In the early 2000s, launching a Company Store program for your client was a big undertaking. At the time, the majority of Promotional Products sales involved site and showroom visits and flipping through stacks of paper catalogs and filling out paper order forms. Online Company Stores were rare and saved for only the big players in the game.
To make building a Company Store worth it, end-users had to spend at least 100,000-300,000 dollars on promotional products every year, and it was common for distributors to put in a significant investment into their client’s inventory. Company Store programs were very much synonymous with inventory programs. Distributors were expected to buy, maintain, and store their client’s branded products. Not only did you have to invest in the inventory, but you also had to make sure your client embraced the store and encouraged employees to use it to move the product. Getting involved with Company Store programs involved taking a higher risk.
So what has changed?
Everything! The technology is continually evolving. We are spending more and more time online, so our expectations of how a website or online store looks and navigates are drastically higher. And, the promotional products industry has had to adapt to accommodate the changes in shopping trends. Let’s dive into each of these factors!
It goes without saying that in 18 years, technology has made HUGE advancements. It’s no longer as expensive and cumbersome as it once was to create an online store. With so many eCommerce platforms available both in and out of our industry, Distributors have more options than ever to start stores for their clients (pssst – head here to read about the differences between online promo and retail stores). Not only are there more options, but the barrier to entry is now non-existent. Your clients don’t need to spend 300,000 dollars on products a year to make building them an online store worth it. Even your clients who order a few products a couple of times a year can place their orders online using a Simple Store which takes just a few minutes to setup and is very cost effective. There’s now a store out there that will work for what your client needs and you can design and launch without writing a single line of code.
2) User Expectations
We spend A LOT of time connected to one device or another. Thanks to multitasking, we spend on average more than 12 hours per day (according to a recent study by eMarketer) absorbing media mainly through our desktops, mobile phones, televisions. It’s safe to say that with as much screen time we are putting in, our expectations of how we shop online – including how we shop for promotional products – are drastically higher. Even though shopping for retail products and shopping for promo products are entirely different, the experience has to be similar. The store needs to be set up so the shopper can easily navigate to their products.
3) Our Industry
With technology and user expectations being the most significant driver in the evolution of online Company Stores, our industry has been able to make tremendous advancements in how we communicate with each other and with end users as well. You can create online estimates, proposals, and presentations for your clients and have them make comments, edits, and approvals in real time and immediately flow into order processing – exponentially speeding up the traditional sales process. Suppliers have done a great job adapting with lower minimums, faster turnarounds, supporting non-inventory programs, and offering in-house decorating and drop shipping.
As online stores continue to evolve in the Promotional Products industry, distributors who embrace the technology have the opportunity to provide better service and build a closer relationship with their clients.