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Online store case study

Why read this? : We share lessons from the set-up, launch and running of the Three-Brains online shop. Learn what went well, and what we’d have done differently. Build your own e-Commerce skills with this online store case study. 


Online store case study

How this guide raises your game :-

  1. Learn how we planned and set up the Three-Brains online shop. 
  2. Explore our thinking on how to do product development and design. 
  3. Lessons from our market research and marketing performance tracking.

We’ve set up and run most of the business models we cover in our e-Commerce planning guide. 

For example, we know marketplaces and print on demand well. Selling via bricks and clicks, and working with Amazon? Yep, done those. And we’ve set up many Direct to Consumer (D2C) stores.

Along the way, we’ve learned many interesting, though sometimes painful lessons about how e-Commerce works. Barriers we overcame and challenges we took on. Good, bad and indifferent, we believe everything that happens in e-Commerce is a chance to learn.  

We also believe in sharing what we learn. So, read on for what we’ve learned from the set-up and running of our current online store in this online store case study.  

Woman wearing a black T-shirt with a design showing a Red Xbox controller and the words "Game Player"

Phase 1 - Plan, develop and quick launch

When we started the process of setting up an online store, we knew our first 3 tasks were to :-

  • develop a product to sell.
  • find somewhere to sell it.
  • set up a way to manage payment and delivery

We started with T-shirts through Print on Demand suppliers. Specifically, we started with Spreadshirt, and then slightly later Redbubble

This channel has low barriers to entry and is quick to set up. There’s also no need to invest in stock. This is a good thing. But of course, when there are low barriers to entry, anyone can do it. That means it’s very competitive. 

Screenshot saying Welcome to the three-brains shop - shop now

It’s also very easy to set up the basic level of shop. All you’re doing is plugging in your designs and brand assets to a back-end system that’s already set up. The print on demand company handles all the payment and delivery.

Read our blog post from when we launched our Spreadshirt shop to learn our thinking at the time. 

Phase 2 - Product Development and design

There are millions of T-shirt designs available online. And it takes some time to experiment with designs and see what works on a T-shirt and what doesn’t. 

We wanted to share some of our initial T-shirt designs which we won’t be selling. Frankly, we didn’t think they were good enough to sell. 

The ideas were OK. But the designs clearly needed more work. One related to cats (who doesn’t love cats online?). And one related to the “OK Boomer” meme which was popular at the time. 

OK Boomer

Though cats are obviously insanely popular online, this also means it’s an insanely competitive area.

We also felt we’d struggle to link cats to our brand identity unless we could somehow make it clever.

While we did then test a few clever cat designs, they didn’t get much attention. And we also don’t think these new designs were strong enough to be strong sellers.  

As for OK Boomer, yes it was topical at the time. There’s something to be said for being “on trend” in design. But, that phrase is heard less often these days, and we don’t think the brand was well enough established at the time for it to work. Similar to the cats, there was no real link back to the Three-Brains brand identity

Young woman wearing a pink T-hsirt with a Tie Die image of a cat on it

Phase 3 - Market research / Test advertising on Facebook

When we launched the shop, we did some secondary research to look for potential target audiences, their needs and what they might like in a T-shirt design.

We used some light Facebook test ads to see what type of response we might get to certain advertising concepts. 

So in this example, we created a design based on the theme of introverts. 

The design idea was around how they might enjoy Christmas Day. Next, we created a similar design for extroverts to give an alternative view of Christmas.

We also created a couple of simpler designs, using the same icons, but blown out, so they highlighted a single icon rather than 16 different ones.

You can see we were also easily able to mock up the design with a model wearing the design on a T-shirt via Spreadshirt, using some basic Photoshop skills

Facebook post - introverts

Initial learnings post-launch

Check out our article on our initial creative T-shirt learnings back when we were putting our plans together. 

We realised pretty quickly, that we needed to be clearer on the target audience and the order to delivery side. 

Both Spreadshirt and Redbubble print and deliver from the US, which suits customers there. But it adds costs and longer delivery times for shoppers overseas. 

Like those who live in Australia. 

We knew the insight was “loose” and we need to do more market research to understand what customers want

At the same time, we started to learn more about what types of designs work well on T-shirts and which don’t.

For example, on this one, the design elements are small and hard to read. Bolder designs that people understand easily tend to work better than designs like this. 

Three brains Introvert Christmas 3/4 Baseball T-shirt at Redbubble

Phase 4 - Refine the marketing

We decided to move on from Introverts and Extroverts as a target audience and look for something new. 

Our next test focused on Gin drinkers and used the play on words of Gin and Incredible to make the Gincredible design. 

While this still didn’t drive many sales, we did pick up some more followers on Instagram because of the Gin link. 

We also thought the design on this shirt was much closer to sellable quality.

You can read our thoughts at the time on T-shirt designs in this blog article

Example of facebook instagram post for three brains online store

Phase 5 - Continue to improve the experience and designs

Due to other priorities, we put some of our plans for the shop on the back burner and decided to focus more on our coaching and consulting business. 

However, we occasionally come back to the designs, and with every new idea, we think they get that little bit better. A bit closer to what we want them to be. 

We also set up the WooCommerce front end of the shop so customers don’t go straight to the Print on Demand site.

This gives us more control over what the shop looks like, and what we include in it. 

A subscription model box branded with three-brains on a doorstep

Our store features on search and through Google Merchant Services and we continue to use it as a place to test and learn, and build our e-Commerce capabilities

Each time we do this, we learn more about e-Commerce. So keep an eye on our blog for more updates. 

Three-Brains and e-Commerce

We’ve worked on many e-Commerce projects and have good experience in planning, working with online retailers and building online store websites. We can help you use these skill areas to grow your online sales. Get in touch to learn how our coaching and consulting services can help you supercharge your e-Commerce skills.

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