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What is merch? Get started in 5 steps

Examples and tips for selling merch online

Merch is unique clothing or items that are sold by brands that typically have a different main business than selling products. In this article, we’ll provide examples of merch and outline how you can start selling merch on your online shop.

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What is merch?

The term “merch” is simply short for “merchandise”, and it’s a term that has come to specifically describe products that are sold by brands that are known for something other than their items.

Merch differs from other goods as it’s the message of the item that usually accounts for its value, not the item’s practical function. Customers usually purchase merch to express affiliation with a culture, brand, band, movie, or other cultural phenomenon. Due to its uniqueness, customers are often willing to pay more for merch compared to similar items.

Examples of merch

Merchandise can be sold by various sellers, ranging from large corporations and organisations with well-known brands to successful creators on YouTube or simple individuals with compelling ideas. Here’s a list featuring some well-known types of merch:

There are numerous types of merch. While the specific clothing or item type isn’t always critical, it’s always good to consider your audience’s preferences. Here are some examples of clothing or items suitable for merch:

  • T-shirts
  • Hoodies
  • Socks
  • Caps
  • Beanies
  • Phone cases
  • Tote bags
  • Bags
  • Mugs
  • Water bottles
  • Stickers
  • Scented candles
  • Decorative pillows

How to start a merch line in 5 steps

It’s easier than ever to create an online shop and start selling merch. Building a website quickly is no problem, and there are many producers from which to choose. We’ll guide you through the process of making your merch a reality.

1. Come up with a unique and valuable idea

The most crucial aspect of selling merchandise is creating a unique and valuable idea. The Internet is teeming with an abundance of clothing and items, so how do you set your merchandise apart?

Establish your brand

One factor that can make your merch unique is your brand. Creating merch is much easier if you already have a brand. It could be your band’s brand, YouTube channel, Instagram page, or your website. If you already have a strong brand and a following, it may be enough as the foundation for your merch.

Good merchandise doesn’t necessarily need more than your brand, but you can incorporate images or texts into your merchandise. Do you have a catchphrase? Remember that the greatest value in merchandise lies in the message that fosters a sense of belonging for a brand. It doesn’t necessarily have to be universally understandable—just one that is valuable for your audience.

Merch for a community

Even without a strong brand, you can achieve success. You can, for example, create merch for an online community—a group of people sharing a common interest. You can devise fun and creative clothing that individuals with similar interests can wear and show off. These could involve internal jokes or references to amusing characters.

Remember copyright and trademark protection

The moment you create a creative work, it automatically receives copyright protection. The illustrations or creative texts you include on your merch are safeguarded and can only be sold by you. This also applies to other individuals’ and companies’ works, meaning you may need permission to use copyrighted characters or works on your merch.

There are exceptions, such as using copyrighted material for parody or satirical purposes, but it’s better to err on the side of caution.

The same applies to trademarks, which are often also protected. Using another company’s trademark in a manner that could confuse consumers is not permitted. Legal matters are complex, but to put it simply, there should never be any risk of a consumer getting confused and thinking a company sells another company’s goods.

2. Design your merch

You’ll need to decide what merch you want to sell. Start small. Perhaps a T-shirt and a mug are enough for your first run, and you can create a design that works for both. The design process can be brief and straightforward if you decide to use existing brand material. Determine how and where your brand should appear and experiment. 

If you have an idea that requires a new design, you can create it using tools such as Canva. If you need professional assistance, you can often find help for smaller projects on platforms like 99Designs and Upwork

3. Find a manufacturer

With your designs in hand, it’s now time to find a manufacturer! There are large factories in other countries that can offer you reasonable prices. However, it may be easier to start out with a local manufacturer.  

You can often find a printing house that already has a clothing supplier and can help you print your design. Start small and grow from there. If your clothing sells out faster than you anticipate, there’s no need to panic. A small inventory minimises risk and can benefit your brand by demonstrating that your merch is in high demand. 

4. Start a website and an online shop

Starting a website and selling your merch is simple. Here’s how: 

  1. Choose a domain 
  2. Create your website with the help of our AI 
  3. Add your merch to your online shop and start selling!

5. Market your merch

Once you have a store, it’s time to market it. Start by reviewing your SEO strategy so you’re easily found on Google, then use the channels that you have available to you. 

If you already have a social media channel with an audience, you can promote your new merch and launch a campaign. Wear your new t-shirt when filming videos or taking pictures, and always ensure there’s a link to your store in your description or profile. 

We’ve compiled many other digital marketing tips to help you kickstart your new online shop quickly. 

Your responsibilities as a seller 

As a merch seller, you have the same responsibilities as any other retailer. This means you’re responsible for adhering to regulations on complaints and returns. Ensure you’re informing customers about the data you collect and store on your webshop, create purchase agreements, and always clearly explain how you handle shipping and returns to avoid misunderstandings. 

Tips for ensuring customer satisfaction 

A satisfied customer can become a returning customer or an ambassador for your brand. Keeping your customers satisfied should be your top priority.  

Here are some quick tips on how to make your customers happy: 

  1. Take responsibility for your products. Even if you don’t manufacture your products, you’re responsible for them. Be accommodating and understanding when customers contact you about faults in your products. Take responsibility for any problems and never deflect blame. If issues become common, it may be worth discussing with your supplier, but never mention this to your customers. From your customers’ perspective, you’re responsible for your products.
  2. Simplify the buying process: Customers are happy when you’re adept at catering to their needs. When creating an online shop, make sure you offer the purchasing options that your customers want. Provide multiple payment and shipping options to make it easy for everyone. With one.com’s online shop, you can access some of the world’s most popular payment and shipping providers. 
  3. Be accessible: Make it easy for your customers to contact you. If possible, offer several different ways to reach you, whether by phone, chat, or email. If you’re selling merch alongside a day job, it may be challenging always to be available. Be as available as possible and indicate your response time on your website. That way, your customers have the right expectations. 

Now, you’re ready to start your online shop and start selling merch. Good luck! 

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