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Bottom Line Up Front: The key to increasing your selling power? Proving that your offerings are as valuable as you say they are. Sample web stores give you the evidence you need to excite more prospects, close more sales, & increase your average order value. Details inside.

The most effective sales tool has always been being able to show buyers what their purchase will look like once they’ve secured it. 

Five and ten years ago, that meant in-person sales presentations, with pitches that started with: “Imagine what this will look like; imagine what this will mean for…”Today, with all of the possibilities that have erupted in the digital arena, it means something different. 

It means that prospects can actually see, right there in front of them, the specific products they’re looking to buy. It means that customers can tweak and adjust in real-time, until they’re unequivocally convinced. And it means that your audience — the people your business is working so hard to sell to — no longer has to imagine.

Because you’re doing all of the hard work for them. 

And it’s that sentiment, that possibility, that makes sample web stores as persuasive as they are necessary. Let’s break down why.

InkSoft Customer Upstate Merch
InkSoft customer Upstate Merch promotes their Sample Store from their homepage.
Upstate Merch Sample Store powered by InkSoft

Sample Web Stores: The Breakdown

A sample web store is, simply put, a showcase of your capabilities when it comes to both product and service. The product that’s front and center is the custom apparel (and promotional products) your business sells, and the service it’s packaged inside of is a custom Online Store

Now, it’s highly effective as a selling tool for three primary reasons: 

  1. Product Specificity: Because your sample web store should include a wide range of your offerings, expertly curated to show off your diverse capabilities, it has the power to leave an impact on your audience — without you lifting a finger. They’ll be able to browse the selection, visualize the possibilities, and feel confident that you’re the right decorator for the job. But only if the products inside your sample store tell the right story.

    The key to a sample web store that highlights your team’s range while also speaking specifically to your target buyers is knowing your audience. Who are you attracting to the site? Based on what you know about your past and current customers, what are their needs? Which trends will excite them? Which premiums will they deem worth it?

    By filling your sample web store with the products you know your prospects will respond to, you’re giving them an understanding into your offerings while also providing them with a source of inspiration. And because decorators sell more than just t-shirts (remember: you sell solutions), that’ll help you come across as more than just a supplier. It’ll help you come across as a guide — with the expertise they need to hit, and surpass, their goals.
  2. Service Experience: As every English teacher you had in school told you, “Show — don’t tell.” It applies to writing creative stories and selling services just the same. By giving your audience a way to experience the e-commerce set-up you’re offering (for free!) for themselves, you’re allowing them to enter into the mindset of their end-consumers. And become convinced that this method of selling is the best — and most necessary — way for them to offer their custom products. 

    Beyond just getting a first-hand understanding of how the Online Store would function, you’re also mitigating the giant what if risk that every buyer faces — simply because you’re allowing them to trial the service before they buy the product. They’ve experienced the speed, ease-of-use, and quality for themselves. They’ve deemed the set-up useful, the seller (you) reliable, and the experience as a whole simple.

    If that’s not persuasive enough for you, then just imagine the time it’ll free up on your end: no more winding phone conversations about how easy the Online Store is to use or how effectively it can showcase custom products and graphics. Instead of waxing poetic about the benefits — and asking your audience to imagine them for themselves — you’re giving them a clear path to a physical reality. And earning your sales team back that pitching time as a result.
  3. Ease, Convenience, & Customization: The sample web store is great at showing off your product offerings and the quality of your e-commerce services — but it’s also excellent at conveying just how easy, convenient, and customizable working with your team is. Wait — what do we mean?

    It’s simple: by offering your prospects an effortless way to gain the insight they need to make informed decisions, you’re showing them two distinctly high-value things. First, that you respect their time and are willing to go the extra mile to make their lives easier. Second, that you have the resources and the capabilities to do it.

    Business deals aren’t just secured by the quality of the product or service being sold; they’re also secured by the connection between the buyer and seller. If your prospect can tell that you don’t really care about them (or their order) and are just looking to execute quickly and move on, then they won’t be inclined to trust you with the gig. But conversely, if they can tell that you prioritize your customers on an individual level, have the offerings to back that care up, and are eager to serve their needs (instead of just some vague objectives), then that’s a major differentiator.

    Think it’s crazy to surmise all of that from simply having a sample web store on your business’s page? Well, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — your digital presence tells a story. Having a run-of-the-mill site shows that you’re promoting your brand and your capabilities. But having a sample web page? That shows that you’re prioritizing your audience’s experience — so they don’t have to come to you for questions. Because you’ve already answered them.

So, with that value context in mind, sample web pages are clearly an effective — and highly persuasive — sales tool. Here’s how to leverage them in order to reach maximum selling power.

Threadbird does an amazing job of marketing and promoting their Sample Store
Threadbird Sample Store

Sample Web Store: The Implementation

The sample web store you showcase on your site is incredibly important, because it tells your audience who your brand — at its core — is. From the offerings to the graphics, the messaging to the banners and details, this is your chance to tell your shop’s story. 

So create it with care.

In terms of determining your sample store’s basic structure, you have two options:

  1. Use Your Branding: In order to convey the range (and customization power) of products you’re able to make — as well as what’s possible for the custom Online Store — you’re going to create mock-ups using your own brand’s identity components. That means all products, Online Store messaging, and Online Store graphics should be in-line with your shop’s branding, helping your prospects really visualize what’s possible with the printed products and the custom e-commerce set-up. (If you’re looking for an example, here’s a great one.)

    The good news? Creating your sample web store doesn’t have to be time-consuming, tedious, or frustrating. With InkSoft’s Rapid Product Creator, you can design mock-ups in minutes — and toss them into the sample Online Store that makes customizing as quick as it is impactful. The coloring, the graphics, the details — they can all be adjusted to guarantee your brand’s vivid style is coming across clearly. Because the clearer the style, the more assured your prospects will be that their brand identity will have the same effect.
  2. Use Your Customer’s Branding: If you’re looking to give your audience a real-world example of what’s possible, then using a sample store filled with components (name, logo, messaging) of a real customer’s identity is the way to go. Not only does this serve as a visually compelling case study — to prove that you can actually do what you say you can do — but it also serves as its own form of social proof. By demonstrating to prospects that Brand X trusted you with their order, and were satisfied enough to let you show it off, what you’re really saying is that you’re dependable. And you have the proof to back it up.

    Of course, before you start compiling your customer-based examples and designing a custom Online Store with their branding, it’s crucial that you ask them for permission. Specifically, written permission that includes the scope of where their branding components and product mock-ups will go, and how long they’ll be there for. Having this squared away before you take action ensures you don’t spend time getting things prepared only to run into copyright issues or trademark violations down the road.

    Pro Tip: Asking for permission is more successful when you frame the ask thoughtfully. Don’t make the conversation about you and your selling needs — make it about them and their project. “The order we worked on together was a dream project for us, and we’re so proud of the results. With your permission, we’d love to show those products, plus a few more mock-ups, off to help our network see what’s possible.” Be clear, concise, and genuine, and don’t forget to throw in the marketing angle: there’s some real brand exposure potential in it for them.

Whichever route you choose to go, the key is making your sample store easy-to-browse, visually appealing, and intentionally designed. That means that each of your mock-ups is there for a reason, that the customization of the store actually evokes a clear sense of brand, and that your audience is able to see — simply by scrolling — what makes your capabilities so special.

Here are some things to think about when designing your store:

  • Product Curation: It’s one thing to give your prospects a basic example of your most popular three t-shirts — it’s quite another to consider things like trends, printability, and inventory reliability when selecting your samples. Since this sample web store is serving as a pitch in itself, you should be conveying the same messages you’d be conveying to prospects you had on the phone. This style will be popular for consumers in your market this year. This type works best for this kind of printing. This blank is always in our inventory, so if you need a big order with a quick turnaround, it’s got you covered.

    The details matter, and the diversity of your curation will enable you to engage more prospects than a vaguer, more basic, and less exciting showcase will. So don’t be afraid to get specific — and don’t be afraid to go bold. Don’t limit yourself to t-shirts — and don’t be afraid to connect product options to each other, underscoring the popularity of bundles and kits. (But it’s also worth noting: going overboard and providing too many options can have the opposite of your desired effect and lead to choice paralysis. So while your curation should be diverse, it should also be relatively reined-in.)
  • Selling Insight: Like we said, this sample web store is essentially serving as your first pitch — so your audience should be able to understand, with clarity, exactly what their options are. And to truly understand their options, they need the right insight. Your insight. You’re the seasoned expert when it comes to decorated apparel and promo products, so your sample store should leave your audience believing it. How? Well, it’s all about the details.

    Banners that read “Staff Favorite,” “Most Popular,” or “Emerging Trend.” Categories organized by product type, audience type, or bundle potential (i.e. Work From Home Kits). Product pages that describe the benefits and uses of each item. Remember: this is your first shot to prove you’ve got the chops for the job. So articulate what you know, really sell the products, and you never know — you might just rack up your average order value before your prospect even hears you speak a word.
  • Customization Power: We’ve been humming the ‘show, don’t tell’ tune over and over again in this blog, but we’re not going to stop now — with InkSoft’s Online Designer, you can give your prospects their own taste of total customization power before they make any sort of commitment. By enabling the Online Designer in your sample web store, you’re opening the door for your audience to create their own product mock-ups (with logos and art content), or simply try out different fonts, design templates, and clip art. Not only does this capability differentiate you from the decorator down the street, but it also saves you time; when your prospect is ready to commit, they already know what they want — and have put it to the page for you.

    But remember: when you enable the Online Designer, you should make sure that all of the products displayed in your sample store are available as blanks. That way, when a prospect finds a product they want to see with their own artwork, they’re able to find it and design it problem-free.
  • Solution-First Mentality: Everything you decide to do with your sample web store should be tied back to the intention of providing your audience with a solution — not just a t-shirt or water bottle. From the features we mentioned above to ensuring you have a quote form enabled on the store to make pursuing next steps easy, the consistent focus should be on simplifying — and impressing.

    That could mean updating your Online Store as the seasons change, to stay on top of new trends. It could mean using store messaging to explain — in concise terms — what an order fulfillment program would mean for buyers. Or it could mean including your sample store in all pitches and marketing communications, in order to show exactly what it is you’ve been telling about. The point is: however you choose to design your store, and however you choose to promote it — making things easy, useful, and above-and-beyond insightful should be your priority. Always. 

Sample Web Stores: The Wrap Up

The power of having a sample web store on your main site has the potential to be immense. But in order to realize it, and in order to make designing and implementing that store actually worthwhile, you’ve got to promote it. 

And that means including it in your marketing efforts so your audience knows it’s there. 

What are some ways to do that?

  • Keep the sample store front and center on your home page, so all site visitors are driven to check it out.
  • Spotlight the store (or individual products within it) on your social media. 
  • Post a quick explainer about what the Online Designer makes possible for followers that want to design their own product. 
  • Send emails out when you update it with new products, trends, and bundle ideas, so your stagnant customers get reminded that you’re still here — and you’re still relevant. 
  • Train your sales team to make the sample store a fixture in their pitches/presentations.
  • Simply include the sample store, in its entirety, in every first contact with prospects. 

The more you spread awareness, the more people you’ll reach. And the more people you reach, the more sample store visitors you’ll have — and the more prospects you’ll convert into buyers.

It requires a little bit of effort up front, but the pay-off potential of sample web stores is huge. And the more care you take with its set-up, the more protiftability you’ll secure down the line. 

We’re huge proponents of giving your audience the creative, interactive, and authentic story of your offerings right off the bat. This sales tool makes that more than just possible. It makes it easy

If you want some inspiration before you get started on building your own, check out Upstate Merch — not only do they give their sample store a shout-out on their home page for optimal visibility, but they’ve also mastered the art of simple, visual, and effective product storytelling. In all the right ways. 

And if you don’t already have the power of InkSoft’s Online Stores platform behind you, now’s the time to join the party. It gives you the capabilities you need to compete — and actually stand out — in today’s e-commerce-driven world, and it makes enacting custom stores for your customers (or your own sample!) a breeze. Get set up now. 

Start Selling Online with InkSoft

InkSoft is the All-in-One E-Commerce Platform for Print, Promo, and Decorated Apparel Businesses. From order to delivery, InkSoft provides all the tools you need to sell custom branded merchandise so you can grow faster.

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