Let’s say you are in a leadership role in a growing company. Good for you! Whether you are in purchasing, marketing, sales or the C-suite, this might sound familiar. You have worked hard to create a logo and brand messaging that works. The key players were all involved. You might have worked with an outside firm, or handled it with your internal team, but now you have a logo that you love. The colors are perfect. The feel is just right. And you have even created a set of brand guidelines that make sure everyone understands what you can and can’t do with your beloved brand. This is awesome…it’s how you create a tribe!
Then one day you see something that is very upsetting.
You are walking through the halls of your beloved institution and you see a fellow employee wearing a shirt that CLEARLY is outside of the brand guidelines! At first, you think it’s just an anomaly…but then you see another. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. There is “off brand” merchandise all over! Apparently, a rogue manager (with the best of intentions) wanted to appreciate their staff, so they went and got some branded merchandise on their own. Since there was no clear internal option to make this happen, they did it on their own…and the logo brand guidelines got flushed down the toilet.
This is every brand manager’s nightmare. And this is just one good reason to create a company store.
A company store is an online e-commerce solution that offers branded merchandise for members of your organization to order. Done right, this solution can be simple and easy to use. And it will help to decrease the number of times that well-intentioned managers will “go rogue” for branded merchandise. It gives members of your team a place to shop and find curated branded merchandise that is consistent with your brand AND can be vetted to make sure you can imprint the correct information. While they do take some time to set up, they can help both marketing and purchasing be sure that promotional purchases are done right.
Understand the Kinds of Company Store
If you want to create a company store, it’s important to know what kind you want. While there are plenty of variations, let’s stick with two basic types of stores. These are inventory versus non-inventory stores. Both types of stores have their place, but you need to understand them before you pick the one that’s right for your organization.
An inventory store is where you (or your promotional products partner) order all of the branded merchandise in and warehouse the items. Then, as people from around your organization order, the items can be shipped out “on demand.” Sometimes these items are warehoused at the customer location and sometimes the promotional products partner manages that. The advantages to this kind of store are speed and minimums. Simply put, if you have the item imprinted, done and warehoused, you can ship them to your team right away. In addition, if you just want one shirt, this is a very easy way to do it. You can order just one.
There are several disadvantages to this type of store too. First, someone has to purchase all of these items up front. Whether it’s the customer or the partner, someone is on the hook for these items. So if at the end of year these items don’t sell, you will ultimately own them. So you better be really good at choosing items AND the quantity you will warehouse. In addition, someone has to warehouse the items and manage the items. For larger organizations, this financial commitment might be easy enough. But for smaller organizations this can be a big cash flow challenge.
The other option for a company store includes the non-inventory store. This option has become more and more popular over the last several years. It allows companies to address the brand issues that arise at the beginning of this post without having to commit to large amounts of branded merchandise each year. In this option, a company creates an online store with curated products that match the company brand. Then, as departments need to order, they can order from these selections with a manufacturers minimum. The order is then created “on demand” and the customer is only billed for the items as they are created.
The downside to a store like this is, you don’t have these items on hand. So time and minimums are more of a challenge (though both can be mitigated). If you just need one last minute polo for a golf outing, this is not a great solution. But if want to manage the brand, manage budgets and keep control on both, this can be a great option…even for smaller organizations.
P.S. Another store, which we talk about here, is an employee sale. This is a great way to allow your team to show their company pride and order just one at a time. If you want to learn how to do this…read this.
So now that you know what kind of company stores there are…how can you make a good one? Here are a few tips on creating a company store.
Include the Basics
When you are creating a curated collection of items for your company store, don’t out think the room. Yes, you might want to include some cool and hot new products in the mix. That’s great. We are in favor of that. But don’t forget the foundational products that most people want and need. You will want to include a drink ware, writing instruments, and apparel. These are staples. You want to have items that are functional. I would also recommend getting multiples in a couple of these categories. While you may love a Nike 1/4 zip (and I do) not every budget will allow for that. Give people basic options so they can use the company store without breaking the bank.
Keep It Simple
On the other hand, though you want options, you don’t want TOO many options! Keep it simple. Just like at the grocery store, if you give people too many options, they might not be able to choose at all. It’s a delicate balance. And remember, you can always add items down the road. Which leads nicely to…
Update Items Seasonally
If you want people to continue to check out your store (and ultimately stick to the brand), continue to add options. I recommend adding items at least once a quarter. First, this gives your team some new ways to award their team and promote your brand. In addition, this is part of the fun for you! Be on the lookout for cool new items, or have us do that for you! This is a great place to add items to the list that are missing…or give you a place to try more “off the wall” items that might fit during a time.
Get Feedback From the Troops
When it comes to your organization’s company store, your team members are your customers. Listen to their feedback! While you won’t be able to add every single item that is requested, you will likely see some themes. Giving your team input into the items that are on the store will give them more ownership in the idea. That makes it more likely that they will stick to the program and won’t go rogue again!
These are just a few tips on getting your company store up and running successfully. If you want to chat more about whether a company store is right for your organization, we would love to talk!
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