Here are six considerations we think every decorator should keep an eye on in 2020.

We’re getting ready to say good-bye to 2019, and hello to 2020. And with every new year comes New Year’s resolutions and a new outlook on your life and especially your business. 

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to try out new ideas to grow your decorated-apparel shop—and step out of your comfort zone to try something completely new. Here are six considerations we think every decorator should keep an eye on in 2020.

1. Capitalize on ‘Themed’ Online Stores

Industry studies show that promotional products and logoed wearables are still the number one way companies promote their businesses. Despite cost increases due to tariffs, they remain extremely cost-effective. Consumers hang on to promotional products for up to a year, and even share them with others when they’re done using them—scoring lots and lots of impressions. That T-shirt you made for a company’s Turkey Trot last Thanksgiving? It’s become participants’ favorite weekend tee.

How to Do It: In 2020, Tom Rauen, CEO of Dubuque, IA-based Envision Tees, wants to maximize the lifetime value of his shop’s existing customers and win prospects with a variety of themed online stores. “We plan to add design options throughout the year of ‘limited edition’ T-shirts for St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Oktoberfest, Christmas, school rivalries and more,” he says. “This trend has been growing in professional sports and big corporate, so we plan to bring that down to the local and regional level.”

To tap in, add themed and seasonal products and designs to your online stores. Come up with limited time offers for holidays or special events. You can approach local little league teams or dance troupes, schools, and local businesses that use year-round e-stores.

2. Partner With Micro-Influencers to Spread the Word

More decorators like Chris Kozak are looking to micro-influencers to help build brand awareness and engagement. “There are so many people out there with a broad reach who are dying to work with a brand to gain some legitimacy in the influencer world,” says Kozak, Chief Marketing Officer at Ontario, Canada-based T-Shirt Elephant. “Most of these micro-influencers who have lots of engagement and influence with their audience will happily accept in-kind trade for shoutouts or social links, which in turn will help amplify your brand.”

How to Do It: When you begin looking for an influencer to partner with, have a crystal clear vision on your target audience, and be sure that your chosen influencer’s audience and mission are in line with yours. Once you find an influencer who seems like the perfect fit, create a contract and discuss compensation: Will they get discounts, money or free items? Make sure you have a concrete strategic plan in place with target metrics and expectations. You can test the waters and have them run a small campaign to see if they’re a good fit for your company. 

If the campaign is successful and everyone’s happy, put your influencer on retainer for a more expansive collaboration. Another great idea? Let the influencer take over one or more of your social media channels for a week, or ask them to write a guest blog for your website.

3. Capitalize on an Election Year

2020 is an election year, and not just any election—a high-stakes presidential election with a global impact. Political advertising spending for the 2020 race is expected to reach $9.9 billion next year in America, up 57% from the last presidential election in 2016. And when it comes to political merchandise, nothing’s off the table: branded toilet paper, Chia head planters and even Pez candy.

How to Do It: If your webstore has never stepped into the political promo products arena, 2020 is a great time to start. Offer imprintable products for both sides of the aisle or even use your brand to make a political statement. And it doesn’t have to be limited to the national election. As they say, “All politics are local.” So, why not capitalize on that?

Local and state elections take place every election cycle, so the door is always open for political merchandise to be available in your webstore. Approach local candidates or the local office for every political party, and offer your services.

4. Be Prepared for Price Fluctuations

The United States and China have been embroiled in a trade war for more than a year, with both sides tacking more tariffs on imported goods. Since the majority of promo items that are sold stateside are manufactured in China, this has serious and heavy repercussions on the promotional products industry. One example: being unable to set prices for a printed catalog, with many companies opting for online catalogs only, which are easily changeable.

This year alone, 25% tariffs on $250 billion of imported Chinese goods like bags, drinkware, accessories, and technology items, made prices increase for the industry. 2020 could see more tariffs, which will lead to even more price increases on additional items, so now is a good time to get your business ready for sticker shock.

How to Do It: When it comes to suppliers, maybe it’s time to think outside the China-sourcing box. Many companies are exploring sourcing options in countries beyond China, such as Turkey, India, Taiwan,  Korea and Mexico. While others are using the high cost of imported goods to go patriotic and adopt a “Made in the USA” message for their webstores by only buying American-made products and entering into partnerships with small manufacturers here in the U.S.

5. Tap Into ‘Pop Culture’ Appeal

Reed Stumpf, Inside Sales Representative at Envision, advises adding designs and apparel styles with a broader, retail appeal to your webstores in the new year. “If we can create a store that sells items with designs that will reach more markets, we’ll find new business outside of our region and our typical customers,” he says.

Kozak is also on board with this trend and believes specialty inks—with their relatively low cost, but high perceived value—add to that appeal. “Specialty inks for screen printing like metallics and glow in the dark will be huge in 2020,” he says. “We’re also seeing that fluorescent colors for garments will be big.”

How to Do It: To keep your online store vital and relevant, stock the merchandise that your customers want the most. Consumers always look for the latest trends and the next big thing, so capitalize on that for your business. Stay on top of retail, fashion and pop culture trends by looking at what people are wearing and doing—and what brands are killing it. For example, reusable insulated drinkware is trending as a hot item. These cups can be personalized with names and photos for sports teams or special events. Maybe a partnership with a nationally known company would be a good fit for your shop, and a win-win for everyone.

6. Expand Into Video Marketing

Kozak sees decorators expanding their social marketing reach beyond Facebook and Instagram posts, and into video marketing. “YouTube is a great alternative for posting content that your customers want,” he says. “If you aren’t making video content, then you should really consider doing it. It really isn’t as hard as it looks. Videos are a great way to pass information to your clients and to let your clients interact with your brand on a different level.”

How to Do It: YouTube has over 1 billion viewers. Why? Because people want to see the action, not read about it. Many companies don’t utilize video to its fullest extent, and some are afraid to even try. But, using video for marketing might just be one of the easiest-to-use tools in your marketing toolbox. The videos don’t have to be huge productions made by a video production company that takes a long time to produce and cost you an arm and a let. In fact, the opposite is true.

Videos that show the “real” parts of your company are the ones that will be most effective for your bottom line. Demonstration videos are easy to start with. Show off your equipment and decorating capabilities. Make quick “How-To” videos about your business: “How to order a custom-designed T-shirt from our webstore.” You can incorporate humor into these videos if that is true to your brand image. Seek out video testimonials from customers on how great your products are. Highlight employees through a quick video Q&A. The sky’s the limit when it comes to video, so think outside the box!

Get Ready for 2020

Whether you try one or all of these ideas in the new year, the key is to try something new and not just rest on the laurels of what has been the status quo for your business. Growth only comes with evolution, so use the turn of the new calendar as the impetus to take your business in a new direction in 2020. 

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