E-commerce selling T-shirts week one learnings

Three brains Introvert Christmas 3/4 Baseball T-shirt at Redbubble

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Part of setting up a shop on the three-brains site was to share our e-commerce insights. So we don’t just consult on e-commerce, we share practical experience from running a real live shop. So how has our e-commerce selling t-shirts experience gone so far? Slowly. But a lot of learnings and fun to do. Part of this experience isn’t just related to things we get right, but also things we get wrong. So after this first week of online selling, here’s a few things we’ve learned that we need to look at. 

Test the full shopper experience

As we outline in our article on setting up your own online shop, there’s quite a number of suppliers you can work with when it comes to Print on Demand. This is the option we picked for e-commerce selling t-shirts. We initially chose Spreadshirt as a supplier for a couple of reasons. The User Experience (UX) on their site is pretty good. That means it was quick and easy for us to set the shop up.

You can also embed the code from their shop into your website. So if you are trying to drive traffic to your site and generate better search results, this is a big plus from a digital marketing point of view. Your site benefits from the traffic by getting future better search results. Rather than driving traffic to the Print on Demand website and only boosting their traffic. 

Unfortunately, what we didn’t fully check before we launched was their order delivery model. Even through they are a German company, and for Australia, they have a local .com.au website and even an Australia contact number, it wasn’t until we ran a test order a few days after we launched with them that we realised they fulfil Australian orders from the US. And we were doing all our initial test marketing in Australia.

So anyone seeing an ad (in Australia) when they clicked through to buy a $24.99 T-Shirt, suddenly got faced with the following options (based on looking at the site today, 16 Dec 2019)

1. Standard shipping : $16.99 Delivery between 30 Dec – 07 Jan. No tracking provided. May be subject to import taxes, customs, and duties upon delivery.

2. International Express : $37.99 Delivery between 17 Dec – 20 Dec. Tracking provided and delivery by FedEx. Not deliverable to PO Boxes. May be subject to import taxes, customs, and duties upon delivery.

So, our initial four Christmas T-shirt designs, would either be delivered after New Year and would not be tracked and could cost even more when delivered. Brilliant. Or, the customer could pay an additional 150% of the cost of the T-shirt to have it delivered in the next 3 days. A total cost of $57.48 for one T-shirt. From a brand that no-one would have known existed 10 days ago. 

Hmmm. Clearly our customer experience for Australian shoppers in this shop needs a little more work. 

For US based, customers, on Spreadshirt the options went like this

  1. Standard shipping $6.99 Dec 18 – Dec 26. Tracking provided. Saturday delivery. Delivery by USPS. Delivery to Alaska/Hawaii may take longer.
  2. Premium $9.99 Dec 18 – Dec 20. Tracking provided. Saturday delivery. Sent via USPS Priority Mail.
  3. Express $26.99 Dec 17 – Dec 18. Tracking provided and delivery by FedEx. Delivery not available for AK, HI, PO Box and APO.

We actually thought these were pretty good options. But it does mean we’ll be switching any marketing activity which drives to the Spreadshirt store to be US only.

So, what do we do instead for Australian customers?

Well, we did have a list of other POD suppliers we were planning to add anyway, so we picked Redbubble as our next POD supplier to test. We knew they were originally set up in Australia, so we thought it a good bet they’d have delivery services in Australia.

So, looking at a similar T-shirt to the ones we set up to sell via Spreadshirt, the shipping and delivery works out much better for Australia-based consumers. We have a $19.62 T-shirt, that with $6.99 standard shipping will arrive by 24th December if sent today. And an express shipping option for $12.50 that, well weirdly still only promises to delivery by 24th December, but we have 3 days to place that order. We assume that means it will likely arrive by 21st December, but it’s a little unclear. A bit of an opportunity for Redbubble to improve the UX there but adding actual delivery time into this form probably a little bit challenging technically. 

It was also at this point where we found the pricing section on Redbubble. On Spreadshirt, you add your artist margin in against each product. Pretty simple and it’s set as an absolute amount. $2, $4 or more per item. On Redbubble, it’s a separate section, and you set a % margin for each sale. This defaults to 20% which means on a T-shirt, we’d be making anywhere between $3.57 and $7.61 per T-shirt depending on the type.

So now, we’ve updated the home page and landing page to have both options (Spreadshirt and Redbubble) and noted where the products ship from to give potential shoppers an easier selection and expectation of delivery time and cost.

It’s still not perfect, but it’s better for shoppers than it was when we launched. We have a list of at least half a dozen other Print on Demand companies we’ll be looking at over the next few weeks.

Work on the insight more for T-shirt buying

We included some thoughts on our introvert and extrovert designs in the design notes section. However, we do think while we’ve captured the behaviours of introverts and extroverts in a quite insight driven way, we’ve got some more thinking to do on if this is enough to make people want to buy a T-shirt with this design on. There’s not a lot of searches on the words ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’ and we suspect those that do are probably not looking for T-shirts. So far, our most successful PPC keywords are “Christmas T-shirts” and “Christmas Tee Shirts”.

We do also wonder with the ‘introvert’ thing if true introverts would actually want to draw attention to their introversion by wearing a T-shirt. Maybe. Maybe not. We have some other ideas of design areas you’ll see in the next week or so to broaden the customer areas we try to cater for. There are clearly many other niches to target when it comes to e-commerce selling t-shirts.

Refine designs

We don’t think our first T-shirt designs will win any awards, but we never expected them too. It’s our first go at designing for this specific area. Nobody gets things right the first time. There’s quite a lot of text, we probably relied on that a little too much. Oo our next designs should be a little more refined visually. The ‘too much text’ has a couple of challenges – the pictures don’t render so well on the Spreadshirt shop when the design is too detailed. And when you put them into Facebook ads, you do get warnings from Facebook about having too much text in your advertising. This is not a good thing. We’re working on making our next set of designs a bit punchier. 

So to close off, lots of new things learned when it comes to e-commerce selling t-shirts. That’s the point when it comes to launching something new in e-commerce. And we’re experienced in setting up e-commerce stores. And still we got some things not right first time.

We are a new brand that has only done it’s first advertising in the last week. Nobody knows who we are or what we stand for. That’s OK for now, the T-shirt side of the business was always going to be a slow-burner. And it’s as much about establishing credentials for the consultancy side of the business which launches in the New Year, as it is about being a seller of T-shirts.

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