Merch Fulfillment: How to Sell Custom Merchandise

Big companies, small businesses, and content creators work hard to stand out by crafting eye-catching materials that will gain a following and turn a profit. Even if you’re a small creator, you can begin to see an income from your following by selling merchandise (or merch) online. It’s not only a great way to grow brand awareness and bring in some extra revenue, but it can also allow your followers to connect with you in a new way. So, let’s discuss the ins and outs of merch fulfillment for creators.

While YouTube channels and websites will allow people to make money off of their name or brand, selling products directly (even just a few products) can bring in infinitely more money than any amount of pre-roll ad will. This means that the most loyal supporters can give back to their favorite creators while getting something in return. It also provides a way for fans to identify themselves as a unit.

To start doing this yourself, however, you’ll need to know a bit about the process of merch fulfillment.

What is Merch Fulfillment?

The term “merch order fulfillment” refers to your process of:

  • Designing merchandise
  • Producing a product
  • Packaging your product
  • Shipping to the customer

With merch fulfillment, the goal is to do this as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, while still distributing a quality product that your fans will use and enjoy.

3 Steps to Selling Custom Merchandise Online

Selling merch online is a fun and easy way to connect with customers. Sometimes, though, the idea of dealing with merch fulfillment can end up stopping creative ideas in their tracks. One question we often hear is “How do you make merch?”

Once you learn a bit of the lingo and develop a plan, you’ll be on your way to successfully sell merch! Here are the important steps to take.

1. Come Up with a Selling Strategy That Works for You

Consider what you want out of your merch, as that will play a large role in the way that you set up your selling strategy.

Personal Brand Merch Store

If you want your merch to be associated with you and your personal brand, then you’ll want to create a merch store with that direct connection. At your merch store, your fans can support your personal brand and spread the word.

Freebie Merch

You can use merch as a means to say “thank you” to loyal customers and Patreon supporters when you create freebies.

Spinoff Brand Merch Store

If you’re interested in growing your merch store beyond your personal brand, you might want to create a “spinoff” brand. This allows you to make more products that appeal to a larger customer base than just your fans and followers. This is a great option if you’re interested in partnering with other, bigger brands!

2. Create Must-Buy Merch

So you’ve decided you want to learn how to sell merch. Now, let’s look at how you create merch that your fanbase will want to buy.

Step One: Design

Chances are that you’ve got a few inside jokes with your audience. Maybe you have phrases that have been repeated around your small community, or maybe you want to feature quotes, symbols, or logos you’ve created. These will resonate with your audience and create great potential for future designs!

Step Two: Products

What do you want to put these designs on? Do you want to feature mugs, hoodies, T-shirts, journals, or blankets? What color palette or font matches your brand’s “vibe”? Think about something you would be proud to use or wear in your daily life.

If you’re stuck on this one, why not poll the audience? Asking your audience directly what type of merch they’d be interested in is a great way to get a handle on what might actually sell when your products are ready to roll.

Step Three: Designs and Mock-Ups

Time to see what these ideas actually look like! There are plenty of free mock-up generators where you can test out which designs work best. (Psst! Not a designer? Check out freelancer sites like Upwork and Fiverr to collaborate with an artist.)

3. Choose A Print On-Demand Partner, Manufacturer, or 3PL

Ready to sell merchandise online? It’s time to look into merch fulfillment. There are a few services to choose from, and you’ll want to be aware of their differences when deciding which one is right for you.

Option 1:  Using a Print-On-Demand Fulfillment Partner

With a print-on-demand service, you can fully automate your entire process from production to shipping to fulfillment. This is also a great way to order samples.

Why do people pick print-on-demand? It’s often because of the ease, low cost, and low maintenance of this method.

The Pros:
  • Low cost (you only pay when a customer orders)
  • Low risk
  • Easy and often free to set up
  • The simplicity of managing your store
The Cons:
  • Products are limited (they do tend to have the staples like hoodies, T-shirts, hats, etc.)
  • Customization is limited (you can customize, but not fully control every aspect.)

Next, we’ll look at partnerships with a manufacturer.

Option 2: Using a Manufacturer for Custom Merchandise

Working with a manufacturer is a great way to go if you have very specific designs and products in mind. They can produce exactly what you want and let you handle the inventory or work with a third-party provider for shipping.

Why do people pick a manufacturer? It’s primarily because of the level of control they get over the products.

The Pros:
  • More options
  • Ability to create exactly what you envision
The Cons:
  • More labor-intensive
  • Higher     startup costs

When working with a manufacturer, you’ll need to take additional considerations into account.

  • Intellectual Property: You’ll want to ensure that you (and not the manufacturer) own the rights to the brand’s IP address and any designs that come out of the store.
  • The Cut Your Manufacturer Takes: Does the manufacturer take a fixed amount or a variable amount per product?
  • Time: Use a “trial period” to ensure that the manufacturer releases quality items, meets deadlines, works well with you, etc.
  • Extra Costs: Does your manufacturer charge design fees? Website management fees?     Warehouse fees? Picking and packing fees? Shipping fees? Customer service fees?

Let’s explore the third option, using a 3PL partner.

Option 3: Using a 3PL Fulfillment Partner

A 3PL (third-party logistics) fulfillment partner is an ideal middle ground for people who want to sell merchandise online while still having full creative control. When you work with a 3PL, you can create exactly what you want while having someone else handle all the storage and shipping.  

Why do people pick a 3PL? It’s usually due to the incredible flexibility and ease.

The Pros:
  • Complete creative control
  • Everything from production to shipping occurs in one place
  • Ability to scale your business easily
  • Streamlined processes
  • You don’t have to become an expert in every aspect of the process

The Cons:

  • There is an upfront cost for storage (though it’s far less than the price of working with a manufacturer)

Let’s take a look at the ways that a 3PL can help with fulfillment.

How Can a 3PL Help Your Merch Fulfillment?

If merch fulfillment is taking hours of your day, a 3PL can help you to fill orders quickly and efficiently in a way that allows your business to grow – without putting more pressure on you. 

These experts ensure that products arrive on time, and they understand how to handle returns, what type of packing to use, and the best solutions to use when shipping issues occur.

Spend Less Time Fulfilling Merchandise Orders

If you’ve spent night after night printing out shipping labels, you know how exhausting it can be to handle the entire inventory process on your own. 

Not only does a 3PL take this problem off your hands so you can return to the creative side of things, but they also make sure that your orders are getting packaged and shipped out much more quickly and efficiently. This keeps your customers happy and your fulfillment costs low.

Keep Up With Order Increases

Your personal space can only hold so much inventory, but giving up creative freedom for an on-demand service could stifle the appeal of your products. A 3PL gives you the space you need to grow. Need more people packing products or more inventory space? No problem. We scale with you!

Grow Your Audience

When you streamline your sales with a 3PL merch fulfillment company, you will open yourself up for more growth, more revenue, and a larger audience. Because a 3PL can help you to retain customer data, ship just about anywhere, and find options for retargeting, you can finally get the information you need to significantly grow your reach and understand your audience.

Choosing Print Bind Ship for Merch Fulfillment

As a leading 3PL merch fulfillment partner with over 60 years of experience under our belts, Print Bind Ship has everything you need to run a successful online merch store.

From printing to warehousing to inventory management and more, we have the knowledge you need for a successful merch drop. We also have the tools to power your store, even if your merch needs a forklift or logistics software.

At Print Bind Ship, we offer everything you need when it comes to logistics so that you can get back to focusing on creativity for your audience. We will help you to create completely custom and unique pieces. We can also craft custom pricing solutions so you’ll only pay for the services you need.

What’s Next? Contact Print Bind Ship

Ready to take the next step? Whether you’ve got all the numbers and know exactly what you need or you could use a little guidance, Print Bind Ship is here to help. We offer free consultations so that you can get the information you need. Let’s discuss how your idea can become a reality. Contact Print Bind Ship today!