4 ways to add physical goods to your store

Written by Nicole Kohler on July 15, 2016 Blog, Physical goods.

If you don’t already sell physical products, adding them to your existing online store can present a fantastic opportunity to grow your revenue — and your relationship with your customers.

With limited time, resources, and budget, however, adding physical goods might sound like a good idea, but seem difficult to actually accomplish. Not everyone can store physical stock, rent a warehouse, or juggle the logistics of shipping.

So what’s a store owner to do? Start at square one: add simple physical products that compliment your existing business and don’t require you to drastically alter your store to sell.

Whether that’s through small treats for customers or dropshipping goods, there are a few ways to go about this without breaking the bank. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Start with stickers for casual fans

One of the most common ways that businesses dip a toe into the water with physical goods is with tiny gifts or pieces of swag for existing fans. If you have customers that love you, they may be keen to share that love with others — and it’s up to you to make doing that as easy as possible.

One inexpensive yet effective physical good to try: stickers. Stickers don’t take up much room, can be shipped in an envelope (i.e. for cheap), and can be affixed to a multitude of surfaces that potential customers might see, from laptops to cars to lamp posts and more.

Stickers
Stickers are a fun way to represent your brand. They’re also inexpensive, and can be placed nearly anywhere. Spread the love. (Image credit: Sticker Mule)

If you can find a company to print a batch of stickers for you (we recommend Sticker Mule), you can make use of them in several ways:

  • Ship them out to customers who have purchased a digital product
  • Put them out as a free treat to visitors to your physical location (if you have one)
  • Offer them as a treat to those who have given you feedback or helped you in some way
  • If they’re very large or you have a big pack of them, sell them! (Just don’t make the price too high)

Here’s what Amber at Lost Forty Brewing says about their use of stickers:

From the large format stickers we sell in our taproom to the smaller die-cut stickers we give away, stickers are an integral part of the on- and off-site brand experience at Lost Forty. Because we encourage our fans to “get lost,” it was important to us that piece of our identity could be taken with our Lost Forty drinkers on their adventures.

Stickers give customers, supporters, and fans a piece of your identity to take away with them, just as Amber says. If your brand is already established and you have fans who are eager to spread that love, stickers can be a great first step.

Consider t-shirts and printed goods for growing brands

Beyond stickers, there are several ways to add physical goods to a non-physical store — and several types of physical goods you can add. Another item in the same vein as stickers, though, is t-shirts.

Customers flock to t-shirts because they’re an easy way to show their love. They’re also inherently more visible than stickers: put on a shirt, and everyone you meet can see it and ask you about it.

Shirts with your logo, slogan, or something else pertaining to your brand can be sold online with ease. Though it might sound like a lot of work, services like Printful have made it easy to add custom shirts — and other printed apparel like hoodies or hats — to any store.

When a customer places an order for a shirt, the order is transmitted to Printful to be printed on demand, packaged, and shipped directly to them. Printful prints on demand, so no one has to worry about keeping goods in stock (especially those in multiple sizes or colors).

A quick primer on how it works with WooCommerce:

Want to give Printful a try? Have a look at our extension, which flawlessly integrates your store and Printful so you can fulfill orders without stocking products or dealing with shipping.

If you have an established store and are looking for a way to add physical products that resonate with your customers — and, like stickers, could help spread the word — consider adding t-shirts or printed swag. What’s more delightful than customers literally wearing their love for you?

Link to beloved products and make a little money on each sale (affiliate style)

Depending on what you offer on your existing WooCommerce-powered site, you might have a few select products you want to recommend. For example, if you sell digital content, there may be a helpful book you think your customers should read; if your site directs customers to your restaurant, you may want to link to the sauces and condiments they love (and want to buy).

What you may not know is that you can link out to these off-site items and make a little money each time they’re purchased. The key to this is finding stores that support an affiliate style model, and can provide you tracking links with which you can earn commission.

You can use affiliate links in WooCommerce by setting up an “external” product. These products are set up similarly to stocked items, except they have a URL that is linked in the place of your usual “add to cart” button.

Selling affiliate products? No problem: select the correct product type in WooCommerce and you'll be all set.
Selling affiliate products? No problem: select the correct product type in WooCommerce and you’ll be all set.

You can read about setting up external products here, as part of our series on managing products within WooCommerce.

As far as finding affiliates is concerned, this can be a bit tricky, but the Amazon Affiliates program is always a good starting point, as are networks like CJ Affiliate (which can put you in touch with hundreds of retailers).

Add products to your store and work with dropshipping partners

Perhaps selling stickers or shirts isn’t for you — you may not yet have a brand that has that kind of recognition. And perhaps you don’t feel comfortable linking to other stores and only pulling in commission as a form of profit — which can, admittedly, be limiting.

There’s one final option to consider if you want to sell physical goods and want to fully “own” the experience of your shoppers while making a profit, but still don’t want to hold stock: dropshipping. With a dropshipping program, you can create a full-fledged online store filled with as many products as you like, but avoid the need to hold even a single product in storage.

No room for products? No problem. Dropshippers will be happy to work with you for a cut of the profits.
No room for products? No problem. Dropshippers will be happy to work with you, and there are often plenty of reputable companies to choose from.

Setting up a store powered by dropshipping will require some initial hard work and outreach to get working: you’ll need to make contact with vendors and partners who are willing to ship their goods to your customers. Depending on the industry you are selling in (or plan to expand into), finding these contacts could be easy or it could take some time.

If you’re short on space and still want full control over what you sell without the offsite redirection of affiliate links, dropshipping can be a fantastic way to “test the waters” for physical goods. Next step: inventory.

For a full guide on getting started as with dropshipping, read through this step-by-step post. You can also read through this guide on finding reliable dropshipping partners, which includes a few contacts to help you get moving.

Selling physical goods doesn’t always require a warehouse

Adding physical products to your store can be an amazing way to make a little more money and grow your relationship with your customers and fans. And as you’ve seen, there are at least four ways to do it that don’t require a warehouse, complicated logistics, or a huge investment of time or money.

If you don’t already sell physical goods, what do you think about these ideas? Do you think any or all of these might pan out for your own store?

Give us a shout in the comments to let us know what you think and if you’re planning to start with any of these ideas. We’d love to know what your next move is!

Header image credit: Daniel Y. Go (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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11 Responses

  1. Tonu
    July 17, 2016 at 12:00 am #

    I promote digital product on my blog.I’m getting good response from my visitors also I’m interested to promote physical goods on my blog.physical goods take a lot of space.I like your stickers ideas.sounds good 🙂 thanks for your selling ideas

    • Nicole Kohler
      July 17, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed Tonu! We’d love to have a peek if you make some stickers 😀

  2. Venkateswar
    July 19, 2016 at 8:30 am #

    May not be directly relevant. But I remember you had a blog on uploading images for the physical products.

    Does Woocommerce have an utility to bulk upload images along with the product details? Any guidance would be great.

    • Nicole Kohler
      July 19, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

      Hey there, you can use the Product CSV Import Suite to upload lots of data at once if you desire (and link multiple images to the same page, add in copy, etc.): https://woocommerce.com/products/product-csv-import-suite/

      As far as bulk uploading images aside from this extension, this would be managed through WordPress’s media gallery — you can select multiple images from a location and upload them at the same time.

      Hope that helps with your question? If not please let me know 🙂

  3. Josh Kohlbach
    July 19, 2016 at 9:19 am #

    I also sell digital products, but I really like the idea of doing something physical as a way to increase the brand bond.

    Especially because digital products can be so “purchase and forget” that sometimes you don’t even remember where you bought that bit of software from!

    Has Woo ever done it or considered doing this? Would love some stats on how effective it is.. ie. does it increase the chance someone will come back and order something else? etc.

    Cheers,
    Josh

    • Nicole Kohler
      July 19, 2016 at 3:23 pm #

      Hey there Josh. We give away physical swag at conferences and WordCamps quite often (t-shirts, pins, stickers etc.) and also have a monthly WooTreats program where we provide these same items to deserving customers who have helped us spot a bug, resolve a tricky ticket, and so on.

      At the moment I don’t believe we keep stats on this, as we’re mostly giving these items away to existing customers and usually as a nice gesture vs. an opportunity to make a sale. But it might be something to keep an eye on.

      I will say that our ninjas have had quite a few people comment on the t-shirts they’ve received in the past and say “I wear mine all the time!” or spot a Woo sticker on a laptop during a WordCamp. So it seems to be something that’s making our fans happy at least 🙂

  4. David
    July 21, 2016 at 1:22 pm #

    Hello, has anybody tried that stickermule promotion link? When you try to actually place your order it doesn’t work!

    • Nicole Kohler
      July 21, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

      Hi David, it looks like something has gone awry on the Sticker Mule side — have gotten in touch with them and will get this sorted ASAP. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Nicole Kohler
      July 21, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

      Should be all fixed now David! Thanks again for bringing that to our attention.

      • David
        July 21, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

        Awesome, thank you Nicole!

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