Why Knowing Your Employee “Buyers” is Essential

for company eStore success

A woman smiling as she types on her laptop.

Creating an online company store for your employees creates an opportunity to expand your brand’s reach, build loyalty, foster engagement, and ensure greater consistency in how your brand is communicated to the broader world. From a budget perspective, it’s also a cost-wise decision since you’ll be streamlining corporate purchases through a centralized promotional products distributor.

Setting up an online company store is also a lot easier than you might think, especially when you find the right partner for the job – one who can assist you with your strategic planning to make sure that the promotional product offerings you have in your online store meet the interests and demands of your market.

Where to start when launching your online company store

E-commerce success for your branded merchandise requires a steady stream of engagement from your most valuable customers – your employees. So, what are some of the best ways to get a solid handle on who will be frequenting your company store and what they’ll be most interested in buying? First, let’s dive into a few key ways to gain a better understanding of your employee buyers, your business partners, and their needs. Then, let’s discuss some of the important functions your store should provide to your employees.


First, get to know your employees

Understanding what motivates your buyers to shop for branded merchandise is the first step in creating a successful e-commerce experience. Because your store will be offering promotional products, you maintain control over how the company brand is represented on these items, but your employees will be the ones who decide which items ultimately get purchased. Take the time to run some focus groups and get to know the various stakeholders in your organization and what their needs are prior to launching your online store. Departments like HR, sales and marketing, and other stakeholders will be able to offer valuable feedback as you make plans to launch a new store.

Additionally, you can gather insight into your employees’ priorities by conducting an online survey. If you’ve had a company store in the past, consider your pain points and review performance data with your new provider to better understand what went well and what needs improving with a new webstore.‍


Next, consider what you want your store to achieve

Company stores aren’t one-size-fits-all, but they do frequently have a few things in common, including:

  • An appropriate mix of branded apparel, bags and headwear, gifts and office essentials, and industry-specific clothing and uniforms – You don’t want to overwhelm your shoppers, but you do want to provide some choice. From a marketing and brand perspective, the more useful an item is, the more likely your employees are to wear the apparel or drink from the logoed mug and thus further spread your brand.
  • Promotional products that fit a variety of budgets – With an online store, you determine which products are offered and can narrow selections based on budget and brand requirements. As you consider your selections, however, make sure you have budget-friendly choices as well as name-branded goods. Quality matters but so too does affordability.
  • A variety of payment options – Enabling payment via departmental budgets, purchase orders, reward points, as well as credit and debit cards is helpful for your employees. You may also consider establishing user controls to grant some employees access to certain payment methods while restricting them to others. Consider your payment options when setting up your store so that it enables easy payment processing for all types of purchases.


How will the store be used?

Your company store will hopefully be used by just about every employee group in your organization, although some groups are likely to frequent it more heavily than others based on their role. Here are a few common ways your eStore provides value to your employees and how they may use it:

  • As a pre-tradeshow pit-stop – Sales leaders may stock up on swag giveaways prior to attending an industry event, client meeting, or year-end review. They may also need to secure a branded polo or other company apparel for the event. Even with the trend towards virtual events, branded merchandise comes into play as a pre or post event attendee mailing, or as a sales rep “uniform” for their video presence.
  • As a complement to your rewards and incentive program – Show your employees how much you value them and encourage ongoing performance by implementing a rewards and incentive program that gifts employees with company-branded merchandise. (For a look at how to leverage your company store to motivate and reward employees, be sure to check out this blog post.
  • As a repository for your workplace uniform program – Host company-approved work attire for your employees on your eStore and you’ll be able to simplify your uniform program. A company store takes the guesswork out of knowing what’s acceptable to wear for your employees and makes them feel welcome, safe, and easily identified while on the job.


Improve the eStore experience

Now that you know who will be using your store and what they will most likely be looking for, it’s time to ensure that their shopping experience is simple and that the tools and technology behind your store enable them to have the shopping experience they expect.

  • Simplify the consumer experience – Your employees don’t want to spend all day searching for merchandise on your website. Make it easy for them to find what they are looking for. Navigation should be clear, and the purchase path simple. Moreover, it’s smart to optimize your site for mobile. M-commerce, or mobile commerce, has steadily and powerfully risen in recent years and is predicted to soon account for nearly half of all e-commerce transactions in the U.S.¹ Your employees are now shopping from their phones or tablets while they’re taking a lunch break, in line at the airport, and from their couches at home.
  • Forms of payment – What forms of payment will you accept? How will gift cards or other employee incentive awards be redeemed? As an internal resource, offering simple ways to pay via a purchase order or department budget can simplify the process.
  • Make order fulfillment a breeze – We’re all in a hurry, and we’ve also all come to expect fast order fulfilment and shipping. Don’t let your employees down. Offer just-in-time production and expedited shipping so they don’t have to worry about not having their uniform for work or scramble to find branded promotional products to drum up new business at their next conference.


Maintain relevance with your buyers

Staying relevant to your buyers is important for ongoing company store success. A key way to know that you are continuing to meet your employees’ needs is by relying on active reporting and dashboards to monitor shopping activities. Data can help you stay on top of employee user trends and overall store performance. Ensure your eStore partner offers usage reports and meets with you regularly to discuss what is working well and what can be improved.

Based on the data, your provider will offer insight and recommendations to keep your products fresh and on-point with your buyers’ needs. We recommend refreshing your product mix at least twice a year. If changes to your consumer base occur due to new hires or employee layoffs, let your provider know that as well. By maintaining an ongoing dialogue with provider and routinely evaluating consumer behavior as your employees shop your store, you can make strategic adjustments to the promotional products you offer.

Make the most of your investment in an online store by staying in step with your employees’ needs and taking the time to truly understand their goals and objectives for using the company store. In doing so, you’ll gain better control over spending and enable more efficient purchases of company-wide branded merchandise.

At Foxtrot Marketing Group, we know that employee awareness and ongoing engagement is key to your online company store success. When done well, your company store will serve as more than just a practical resource. It will also help turn employees into brand fans and company advocates. For help getting started with your online company store, get in touch with us.

¹ https://www.businessinsider.com/mobile-commerce-shopping-trends-stats