Modern Insights For Successful Webstores

December 6, 2023

This story begins with an end user. Your end user.

You’ve spent years working hard to earn their business and have enjoyed their steady stream of orders like a comfortably warm blanket. Things are great — no need to change a thing, right? Well, not quite. Something has changed.

They’ve just contacted you about a new company in town. This new player walked in with a different way of doing business. Instead of a handwritten order form, they have a webstore already built. Instead of calls and emails back and forth, the workflow is smooth and more automatic. You’ve been caught off guard, yanked out from underneath your long-standing warm blanket. What should you do now?!

First off, don’t panic. Let’s review some history.

This story has been playing out for years now. In fact, the concept of webstores is not new. One of the first consumer shopping experiences made its appearance on the web as an online bookstore in 1992 (spoiler alert: it wasn’t Amazon), and webstores have been an active part of our industry for well over 25 years.

Inventory ManagementAs with all things website-related, the earliest efforts took coding and a lot of time and energy to develop, so the ROI had to really be strong enough to warrant all of that for an end user’s program. Alas things were built and the nature of supporting the expected speed and efficiency of a webstore began to create a lot of commitment to inventory. This process worked, but also required a lot of risky investment in decorated goods and the management of back-filling items as they would sell out.

As websites and webstore systems rapidly improved into being more template-based,  our industry began to utilize this model more and more. Now you could pay a nominal fee to build webstores quickly and efficiently for any circumstance that warranted. In fact, one of the best features that helped to accelerate this movement was the concept of a system enabling the user to clone a website. Quick cloning of an existing store you built could help drive sales reps to focus on niche industries or customer bases. Put a noteworthy time investment into your first store, but then clone and edit for other similar end users. It can become quite a snowball-like experience.

Now let’s get into how you are going to win your end user back.

The good news is that Business is Personal, so some slick newcomer with a fancy webstore might have beat you to concept but will not be able to replace all of the history, customer service and goodwill you’ve established with your client. You can begin your approach by scheduling a meeting to talk through this concept and establish some of the key details needed. Anyone can thoughtlessly throw a webstore together, but you are going to start with a conversation to ensure all parties’ needs are met and the process expectations are understood.

Collaborate With Your CustomerMost of the heavy lifting with webstores has more to do with the initial setup factors. These are key details to talk over with the customer and from those insights develop a store that meets the aesthetics as well as structure they are expecting.

  • Overall look and feel
  • Product selection (well-stocked limited menu)
  • Color options
  • Size range
  • Pricing
  • Communication flow for orders
  • Timeline of orders from start to finish

Once you have those details, it’s time to find a webstore model that works. These days there are three primary approaches to webstores:

  1. Inventory – Maintaining inventory of all the products in a webstore is the longest-running method but entails the highest risk. These often require the need of a Warehouse Management System (WMS). Yes, you can decorate in bulk and stock decorated items, enabling quick pick-pack-ship service, but with logos changing and end users wanting more flexibility, this option is slowly going away.
  2. Pop Up – One of the primary alternatives to an inventory-based store has been the Pop Up concept. This is based around sharing that a webstore will be open for a limited designated time, to try and collect all orders for bulk decoration and fulfillment. Lately these have been on a steady growth trajectory with systems such as OMG, Chipply and others promoting this concept, based on their team sports experience.
  3. Decorate On Demand (DOD) – The missing link for a concept long desired in the space of no minimum webstores, has been the technology to make it all work cost efficiently. You can have small order equipment and production setup. You can easily setup webstores and promote no minimum orders and direct delivery, but you need technology to connect the dots, automate the workflow process and ensure it all works successfully. Thankfully Fulfill Engine, E1OD and CPS360 are part of a growing trend that empowers decorators to enable and offer on-demand.

With so many available, you want to be mindful of some key differentiators to help narrow down options. There are systems for all models, with some lower cost options providing a quick and simple solution but these might not provide better resources where it matters. Other more advanced systems can involve features such as payroll deduction, point-based payments and better inventory management.

Managing inventory became a critical need during the pandemic when a heavy focus was trying to avoid selling product that was out of stock. Now there are multiple systems that rely upon a solid integration with suppliers to help. The most popular method enables the user (that’s you) the ability to set a threshold for stock. If an item shows as below this amount, it will disable an end user from being able to purchase it.

So, nothing to fear, you are now equipped with the knowledge around the power of webstores, and more importantly the initial questions and conversation to have for setting things up successfully. I promise once you begin this journey, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to get here.

The modern era has made end users more aware of advancements in technology and workflow process. Shrinking are the days of having to force your client to adapt to your limitations and growing are companies that deliver a better webstore experience. If you’re struggling to find your way on this topic, please reach out to our team: