Setting up a merch shop can be a monumental task. Keeping it going, however, takes intentional, deliberate, and strategic work.
Even with a big splashy opening, it’s easy for merch shops to quickly go dormant as the busy creators move on to other projects and opportunities. “They can die on the vine,” says Caleb Dempsey of Hello Streamer.It's easy for #merch shops to go dormant as busy creators move onto other projects. They can die on the vine, says Caleb Dempsey of @HelloStreamer_. #ContentBusiness #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet
But, with the right mindset and promotions, merch stores can turn into another opportunity to earn revenue and get your fans excited about your brand. We checked in with Caleb and Damian Skoczylas at ICON talent agency for tips on how to promote your merch store.
1. Get your fans’ opinions
The promotion of your shop begins before you open its virtual doors. In our earlier Full Tilt about how to set up a merch store, Caleb recommended polling or casually asking your fans in a post or during a chat for what kind of merch they’d like to see.
Those early questions also get the buzz going among your followers about a new opportunity to support you. Then, keep asking. Their response might surprise you. Maybe there’s an emote that you never considered merch-worthy, but your fans would love to get on boxer shorts. “If I was a creator coming up in this space, I would really want the feedback from my community,” Caleb says.
2. Build buzz for the launch
Hype the grand opening before the big release day. Damian worked with a gamer who did a photo shoot to market the merch ahead of the drop date.
Another tactic: Select fans for exclusive preview access, so they share the news. Twitch streamer Leesh Capeesh, who opened her merch shop last year with Caleb’s help, let her moderators shop her collection early, so they could take pictures of themselves wearing her T-shirts and sweatshirts in advance and help promote it. (You can ask Leesh Capeesh about it and more at CEX: Creator Economy Expo.)#Merch Tip: Pick select fans to get exclusive preview access and they'll likely promote what they buy. @Leesh_Capeesh let her moderators shop her collection early. #ContentEntrepreneur Click To Tweet
3. Make a grand merch launch
On launch day, plan a big rollout on your platforms. Consider a community stream or subathon on Twitch, Caleb suggests. Set aside some money for giveaways. Just take the time to hype it up.
“The launch of your merch or the launch of the new drop of your merch is an event,” Caleb says. “People are buying it to celebrate you and the place you created for your community … so lean into that. It doesn’t need to be just a tweet; it needs to be an event. So, make it an event.”
Caveat: When planning giveaways, be careful that you don’t break any laws. For example, allowing giveaway entries only from people who have purchased something is likely prohibited. The National Law Review wades into the rules regarding contests, giveaways, and sweepstakes on social media.
4. Get your sponsors involved
If you have partnerships with brands, don’t shy away from asking them for help during the merch drop.
“This is the perfect time to say, ‘Hey, I’m having a huge event. My community is going to be there in an abnormal amount because this is a big thing happening. Do you want to sponsor this?’” Caleb suggests. “Make it an opportunity for a brand deal.”
Or ask them to participate in a smaller way by letting you give away some of their products in your community.
5. Don’t make them search
After the announcement activity, it can be easy for merch shops to drop off your followers’ radar. Be intentional about making it visible. Include a link in your link-in-bio, give it a prominent position on your website, embed links on your platforms, and pin a tweet about it.
6. Limit access
Take a page from retail companies and fall back on some of their sales tactics, including limited-time deals or a limited number of T-shirts in a unique design.
Ensure your merch store vending partner keeps you posted about available quantities in real time. That way, during a stream or in a post, you can promote a special sale or trigger a flurry of purchases on a low-quantity product.
“Tell people things are going to go away or they’re limited, and people are more apt to act,” Damian says.Tell people merchandise is going away or limited, and they're more apt to buy it, says @Damian_ICON. #CreatorEconomy #ContentEntrepreneur Click To Tweet
7. Offer sales, celebrate milestones
Retail stores plan promotions and sales around holidays, anniversaries, and other gift-giving occasions. Do the same for your merch store. “If you watch retail sales – when everybody is sending emails about sales – that’s when you want to drop a new line of merch or drop some limited items,” Caleb says.
Throughout the year, also capitalize your brand’s milestones with special items or deals. For example, as you approach 1.5K new subs or pass the 10K-follower mark on YouTube, consider adding some new items in your merch store to celebrate with your community.
“You’re really going to want to keep reminding people that the merch exists,” Caleb advises.
8. Rep your merch
You can talk to promote, but you can do something else: Wear it in your photos and videos and in public. “If you’re not wearing your merch, why would somebody else?” Caleb asks.
Donning your branded hat is an easy way to remind viewers that you have merch. Leesh Capeesh, for example, repurposes content from her Twitch stream to her popular TikTok channel with her wearing her T-shirts or sweatshirts. “Even if she’s not talking about it, people are still seeing that on her TikTok page,” Caleb says.Wear your merch in your videos and images to promote it indirectly, says Caleb Dempsey of @HelloStreamer_. #ContentBusiness #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet
9. Don’t worry about repetition
Sure, you don’t want every other minute of your stream to include a hard sell on your merch. But remember, just because you’ve said it once — or 20 times — doesn’t mean every fan has heard about your merch store.
“It feels like you’re always repeating yourself as a creator, I’m sure, but people don’t know what they don’t know,” Caleb says. “And your community is always growing, and you’re always going to have somebody show up one night, but not another night … There’s always going to be someone there that doesn’t know.”
In other words, just keep hustling.
Ask Leesh Capeesh about her merch marketing and more IRL at CEX: Creator Economy Expo May 2-4 in Phoenix.
About the author
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall is a longtime journalist, freelance writer, and founding editor of two popular parenting websites in North Carolina. She frequently writes about parenting, aging, education, business management, and interesting people doing remarkable things.