Today, it wouldn’t be a surprise to have an end user require a custom decorated product delivered within two to three days – something that would have been an exception to the rule a decade ago. The evolving norm of consumer behavior has driven us further toward an on-demand expectation, requiring a blend of product inventory, individual print capabilities and speed to market. The ultimate question for every business is to what extent do you pursue making this an internal task or do you partner with a third party to execute delivery.
A company like Apple has made a career of spending millions to develop products that consumers didn’t realize they needed. Their success has come from uncovering the greatest user experience and solving an unrealized need. Unlike the phone industry, our customers are not willing to wait months for their products. Consumers today are driven by experience – from the fit and feel of their garment to the customer service when managing orders and delivery speed for an “I need it tomorrow” expectation. A great way to meet these needs is to curate a good-better-best collection in each category you choose to offer (hats, sweatshirts, fashion shirts, etc). Bonus points for choosing styles that have a supply chain with deep inventory and that decorate well using the equipment you have!
What to stock?
One of the greatest challenges anyone can undertake is to understand the needs of the general consumer prior to their purchase. Taking the product offering and converting it to an on-hand inventory is best compared to the magic eight ball when considering the variations involved with style, color and size. Some may keep one to two days of expected sales on high volume SKUs and then rely on a strong supply chain to support the variability of consumer buying.
It’ll be ready in an hour, right?
Now that the product is chosen, how does a business make the decoration “magic” happen? Don’t customers usually compare decoration to a magician making a rabbit magically appear? Viola! If only it were that simple. For speed to market, many businesses have utilized direct-to-garment printing, heat transfers and embroidery. What’s “new” to the game is the digital squeegee that is helping keep screen printing stay a part of the conversation, especially in today’s environment with t-shirt fundraising efforts.
We don’t do that here!
What if you don’t have a digital squeegee, direct-to-garment printer or even a heat press machine? This is where contract decorators that focus on POD (print on demand) come in. Outsourcing is great when you’re trying to decide if an investment in new equipment is necessary or if you would rather not stress your facility for quick-turn orders. You may find that creating a dedicated website to handle these inquires and customers makes sense. There are a lot of resources available when trying to find partners for decoration, starting with your equipment reps, industry experts and even suppliers who offer dedicated teams who understand decoration.
Whether you outsource a solution or purchase new equipment to service this growing trend, it is not disappearing and has only grown stronger with current events. The growth of stay at home employees and virtual meetings is only fast tracking the industry in the direction of on-demand decorated products. Take the time now to be inquisitive and establish those relationships in the industry. May your inner geek be with you!