T-Shirt shop learnings part 2

Three Brains T-shirt - This mum loves her kids to the moon and back. Black female t-shirt at Redbubble

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Snapshot : We share more T-shirt shop learnings as we try new things in this category. We’ll talk about designs and the importance of simplification in the design process. We’ll talk about about design short-cuts with some options to outsource T-shirt designs. And finally, we’ll touch briefly on Facebook advertising and some of the many challenges when you start Facebook advertising

So, we switched our focus in early January to work on the consulting part of our business. But we have continued to work on the T-shirt Print on Demand side of the business too. Here’s a few T-shirt shop learnings since we last wrote on the subject.

Designs

We’ve now created 13 unique T-shirt designs. With an additional 4 designs which are variations of the original design for a total of 17 designs in total. Those include designing a Mum / Mom T-shirt to use in Australia versus the US for example.

Of those, we’ve tested (Facebook) advertising on 7 of those designs so far. When we wrote about our T-shirt shop learnings after Week one, we identified that our first couple of designs had too much detail. In particular, the Christmas Introvert and Christmas Extrovert T-shirts both had some logical thinking behind them, based on insights. But really, they were too complicated to work on a T-shirt. If you count each box as the image and the text and the clock, that’s 3 design elements per box times 16 boxes. So 48 design elements at least. Plus the lines and the headline, so over 50 elements on the design. Too many.

So we said, we’d focus on simplifying the future designs we put in. It’s often easier to give advice than follow it, however. If we look at the designs we have created since, we have done a better job of using less words and more bigger fonts. We’ve considered the colours of the fonts and T-shirts more. It’s important to work out how different colours will work together.

But, from a pure design point of view, there’s still lots of room to improve. Let’s use our This Mum Loves T-shirt as an example. The core ‘insight’ was around maternal pride and we used a phrase that we hear in parenting groups and forums a lot. “Love you to the moon and back”. So far, so good. 

But if you look at the design, there are still TEN design elements in that design. TEN. Less than the 50 on the previous design, but still. Remember, we said we’d focus on simplifying the future designs?

Ten design elements is not simple

Here are the ten design elements in this design starting top left and working down to the bottom.

  1. The vector graphic cut out of the mum 
  2. This written vertically – we did at least limit ourselves to two fonts – Phosphate and Rockwell – so we are applying at least some simplification
  3. Mum – fine, good stand-out as an important word of the message
  4. Loves Her Kids – the font here is actually ‘cut out’ of the rectangle. So when it is printed the text is transparent, so will look a different colour depending on the colour of the T-shirt. It’s quite a common technique in T-shirt design.
  5. Heart – another vector graphic to symbolise the ‘love’ obviously and to try and get away from all text. However, was it really needed?
  6. To the – needed to complete the sentence on the final word
  7. Moon (symbol) – another vector graphic to symbolise, well, the moon obviously, because …
  8. Moon (words) – maybe having the word ‘moon’ in big bold letters won’t be clear enough? (we’re kidding)
  9. And back – Finishing off the sentence. It should really stop here, but …
  10. Even when they break stuff – … we wanted to add a little humorous touch but had to squeeze in another 5 words to do so.

You might wonder why we are sharing this. Why are we sharing the million dollar selling design with you? Well, we believe there’s as much to learn from what doesn’t work as what does work. It’s all about experimenting when you are starting out in a new category. To try things out. this design maybe took us a couple of hours to create. But we also got to practice 3 or 4 different graphic design techniques in Photoshop that next time, we’ll be able to use much more seamlessly. So as well as getting a design up to sell, it was also like doing a mini-training session.

We have however, set ourselves a challenge to take 3 of our existing ‘too complicated’ designs and re-do / re-launch the with only 3 design elements. We’ll let you know if those are more successful. We’ll also tell you the designs that have performed the best below.

T-shirt design short-cuts

For anyone struggling with the design element or who doesn’t have the patience, there are of course short cuts. 

T-shirt bundles

There are designers selling bundles of T-shirt designs for you to edit and adapt. For example, we see this offer from tshirtbundles.com pop-up regularly on our Facebook feed for 1,000 designs at US$70. That’s good value at $0.07 per design. However, here’s the thing to consider. Anyone else could also buy those designs, so you are not getting designs unique to you. You still need to be able edit and adapt them to suit your brand identity. From the designs we can see on the page, the design elements look professional. But you still need to apply some creativity to make them uniquely work for you. And you still need editing software – Adobe or Affinity or Gravit for example – to be able to manipulate the files. 

T-shirt freelancers

T-shirt designs also come up regularly on freelance sites. We covered a similar theme in our recent blog on the value of writing, but designer rates for T-shirts seem to be even more cut-throat on pricing. Look at fiver and what’s on offer in T-shirt design for example. 

You can pick up a single design from between $7 and $35, with rates going up the more revisions you ask for. Even the designers who seem more established on there, only seem to be charging $60 – $80 per design. Looking at that cost, and lets say a $5 profit per T-Shirt sold on something like Spreadshirt, you’d have to look at the quality of the designer and wonder whether they could design something that would sell the 12 – 16 T-shirts you’d need just to break even. 

T-shirt pro designers

And finally, on design, you could go the more professional route. We found this article early on when looking at tips on designing T-shirts. It’s a decent read. But this organisation also provides link if you want to look at hiring high-end designers. The rates for this level of design will be much more expensive than you will find on Fiver. But obviously, the quality of the design will be at that higher level too.

Some of the designs here are from people who’ve clearly been practicing their area for a long time. We think our T-shirt designs have a way to go to get anywhere near the standards here from a design point of view.  But then designing is only part of the T-shirt selling process. We’re working hard to bring it up to the same level of knowledge we have about marketing and e-Commerce. 

Facebook Advertising

Of the 7 Facebook campaigns we’ve tested so far, the Aussie Prime Minister and Aussie Beer t-shirt designs generated the most reach and the most clicks. We ran both these ads when Redbubble were offering a 20-50% offer on the site, and our click through rate on both ads was double any of the other ads we ran. We still have some more testing going on with the ads and further down the line will build these into some case studies. But here’s a couple of thoughts we’d share on Facebook advertising so far. 

Functionality

For a technology company that based it’s success on access for all and easy functionality – anyone can use Facebook right? That functionality does not spread though to its Facebook Ads set-up. While not impossible to use, unless you have kept up with recent changes and updates to the system or been trained, it can take a while to find basic elements to launch and report on campaigns. The campaigns, ad sets and ads are not that intuitive. Managing the multiple variables around objectives, audience and measurement does take time to go back and forward to get right. In 3 of our tests, we realised something wasn’t right in the initial set-up and had to pause and relaunch the campaign. Not because we make lots of mistakes, but because the way it was set-up wasn’t clear.

Upselling

What we’ve also found is once you start advertising on Facebook, it is set up to try and constantly squeeze more money from your adverting spend. Repeated notifications of how just spending “$x” could get you x,000 more page views. Whether you actually have content that you want to push out or not. All the defaults for spend and length of time you want to run a campaign seem set up to make you spend more. You only want to rest for 2 days? But our default is to run for a month. You only want to spend $10? But our default starts at $250. And so on.

Too much choice

There is so much choice in terms of audience and placements, it does take time to refine and place an actual ad they way you want to set it up. So far, our ads have done OK in terms of reach, but not delivered what we’d want when it comes to conversions. That’s likely because we have a bit more work to do in refining the three-brains brand for the T-shirt market. Nobody really knows who we are yet and what we stand for. Our ads have been mainly static so far, in order to get them out quickly. But we recognise the need for more creativity and dynamism to stand out on Facebook. But that’s all part of the process of learning to succeed in any business, and so far, it’s not cost us a lot to test all these campaigns out. 

Final t-shirt shop learnings

We also picked up a little tidbit of T-shirt trivia this week from one of the sites which offer the most practical tips and advice – if you haven’t already we recommend you check out wholesaleted on You Tube. Sarah’s videos do stand out for their clarity and practicality when compared to many of the other Print on Demand and Drop Shipping advice sites out there.

The piece of trivia is that the biggest selling T-Shirt colour online is black. Amazon released this bit of not known information. But we wanted to to do something with that trivia. So you may have noticed a bit of a recent refresh to our three-brains branding and logo. (It’s right there at the top of the page). Our Three Brains branding now has a black “T” shirt at the start. That’s in honour of this little bit of T-shirt trivia. Sometimes our three-brains may think about these things a little too much. 

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