Online company stores: the ultimate guide

Your employees are your greatest asset. So how can you reward them and give them the tools necessary to succeed in their roles—all in a way that’s scalable and headache-free? Give them access to high-quality, on-trend branded swag via an online company store.

With an online company store, employees, sales reps, (and potentially even customers) have the opportunity to easily request swag whenever they need or want. Let’s dive deeper into what an online company store is and how you can use it to your advantage.

What is an online company store?

An online company store serves as a place for employees and customers to easily request branded apparel and promotional products. It can be a valuable asset to your organization, and not just because merchandise is easy to access; it also eliminates the need for outdated practices like managing tedious spreadsheets and relying on order forms.

mulesoft's online company store

What are the benefits of an online company store?

Online company stores do more than just streamline operations, though. There are many benefits:

  • Easy management: Unlike traditional e-commerce stores, online company stores can be a breeze to manage, especially if you use a swag management platform. A swag management platform can handle inventory, requests, and shipping so you can devote your time and energy elsewhere.
  • Encourages employee engagement: Online company stores for employees often motivate internal teams to do their best work. For instance, when sales reps or managers have branded swag to recruit customers or to reward fellow team members—they’re more likely to feel supported and engaged.
  • Works for scaling businesses: Whether you’re a SaaS company or an accounting firm, a start-up or a Fortune 500 company, you’ll find value in a company swag store. You don’t need to have a certain number of customers or employees or service a particular market in order to make your branded swag available online.
  • Flexibility/convenience for employees: With an online company store, employees can order items whenever they’d like. They’ll find it easy and convenient to obtain branded swag.
  • Promotes brand consistency: An online company store can help you ensure the look, feel, and tone of your brand is consistent. Brand consistency is key to building trust and credibility with customers.
  • No need to store inventory on-site: Don’t have a lot of extra office space for inventory? No problem. In many cases, an online company store, coupled with the right swag management platform, eliminates the need to house and manage inventory on-site.
  • Better control over spending: Without a designated list of swag to order from, it can get expensive to order products and distribute them to employees and customers. One-off orders aren’t efficient, and ordering in bulk can leave you with piles of un-utilized swag. An online company store provides more control over spending and prevents over-ordering of swag, saving money.

Should you charge employees?

One of the first things to consider when setting up an online company store is whether or not you’ll require employees to pay for whatever merchandise is available.

While it’s certainly possible to set up an online store to accept payments, it may not be the best idea. Generally speaking, no matter how much employees love their job, the chances of them using their own money to pay full price for swag with the company logo printed on it are slim. Worse, asking them to pay for company merchandise can leave a bad taste in their mouths.

In addition, there are many situations where charging employees for merchandise simply doesn’t make sense. For example, a sales representative might need some swag to use during an upcoming trade show. Requiring them to pay for it upfront—even if you’ll reimburse them for it later—just adds another step to their job and creates more hassle.

Lastly, charging can add a great deal of complexity and overhead to the swag management process. You’ll have to deal with things like taxes, third-party payments, and refunds.

However, some companies—particularly those whose employees are passionate about the brand—may decide to charge employees for merchandise. In these cases, it’s possible to set up the online company store to accept a variety of payment methods. These may include credit cards, online money transfer services like PayPal or Venmo, or even points or credit from an employee rewards program.

The key features of an online company store

Once you decide whether or not to charge employees and include various payment methods, you’ll need to think about the other features your company swag store should include. While every company’s store is different and caters to their specific needs, there are certain characteristics every store needs in order to operate successfully.

Easy-to-browse product catalogue

Employees and other users don’t want to spend hours looking for what they need. Wasting time hunting down swag is frustrating and discourages them from using your online store. So ensure they’re able to find products quickly and easily via an intuitive categorization system and search function.

Ability to easily create kits

A kit is a powerful tool for onboarding new customers and employees. Just a few, thoughtful, quality items not only introduces them to your brand but makes them feel welcomed and valued. With an online store, it’ll be easy and convenient for your team to create kits and distribute them to the right people.

Internal payment, billing and procurement integration

Just because you might not charge employees for swag doesn’t mean you can ignore billing and payment functions altogether. If employees don’t pay for swag, that usually means their departments are handling the bill.

Not only should team members be able to charge their orders against different internal request orders (PO), your online store should make clear how those POs are impacting a department’s budget. What does the swag budget for their department look like overall? How much has each employee spent on company merchandise?

Additionally, your online company store should integrate with popular accounting, spend management, punchout, and procurement platforms. That way, workers have access to relevant data without having to leave your store’s site. Plus, your accounts payable team can easily keep track of who is spending what.

Data and analytics capabilities

Data and analytics are vital to any company swag store. They provide opportunities to quickly and easily track inventory, determine which items are popular, and more. You can use those insights to make informed business decisions that save both time and money.

The swag!

sleek branded swag water bottle

Not all swag is created equal. If you want your swag to grow business and increase revenue, don’t overlook the importance of selecting high-quality, highly useful swag. To make sure the items in your online store leave a lasting impression with recipients, they need to represent your brand and be quality, practical items that people can and will use for a long time.

So what kind of swag should you offer in your online company store? The possibilities are endless, but here are some examples to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Quality wearables: Sweaters, hats, polo shirts, and shoes.
  • Health/wellness/fitness: Shaker bottles, portable pillboxes, and yoga mats.
  • Tech: Headphones, wireless chargers, and Bluetooth speakers.
  • Eco-friendly items: Reusable water bottles, straws, grocery bags, and coffee cups.
  • Drinkware: Wine glasses, mugs, tumblers, and shot glasses.

How does it work for the users?

Now that you understand the key features of an online company store, it’s time to focus on who you want your users to be and how the store will work for them.

To figure this out, think about your main goals, and keep in mind that there are settings that allow only certain users to view specific sections of the site. For instance, if you’re mainly looking to reward employees for their hard work, it may make sense to open the online store up to all of them.

But maybe you’d like to create a store to attract new leads at trade shows and conferences. In that case, you may want to limit access to sales representatives or others who frequently attend corporate events.

On the other hand, your brand could be popular enough that the public might be interested in buying some swag with your logo on it. In that case, opening up access to users beyond your employees is a possibility, too.

Whatever goals you have in mind, access doesn’t have to be reserved for just one group of users. Remember that you can create your store so that any or all of these groups can find the swag they need and want.

How to create an online company store

example of a type of company store

Once you decide to create a company swag store, there are certain necessary steps to take to ensure its success. Let’s take a closer look at what they are.

1. Figure out what functions your online store will serve

Take the time to think about the store’s purpose. Maybe you want to give sales reps and customer success team easy access to branded merchandise for potential and current customers. Or perhaps you wish to incentivize employees with points they can use at the store. The nature of your business, as well as your unique goals, can help you determine the functions of your online store.

2. Source swag and products that represent your brand

Be strategic about the swag you feature in the store. Let’s say your company’s target audience is software developers. You’ll want to ensure your swag caters to that audience and their interests. An online store that offers a t-shirt with a clever slogan makes a lot more sense than one that features, say, a dated piece of tech swag like a USB drive. New Relic leveraged their data nerd t-shirts in this way very effectively to drive more trial signups for their product.

3. Hammer out the design

A professional, simple design is important for an online store. If in-house services aren’t available, a contract web designer can develop some concepts on your behalf. If you don’t want to invest in web design, opt for a third-party platform which allows you to easily drop in your text and logo.

Whatever you do, ensure a consistent, continuous message throughout. Your design should adhere to your brand guidelines and help employees and/or customers connect to your company.

4. Create a swag inventory

Keeping track of your online store’s inventory is a must. This way, you’ll know what you have, what you don’t have, and when you need to order more of a specific item. Ideally, your store will feature an online portal where you can manage your inventory in real time and understand swag usage and spend.

5. Build your site

When it comes time to build your site, you can utilize in-house technical talent to help you out. If you don’t have an IT team or prefer they focus on other tasks, partner with a third-party platform. They can help you with the technical building process and take on the burden for you and your team.

6. Test your store’s functionality and UX

Before you launch your company swag store, test it out. Make sure it works well on various devices and fix any glitches you may find. You don’t want the store to go live and later find out it’s slow to load or glitchy on certain browsers or mobile devices.

7. Launch!

Now comes the fun part! Launch your store and share it with all employees and/or customers that will have access to it. Highlight the key benefits and exciting features. Share the goals you have for the store and rules for usage, so that everyone is on the same page.

Finding the right swag for your online company store

A company swag store can revolutionize the way you do business. If implemented properly, making quality, on-trend items available at the click of a button does wonders for lead gen, employee retention, and revenue growth.

But managing that quality, on-trend swag yourself—from sourcing it to finding a place to store it and tracking inventory—can be challenging to say the least. To turn your vision of the perfect store into a reality, try Printfection.

Our powerful swag management platform eliminates the hassle of keeping track of inventory, shipping items to the right place, and building a strategic swag plan. Contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation demo today.

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