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T-Shirt shop learnings part 2

Woman standing in front of a river wearing a black round neck T-shirt with a This Mum Loves design

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Why read this? : We share more T-shirt shop learnings from our e-Commerce experiments. Learn how simplifying makes designs stronger. We also share design shortcuts, outsourcing options and our Facebook advertising experience. Read this to learn from our most recent T-shirt shop learnings.

We switched our focus for the New Year to work on the coaching and consulting part of our business.

But we’ve continued to work on the T-shirt Print on Demand side of the business in the background too.

It’s not a category we knew well before we started. But it’s a great place to try out different marketing, creative and e-Commerce skills.

Here are a few T-shirt shop learnings since we last wrote on the subject.

Woman standing in front of a river wearing a black round neck T-shirt with a This Mum Loves design

Designs

We’ve now created 13 unique T-shirt designs. With an extra 4 designs which are updates to their original design, that’s 17 designs in total. Of those, we’ve tested (Facebook) advertising on 7 designs so far.

When we wrote about our T-shirt shop learnings after week one, we shared our thinking that our first designs had too much detail.

In particular, the Christmas Introvert and Extrovert T-shirts both had some logical thinking behind them, based on insights.

But they were too complicated to work on a T-shirt.

If you count each box as image, text and clock, that’s 3 design elements per box, times 16 boxes.

So 48 design elements at least. Plus the lines and the headline, so over 50 elements on the design.

Too many.

Woman wearing a green T-shirt with The Introverts Guide to Christmas Day, with 16 different activities from 6am to 9pm

Simplifying future designs

So we said, we’d focus on simplifying future designs.

However, it’s easier to give advice than follow it. If we look at the designs we’ve created since then, we have done a better job of using fewer words. Bigger fonts. We’ve considered the colours of the fonts and T-shirts more. We’ve looked at how different colours work together.

But, from a design point of view, there’s still much room to improve.

Let’s use our This Mum Loves T-shirt as an example. The insight was around maternal pride. We used a phrase we hear in parenting groups and forums a lot. “Love you to the moon and back”.

So far, so good. 

But if you look at the design, there are still 10 design elements. 10! Less than the 50 of before, but still. Remember, we said we’d simplify future designs.

Woman wearing a black V neck T-shirt with a simple This mums loves design on it

10 design elements is not simple

Here are the 10 design elements in this design starting from the top left :-

  1. The vector graphic cut out of the mum. 
  2. This written vertically. We did at least limit ourselves to 2 fonts this time – Phosphate and Rockwell. So, some simplifying.
  3. Mum – Fine. Good stand-out as an important part of the message.
  4. Loves Her Kids – The font here is ‘cut out’ of the rectangle. So when it’s printed, the text is transparent, so looks a different colour depending on the T-shirt colour. A common technique in T-shirt design.
  5. Heart – Another vector graphic to symbolise ‘love’, and to get away from all text. But, was it really needed?
  6. To the – Needed to complete the sentence on the final word.
  7. Moon (symbol) – Another vector graphic to symbolise, well, the moon, because …
  8. Moon (words) – maybe having the word ‘moon’ in big bold letters won’t be clear enough? (we’re kidding).
  9. And back – Finishing off the sentence. It should stop here, but …
  10. Even when they break stuff – … we wanted to add a humorous touch but had to squeeze in another 5 words to do so.

Learn from what doesn't work as well as what does

You might wonder why we’re sharing the learnings from our T-shirt design experience.

Well, we believe there’s as much to learn from what doesn’t work as what does work.

You learn from your marketing mistakes as much as you learn from your marketing successes. 

It’s all about experimenting when you start in a new category. You have to try things out.

This design only took us a couple of hours to create.

Wooden scrabble tiles that spell the words Learn From Failure

But we also got to practice 3 or 4 different graphic design techniques in Photoshop and Illustrator. Next time, we’ll be quicker at using those tools. So as well as getting a design, it was also a mini-training session.

However, we have set ourselves a challenge to take 3 of our existing ‘too complicated’ designs and re-do / re-launch them with only 3 design elements.

We’ll let you know how that goes.

T-shirt design shortcuts

Learning a new category and new skills takes time. Not everyone has the patience. So, we looked at a few shortcuts. And there’s some possible T-shirt shop learnings there too. 

T-shirt bundles

There are designers selling bundles of T-shirt designs you can edit and adapt. For example, we see this offer from tshirtbundles.com pop up regularly on our Facebook feed. 1,000 designs at US$70.

That’s good value at $0.07 per design. But think about how they make money selling at that price. 

They won’t just be selling those designs to you. Anyone else can also buy those designs. You won’t stand out. And standing out is important in all markets, but especially this one. (See our competitive advantage article for more on why your brand needs to stand out). 

You also still have to edit these designs to work with your brand identity. You still have to apply some creative thinking to make them uniquely work for you. And you still need graphic design tools – Adobe or Affinity for example – to edit the designs. 

T-shirt freelancers

T-shirt designs also come up regularly on freelance sites. We covered a similar theme in our recent blog on the value of writing. But T-shirt designer rates seem to be even more cut-throat.

Let’s look at the T-shirt design options on freelance site fiverr, for example. 

You can pick up a single design for between $7 and $35. Rates go up the more revisions you ask for. Even the more established designers only seem to be charging $60 – $80 per design.

Screengrab from Fiverr website showing results from search on "T-shirt design"

Looking at that cost, and say a $5 profit per T-Shirt, you’d have to wonder whether they could design something good enough to sell the 12 – 16 T-shirts you’d need just to break even. 

T-shirt professional designers

And finally, on design, you could go the more professional designer route. We found this article early on when looking at tips on designing T-shirts.

It’s a decent read. 

But this site also provides links if you want to hire high-end designers. Their rates will be more expensive than fiverr. But obviously, the quality of the design will be better.

Some of the designs here are from people who’ve been designing T-shirts for a long time. We think our T-shirt designs have a way to go to get near the quality of those designs.

But then designing is only part of the T-shirt selling process. We’re working hard to bring it up to the same level as our knowledge of other areas. 

Facebook Advertising

Of the 7 Facebook campaigns we’ve tested so far, the Aussie Prime Minister and Aussie Beer t-shirt designs worked best.

They generated the most reach and the most clicks.

Both these ads ran when Redbubble was offering a 20-50% offer on the site. Our click-through rate on both ads was double any of the other ads we ran.

We have more testing going on with new ads for our gincredible and inventions designs.

We’ll share the results of these in case studies at some point in the future. As we said, it’s still early days and not many people know our brand. And on the designs, we’re still working out our overall style and approach. 

But here are a couple of thoughts we’d share on Facebook advertising so far. 

Instagram post saying No Network cables? Thank Dr John O'Sullivan and the team at CSIRO - with a picture of a woman wearing a T-shirt that shows a WiFi symbol and the words Australian Invention

Functionality

Facebook has based its success on access for all and easy functionality. Anyone can use Facebook, right?

But that does not spread through to its Facebook Ads set-up.

While not impossible to use, unless you’ve kept up with recent system updates, or been trained, it can take a while to find basic elements to launch and report on campaigns.

The campaigns, ad sets and ads aren’t intuitive. Managing the multiple variables around objectives, audience and measurement takes time as you go back and forward to get it right. 

In 3 of our tests, we realised something wasn’t right in the initial setup and had to pause and relaunch the campaign. All because the setup wasn’t clear.

Upselling

What we’ve also found is once you start advertising on Facebook, it’s set up to try and constantly squeeze more money out of you. Repeated notifications of how spending just “$x” could get you x,000 more page views.

Whether you actually have content you want to push or not. All the defaults for spend and duration you want to run a campaign seem set up to make you spend more.

You only want to test for 2 days? But our default is to run for a month. You only want to spend $10? But our default starts at $250. And so on.

Facebook icon pin buttons

Too much choice

There’s so much choice in terms of audience and placements. It takes time to refine and place an actual ad the way you want. (It’s the opposite of progressive disclosure as per our design psychology article).

So far, our ads have done OK in terms of reach, but not delivered what we want on conversions. That means we’ve more work to do to refine the Three-Brains brand for the T-shirt market.

Nobody knows who we are yet, or what we stand for. Our brand essence isn’t clear. Nor is our purpose or values. We’ll work on that. 

Our ads have been mainly static so far, so we could get them out quickly. But we recognise the need for more creativity to stand out on Facebook.

That’s all part of the process of learning to succeed in any business. And so far, it’s not cost us much to test these campaigns out. 

Conclusion - T-shirt shop learnings part two

We also picked up some T-shirt trivia this week from one of the sites which offer practical tips and advice on e-Commerce planning with good advice on dropshipping and print-on-demand.  

If you haven’t already, we recommend you check out wholesaleted on YouTube. Sarah’s videos stand out for their clarity and practicality when compared to many of the other start-up stalker sites out there. 

The piece of trivia is that the biggest-selling T-shirt colour online is black.

Amazon released this bit of not-known information. But we wanted to do something with that trivia.

Screengrab of Three-brains Shop - headline says "merchandise to raise your game"

So you may have noticed a bit of a recent refresh to our Three-Brains branding and logo. (It’s right there at the top of the page).

Our Three-Brains branding now has a black “T” shirt at the start. That’s in honour of this little bit of T-shirt trivia. Sometimes our Three-Brains may think about these things a little too much. 

(Note : We’ve since updated the logo again. It no longer has a black T-shirt in it). 

We’re using the T-shirt shop learnings to build our own strategy. So, we can help you go through the same process faster and more efficiently.

Check out our how to start selling online guide to learn more. Or email us to see how we can help you with your e-Commerce strategy.  

Photo credit

Learn from failure : Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Facebook icons : Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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