Your business and your brand should be in lockstep when it comes to your marketing efforts, but all too often organizations struggle to maintain control over how their brand is presented outside (and sometimes even within) their organization. Requests for logos are bouncing around in email because individual teams are managing their own merchandise orders, and the marketing department is bombarded with questions about when the sales team can expect their branded mugs for their next event.
It’s time to put an end to the disparate madness that comes with managing multiple requests for corporate-branded merchandise and centralize the process through an online company store for your employees and partners.
Setting up an eStore to manage your promotional products inventory and distribution helps ensure consistency in how your brand is communicated and gives employees the freedom to directly purchase logoed products from your online store.
As you prepare to launch a webstore for your employees, here are some important steps to take:
Step 1: Make the business case for an online company store.
A company store streamlines corporate purchases, ensures consistency and control in how your brand is presented, and allows your employees to spread the love when it comes to showcasing their company and brand.
From a business perspective, there are several more reasons an online store makes sense regardless of your company’s industry or size. A company store helps:
- Build brand loyalty and affinity – Company stores are good for business because they enable your best assets – your employees – to feel more connected to the company and engaged in their work. Moreover, your employees are also brand ambassadors every time they wear or use their branded gear. This can add up to thousands and thousands of brand impressions in a relatively short amount of time.
- Improve efficiencies and save money – Promotional products can quickly pile up if there isn’t an organized system for managing and fulfilling orders. Instead of investing in a bunch of inventory upfront, a company store enables just-in-time production and fulfillment of many promotional items so you can make better use of your time and budget. Plus, your company store provider typically has more buying power to leverage for lower costs of store merchandise.
- Offer convenience – Employees can order products from anywhere, anytime. A webstore that’s optimized for mobile makes it even easier for employees to engage with the store when they are on-the-go.
- Ensure brand consistency – Gain greater control over your brand and messaging by offering promotional products and distribution that is consistent across your market so you can continue to build trust in the marketplace.
- Simplify your uniform program – Make it easy for your employees to know what they can wear and where they can buy it by centralizing your uniform program with an online store. It can become their one-stop shop for getting everything they need for the job.
- Complement your rewards and incentive program – Encourage positive performance by motivating employees with a rewards and incentive program that is tied to your company store. When employees are rewarded for their efforts, they’re more likely to feel engaged, productive, and inspired at work.
Step 2: Identify who will be using the company store.
While this seems obvious (your employees, of course!) there’s more to the story when you dig a little deeper. While, hopefully the majority of your employees will at some point log on to make a purchase through your eStore, certain employee groups and business partners will likely be more frequent users.
Meet with various stakeholders in your organization, especially from groups like HR, sales and marketing, and other department leaders who may rely on the store for needs like uniforms or for rewards and incentives. Ask them specific questions about their goals and expectations for a company store so that you and your promotional products distributor can be sure to include merchandise that meets their needs.
Step 3: Determine what you should include in your store.
Your product selection should include a well-rounded mix of promotional products that are in-line with your brand and fit a variety of budgets. Common store merchandise includes:
- Apparel, including name-brand items
- Bags and headwear
- Gifts and office essentials
- Industry-specific clothing and uniforms
Offering high-quality and useful products are key if you want to expand your brand’s reach via promotional products. The more useful, comfortable, and generally likeable a product is, the more likely it is to be worn and used – and thus further promote your brand.
Step 4: Get started.
Launching an online store for your company is a relatively quick process, and once underway, the ongoing maintenance of the store takes even less management on your end when you partner with a reputable promotional products distributor. When you’re ready to set up your store, here are some basic steps you’ll take:
- Discuss the store experience you want to create for your employees – Before you begin making specific decisions about your store, you’ll want to first step back and discuss with your provider the kind of store experience you want your employees to have. During the onboarding process, you’ll walk through your goals for the store and your provider will guide you through the rest.
- Select your merchandise – Next you’ll narrow down which products your store will offer and decide exactly how you want your brand and logo to be represented on the merchandise. One of the benefits of a company store is that it creates consistency in your brand presentation, yet employees still have freedom to choose and purchase the branded item they want. As you select the product mix for your eStore, be sure to include products that fit a variety of budgets and product categories.
- Decide on your webstore design – Site design is important to the employee buyer experience. You want a good-looking, well-performing online store that offers a streamlined experience for your shoppers. As an internal resource, you can take it a step further by implementing a thoughtful design that serves as an extension of your website or company intranet.
- Determine your acceptable payment methods – It’s helpful to offer your employees a variety of payment options. Some will be purchasing items for the business; others will be buying items for themselves. With your provider, you can set up multiple payment methods as well as establish user controls to enable certain employees or power-users to have greater access to purchasing options than others. This can be particularly useful for buyers who will be purchasing larger quantities and issuing purchase orders, for example.
- Test and launch – Work with your eStore partner to ensure that your company store website elevates your brand. As you prepare to launch, run final tests to confirm things are running smoothly on all devices and be prepared to implement plans for spreading the word. Developing a strong promotional plan to market your store at launch is important. You can create buzz and excitement by announcing the launch via multiple communication channels and make plans for ongoing promotions to follow.
Step 5: Ensure ongoing store success.
Once your company’s e-commerce store is live, there are three more M’s to take note of: monitor, market, and make adjustments as needed. Your provider will maintain an ongoing partnership with you and guide recommendations to help encourage continued engagement with your company store.
- Monitor – Your provider will keep a keen eye on your webstore’s performance by monitoring data and offering insight and recommendations based on reporting metrics. Reporting and regular reviews with your eStore partner will help identify what is working well and what can be improved.
- Market – Post-launch, keep awareness and excitement for your store with a marketing plan to supplement your store’s sales efforts. Make it easy for employees to find and access the store by featuring it on your intranet or other internal communication channels and work with your eStore partner to determine if you’d like to run store promotions or awareness campaigns.
- Make adjustments as needed – Based on store performance data, work with your store partner to discuss potential merchandise adjustments. Refreshing your product mix is important to keep up with what’s trending in the marketplace. Your provider will help by monitoring trends and refreshing your store at least twice a year with new seasonal offerings.
Your company store will be a reflection of your business, your brand, and your employees. It will serve a practical purpose as a platform for buying branded goods and apparel, and it will also build brand champions along the way. Engaging employees with branded merchandise is an easy and cost-effective way to encourage brand affinity and motivate performance, especially when rewards or incentives are tied to a company store redemption model.
When you’re ready to take the next step with your promotional products distribution, we’re here to help. At Foxtrot Marketing Group, we work hard to elevate your brand, save you time and money, and create a customized eStore solution for your business. To learn more about how we can partner with you, get in touch.