Selling merchandise from your channel
Every creator’s merchandising strategy is different and will depend on your audience. However, there are broad principles that apply to all channels around selling merchandise.
How to know if you’re ready for merch
There’s no magic number of subscribers or watch hours that determine when you should start selling merchandise. Instead, you can analyze your channel and brand to see if you’ll get a return on your investment. Some ideas to consider:
- Assess your brand strength. The volume of search activity associated with your brand or channel name is a strong indicator of how well known it is.
- Gauge audience engagement. The number of subscribers matters less than how active your audience is. Does your audience regularly like, comment on, and share your videos? Do these viewers engage with your Community posts?
- Identify your goals for merch. Decide how much financial and personal returns matter to you. Do you want to make a specific amount of money every month? Are you excited to see your fans representing you in public?
A major factor is how much your audience identifies with you and your channel. When viewers see themselves as part of a community, they’re more likely to want merch from that creator.
- Do a quick web search to see where else your brand or channel name appears.
- Check your Traffic sources Search Term results to see viewers’ top searches.
- Use Google Trends to see how much buzz your channel is generating.
- Consider registering for a trademark or domain name (if appropriate).
Making great merch that represents you
Your merchandising is personal to your brand, so try to find things that fans associate with you and your channel. Are there jokes, memes, or catchphrases that you share with your community? Do you have a fan-favorite video? Think about what types of merch would be “must-haves” for your fans. Consider the following:
- Keep it relevant. Do research to learn if there's a market for your merchandise. You can ask yourself what your audience wants and if it’s unique to your brand.
- Start slow. Test your audience’s appetite for your merch. Consider what kind of merch to offer and for how long it will be available before you expand.
- Keep it focused. Introduce one product at a time. Ask your audience what they want to see in a poll (via cards or community posts).
- Make it extra special. Think about launching merch to celebrate your subscriber milestone on YouTube or other specific goals.
Many creators find success with merch when they have a strong connection with their audience and enthusiasm for their brand. Merch is as much about passion as it is about making money.
- Ask your fans to comment on merch ideas or vote on their favorite item in a poll.
- Make sure your merch is sustainable, so that you can keep up with the demand from your fans.
- Comply with YouTube’s Community Guidelines when creating and offering your merch.
Producing and distributing your merch
If you want merchandising to become a core part of your business, make sure to have a good handle on the costs, processes, and time commitments. Here are some tips:
- Budget and pricing. When you’re starting out, it’s important to consider how much you want to invest. Set a clear budget by researching the costs for production and delivery, then price your products based on your desired profit per item. If you’re new to business, try asking for advice from people you trust.
- Distribution. You’ll want a way to manage your inventory and fulfillment. You can do this in-house or through a merch site. If you want to link your merch from your videos, you’ll need to use an approved merchandise site. You may want to check your Demographics data to find out where your primary audience viewed your content from, so you can have an appropriate solution for order fulfillment, delivery, and customer support.
- Design and production. Choose designs that appeal to your target audience—you may want to check your Demographics data to see their age group distribution and other attributes that could be helpful. Identify companies that can produce your merchandise at the quality, timing, and quantity you need. Requesting samples from the vendor can help ensure that you’re getting what you expect.
You can create your own merch or hire a designer (try to be clear on what you’re willing to pay, when the work will be completed, who owns the intellectual property rights to the merch, etc.). For managing your own sales and inventory, you can look into merchandise platforms such as Shopify or Squarespace (consider how large your business may grow and what support you may need along the way). Also, there are services like Teespring that provide an all-in-one solution for design, production, and distribution (you may want to compare pricing models to see what works for you).
Promoting your merch
In general, we find that the best method for promoting your merch is to wear it (or use it) in your videos! When your viewers see your merch in action, this can generate interest and drive sales. Here are some ideas for promoting your merch:
- Dedicated content. Create videos about your merch. Show your viewers what the merch looks like and why you chose the designs you did. And remember to add strong calls to action informing your fans where they can buy it.
- Audience shout out. Consider featuring a member of your audience wearing (or using) your merch. Thank your fans for their support.
- Video/channel descriptions. Publicize your merch collection in your video and channel descriptions. Use language that’s true to your brand.
- End screens and cards. Incorporate images of your merch and link to your merch store from an approved merch site in video end screens and cards.
Beyond your launch, you’ll want to keep the momentum going. Look for opportunities to promote your merch on and off YouTube. Continue to feature your merch in your videos. Also, recognize your audience when you reach your sales targets.
- Announce new merch in a video to build excitement.
- Promote your merch across social media.
- Use vibrant images that make your merch shine.
- Listen to your audience’s feedback on what they like through a poll or comments.
- Try offering limited time discounts or limited time availability of merch items.
- Comply with YouTube’s merchandise policy and paid product placements and endorsements policy.
Enabling the merch shelf on your channel
There’s a new way to promote your official merch on your channel more prominently. Eligible creators can now connect their Teespring store to their channel in the new YouTube Studio. Teespring is a platform where you can create apparel, phone cases, mugs, and other products with no upfront cost. To learn more about this feature, including how to turn it on, look here.
Through the Teespring partnership, you can promote your official merchandise in a shelf that shows under your YouTube video watch window. When viewers click on the shelf, it will open your Teespring merch store web page in a new browser tab. This integration provides greater visibility for your official merch right on your channel. All orders are fulfilled, payment is processed, and customer support is provided, by Teespring, not YouTube.
This merch shelf will roll out to more creators over time, so keep an eye on your YouTube Studio to find out if this feature becomes available to your channel.
Here are a few tips for using the merch shelf on your channel:
- You may request merch design support services from Teespring if you have over 100k subs.
- By default, items on your merch shelf are automatically selected and arranged for you. If you’d like to organize the items on your shelf, go into the Merchandise section of YouTube Studio; click Organize on the “status card”; drag, drop, and order up to 12 items. (Viewers may see fewer items depending on the device they’re using.)
- Consider encouraging your viewers to “check out my merch shelf” in your video pre-rolls and interludes.
Note: The merch shelf is only shown to viewers in specific countries. You can still promote your merch to viewers elsewhere by linking to approved merchandise providers in merch cards and end screens.
See it in action
A New Way To Sell Merch on YouTubeWe’ve joined forces with Teespring so creators can choose from over 20 merchandise items to customize and promote via a shelf on their channel. (This feature is available to eligible channels.)
Seth’s Bike Hacks offers merch to his fansThis creator promotes his official merch, including T-shirts with the “BERM CREEK” catchphrase, on his channel. Fans who are interested can click to buy the merch directly from Teespring.
How do you know when you’re ready to launch merchandise?Try it now
The simplest way to know whether you’re ready to launch merchandise is to assess whether there’s demand. Listen to your fans’ comments and requests: Are they already asking for merchandise? Are they very engaged with your content? Find out how strong your brand presence is -- explore the keywords used to find your videos (found by clicking YouTube Search in your Traffic sources report) and Google Trends to see if your brand is generating a lot of search activity.
How can you effectively promote merchandise on your channel?
To effectively promote your merchandise, make sure you engage your audience early in the process. When your product’s ready, announce the release and include strong calls to action through annotations, information cards and links in the description. After launch, keep up the momentum by sharing key milestones and featuring your community.