As long as you have constituents that like your merchandise, you’ll make sales. But if your campaign wants a flagship product, a viral moment, or an item so hot you can’t keep it on your (digital) shelves, you need to be strategic.
It’s not enough to just put a cool design on a t-shirt. At the same time, it’s not just a case of coming up with something new and fresh for your supporters. There are truly millions of product options out there. You can put your designs on literally anything, even a sweet potato.
Instead of trying to create best-selling items through quantity, think about the connection between your merch, your mission, and your supporters. Somewhere inside that Venn diagram lies the perfect combination of factors to help you identify your next best-seller.
What Makes an Item Best-Selling
Another campaign store’s best-selling product might not work as a top item for your store. What works for one audience and mission might fall flat for you. It’s not because the product is bad or your design is ugly. It all comes down to the connection between your merch, your mission, and your constituents.
Best-selling items all have three things: 1) a quality product with 2) a good design that 3) makes sense for your constituents.
Best-selling products need to make sense. Both for the issues you advocate for and for your constituents’ values and interests. A good example is drumsticks. Drumsticks are not a highly popular item in 99% of ecommerce stores. However, firefighters are known for their pipes and drum bands. A firefighters’ union might have quite the market for drumsticks in their ecommerce store, because it makes sense for their members. That doesn’t mean drumsticks make sense for your campaign.
Finding the intersection of your mission, your merch, and what your constituents want is the key to a best-selling product.
Four Types of Best-Selling Items
Giving you a list of the top-10 selling products would be easy, but then your store would be full of generic, mass-produced merchandise. That won’t serve your mission or your goals.
Instead, choose products thoughtfully and strategically to ensure your merch means something to the supporters who shop in your store. Here’s how:
1. Tried-and-True Items
T-shirts, tote bags, mugs, and baseball caps are all reliable products. None of these will flop if they are high-quality and feature a classic design. These products can be the stalwart of your store — consistently selling well enough to give you freedom and flexibility to change it up with other types of products on a seasonal or limited basis.
Overall, these are the top-selling merchandise items across the industry. You can use this list as a guide for what sells well, but be sure to tailor your inventory to your supporters’ interests for the best results.
2. Rapid Response Merchandise
Sometimes we say, “The moment makes the merch.” What we mean by that is capturing a viral moment and harnessing the idea for your merchandise. Like any viral social media craze, these lightning-in-a-bottle moments don’t have any predictability, so make a plan to be ready at any moment.
An excellent example of a rapid response best seller is the fly swatter. A fly swatter is unlikely to sell well in most ecommerce stores, but during the 2020 election cycle, we all remember the fly that landed (and got comfortable) on Mike Pence’s head during a debate.
Our team quickly collaborated with the DNC team, who was prepped and ready to jump on a viral moment when the opportunity presented itself. Before the debate was over, the fly swatter was in the store (and selling fast).
3. Seasonal and Timely Products
Rapid response requires your team to be ready and waiting to capture a moment. Other key moments are easier to plan around. Throughout the year, you can capture interest and ultimately purchases with seasonal and limited-run products.
For instance, June is the time to show extra support for your LGBTQ+ constituents by creating pride merchandise. There are also natural marketing moments you can take advantage of. For instance, the winter holiday season is an excellent time to sell knitted hats. Rather than jumping on a viral moment, these products can be planned out three or more months in advance to give you time to stock up and launch promotions.
These products don’t have to stay in your store year round. In fact, sunsetting seasonal products is a great way to create excitement around limited edition items, and avoid saddling yourself with inventory you can’t sell.
4. Merch That is the Moment
With rapid response products, the moment makes the merch. Other times, the merch is the moment.
For example, AOC recently found herself on the receiving end of a Twitter spat surrounding her merchandise. The item in question? A simple, innocuous hooded sweatshirt. It retailed for a higher price point than other, seemingly comparable sweatshirts. The reason? Her sweatshirt is ethically produced and manufactured by union workers in the USA.
A cheaper hoodie might exist, but it doesn’t connect to her mission. The attention certainly showed she walks the walk when it comes to her merch. Sometimes it’s the merch that sends the message to your supporters. It doesn’t have to be flashy; it just has to connect to your mission.
How to Create the Most Successful Product Mix
Having too many products can be a bad thing. Similar product categories can cannibalize each other, leaving you with unsold inventory. Faced with an endless scroll of similar products, supporters may end up leaving your store overwhelmed and empty-handed.
Instead of trying to land on a best-seller by stocking one of everything, approach your inventory with a strategy. Choosing the right product mix spanning multiple categories will ensure your store has something for everyone, without stocking everything under the sun. A merch partner can help you identify the right product mix and keep your team ready to capture any major moments.
Ready to crush your merch game with unique best-selling items? Get in touch.