginning of the season can create buzz around your lineup.

  • Planning around product launches or milestones: Launching merchandise alongside a new product or significant brand milestone can boost the product and the merchandise. It allows customers an additional way to engage with and celebrate your brand during a pivotal moment.

  • Implementing targeted timing strategies: Carefully consider when your target audience is most likely to engage with and be receptive to your merchandise. This could be when they're most active online, following payday, or during periods of increased interest in your sector.

5. Manage your merchandise budget

This involves careful allocation of your budget based on projected return on investment, prioritizing high-impact items and channels, and keeping meticulous track of relevant costs. 

Let's dive deeper into these pointers:

  • Allocating budget based on projected return: It's crucial to determine where your funds are most effectively spent. Project the potential return on investment for each item before allocating your budget. This ensures that your investment is likely to yield good returns, making every penny count.

  • Prioritizing high-impact merchandise and channels: Some merchandise items and marketing channels make a larger impact than others. Identifying these potential 'big hitters' and allocating a larger portion of your budget to them can lead to substantial increases in sales and brand recognition.

  • Keeping track of production, distribution, and promotion costs: It's important to account for all the costs involved in the merchandising process - from production to distribution and promotion. Keeping a close eye on these expenses helps maintain a positive cash flow and prevents any unforeseen drains on your budget.

6. Evaluate the effectiveness of merchandise marketing

Optimizing your merchandise marketing strategies requires careful evaluation and constant tweaking based on the results of your efforts. 

Here are some essential tactics to help you monitor and enhance your merchandise marketing effectiveness: 

  • Measure performance with key metrics: Using sales data, customer feedback, and engagement levels can give you tangible insights into what works and what could use improvement. Regular monitoring of these metrics will help you stay on top of changes and adjust your strategies accordingly.

  • Gather consumer insights: Conduct surveys or hold focus groups to gain firsthand knowledge of what your customers think about your merchandise. This feedback can prove invaluable when crafting future marketing strategies for your branded products.

  • Adjust strategies based on data: Don’t be afraid to experiment and make changes based on performance data and market trends. Digital marketing has the advantage of being highly measurable, making it possible to continuously test, learn, and improve your approach.

7. Balance exclusivity with accessibility

Ensuring the right balance between exclusivity and accessibility plays a significant role in your merchandise marketing strategy. 

Here are a few key points to consider: 

  • Weighing benefits: Limited-edition items can generate buzz, stimulate urgent demand, and drive higher prices. However, don't underestimate the importance of your general stock. These are reliable revenue generators, more widely and easily available to your customers, thereby fostering inclusion and constant presence in the market.

  • Consider brand perception: Exclusivity can boost brand perception by creating an air of prestige and desirability around your products. However, it's essential to manage this carefully. If your items are perceived as too exclusive, you might risk alienating potential customers who could feel left out.

  • Use exclusivity strategically: Leveraging the allure of exclusivity in your strategies can be fruitful. Limited editions or exclusive access for loyal customers not only rewards them but also encourages others to strive for the same benefits. Remember, though, to balance this with efforts to keep your brand and products accessible to a broader audience.

Leveraging print on demand for merchandise marketing

Print on demand T-shirt printing

Embracing print on demand services can revolutionize any merchandise marketing strategy. It eliminates the arduous tasks of inventory management, reduces costs associated with large orders, and provides a nimble solution to experimenting with different products and designs without financial risk. 

Listed below are more ways print on demand can help you with merchandise marketing: 

  • Eliminate inventory hassles: With print on demand, merchandise is created only when a customer places an order, eliminating challenges related to storage and inventory management.

  • Cost-effective strategy: Since you’re only producing what you sell, you eliminate the risk of financial losses from overstocking or from inventory that doesn't sell.

  • Test various markets and products: Print on demand simplifies the process of experimenting with different merchandise items, designs, and markets, thereby allowing for more versatility and flexibility.

  • Personalized customer experience: Being able to adapt readily to customer needs and preferences is one of the key advantages of print on demand, facilitating personalized online merchandising to better meet customer demands.

  • Real-time inventory tracking: A print on demand service, such as Gelato, offers digital solutions that support real-time inventory tracking, further enhancing ecommerce merchandising strategy. Gelato also allows businesses to intelligently manage their merchandise by offering easy-to-use tools fostering global reach.

Boost your brand with Gelato's promotional products

From stylish t-shirts to captivating wall art, Gelato provides many products to amplify your brand's visibility. Unleash your creativity with personalized mugs, practical phone cases, or nostalgic photo books, each tailored to echo your brand's unique identity.

Leveraging Gelato’s print on demand solution, you can efficiently manage your merchandise without the hassles of inventory and test different markets with ease. 

Are you ready to elevate your brand and engage with your audience on a deeper level? Sign up for Gelato today and pick a subscription plan that aligns with your business objectives.


Next steps

Start selling products with Gelato