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7 Simple Back-to-School Marketing Tips [Free Vector Files Inside]

7 Simple Back-to-School Marketing Tips [Free Vector Files Inside]

Even if we aren’t ready to kiss-goodbye the warm summer days, fall will be here before we know it, and that’s okay! End of the school holidays has its charm too as kids get to meet new friends, reconnect with classmates, and reflect on their adventures from the last couple of months.

For online retailers, it’s time to start planning back-to-school promotions, since parents and kids will be on the lookout for products to make the new school year more exciting and memorable.

Back-to-school shopping trends

Back-to-school shopping season is big. 

In preparation for a new school year, 29 million households across the United States spent a total of $27.6 billion in 2018. Another active segment during end of July-August was back-to-college shoppers, who spent around $54.1 billion.

Combined, school and college students purchased products worth $81.7 billion, which makes the back-to-school season the second-biggest shopping occasion after the winter holidays. 

What do people buy?

Elementary- and college-age kids have different back-to-school needs.

Back-to-school shoppers are mostly interested in clothing and school supplies (like books and stationery), while people starting college typically spend more on electronics and dorm room gear. 

back-to-school-spending-categories

Source: Deloitte

Where do people buy?

According to the National Retail Federation, most back-to-school and back-to-college shopping takes place at department stores. The second most popular way to get school-related products is online. 

Speaking of shopping online, school goers still favor desktop (53%) over mobile (46%). However, mobile comes first when users want to gather information about the products and sellers before taking the plunge. 

back-to-school-desktop-mobile-use

Source: Deloitte

When do people shop?

Around 90% of back-to-school shoppers are active from mid-July to early August. That’s exactly when two-thirds of all back-to-school spending takes place.

back-to-school-spending-time-july-august

Source: Deloitte

What does it mean for you? Simple. Start preparing back-to-school products, campaigns, and other incentives today. The earlier you jump onto the bandwagon, the more people you can expect shopping on your store!  

7 easy back-to-school marketing ideas

Now that you know what to expect from the back-to-school crowd, try these seven simple marketing tactics to make the most of this time of the year. 

Bonus! We’ve created free vector files that you can download at the end of this post. Feel free to use them in all of your back-to-school promos.

1. Create a back-to-school sale

Back-to-school shopping can be overwhelming for several reasons. Not only do the customers have a lot of boxes to tick off their shopping list, but they also have to decide which brands are worth their time and money.

Having this in mind, try to create a back-to-school sale that is clear and easy to take advantage of.  

Evaluate what type of offer you can afford and present it to your audience. If you’re short on ideas for back-to-school promotions, here are a few to help you get started:

  • % or $ discount
  • 2 for 1 
  • free shipping
  • flash sale
  • week-long sales event
  • giveaway
  • contest
  • promo code
  • loyal customer discount
  • loyal customer pre-sale

Pro tip: Back-to-school isn’t a spending occasion when everyone needs to get their purchases by a certain day. However, you can combine some of the promotions (discounts or a special offer) with the shipping deadlines to incentify your customers start shopping.

Keep Printful’s fulfilment time and shipping in mind when you’re coordinating your promotions and campaigns. Our average fulfillment time for apparel products is 2-7 business days, and then you have to factor in shipping to calculate the time it’ll take for orders to reach your customers.

2. Step up your social media game

Let everyone know about your back-to-school offers. The obvious way to do this is through social media—23% of shoppers say they’ll use it to plan their purchases. 

back-to-school-mobile-use

Source: Deloitte

Share your deal on social media to get the word out. Use paid posts on Facebook to reach a wider audience. Not sure how to do that? Here’s everything you need to know about Facebook Ads.

3. Don’t forget about email marketing

Let your email list know about your back to school promotion, too; they’ll appreciate the heads-up!

back-to-school-promo-email

Here’s an example of a campaign MochiThings ran around the back-to-school season last year to promote their stationery products. Seeing the August 31 deadline creates a sense of urgency and motivates people to buy before the sale is over.

Pro tip: Don’t send just one email campaign—everyone, including you, will forget about it. Schedule a few emails with copy and subject line variations, and repromote them to recipients who didn’t open your email the first time. 

4. Be smart on mobile

Like I said, desktop is still the preferred method for making back-to-school purchases. Mobile, on the other hand, is a go-to device for shoppers to collect discounts (57%), get pricing details (53%), or go online window-shopping (56%).

So while most customers will ultimately purchase on desktop, there’s a good chance they’ll first find you on mobile. That’s why it’s so important to make your site, from content to promos,  mobile-friendly.

Use Google’s mobile-friendly test page to see if your site passes muster and how much you need to improve. Run a test yourself by opening your store and making a purchase on different mobile devices and tablets.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your store theme (whether it’s ready-made or custom-made) is responsive, i.e. the design elements of the website scale down seamlessly on smaller devices.
  • When creating pop-ups, make sure they meet Google’s guidelines for mobile-friendliness.
  • Just like on your desktop, loading speed is important on mobile. Avoid using heavy file sizes that slow things down.

5. Introduce seasonal products

Many students and their parents associate back-to-school season with new beginnings. For them, this time of the year is often less about getting the essential school supplies, and more about making the school days as memorable and joyful as possible.

While introducing seasonal products to your store for back-to-school shoppers is a good idea, try to make the new additions more special—create new designs or let your customers personalize existing ones. 

Have you had a chance to try our Product Personalization Tool? It enables you to sell products that your shoppers can customize themselves!

Here’s what back-to-school goers might have their eyes on:

But the hottest product this season? Fanny packs.

[embedded content]

Don’t forget about the back-to-college shoppers too! Just like school kids, college students will want to upgrade their wardrobe, or start a new year with a new backpack or fanny pack. 

Apart from clothes and accessories, college goers might also be interested in home decor products to make their new place, be it a dorm room or shared apartment, more cozy and home-like. A few products that can be on their shipping list are: 

6. Partner with influencers

A great way to promote your products to a wider audience is to partner with an influencer. An endorsement from a respected member of the community can go a long way—68% of customers trust the opinions of other online shoppers.

back-to-shool-influencer-marketing-example

Back-to-school season is an ideal time to partner up with family-oriented influencers. You’ll have to do your research to find an influencer whose audience would be interested in your products. This is critical because you don’t want to waste your time and money going after a lead that won’t work.

Use these tools to help connect with the right person:

7. Create valuable content for your target audience

In addition to showcasing your products, you can create helpful content for your target audience. This helps humanize your brand, and as we know, online shoppers are more likely to trust brands they connect with emotionally.

If your customers are parents, share ideas on how to get the kids ready for a new school year. It can be anything from school outfits to lunch box recipes, and tips on how to overcome shyness. 

If you’re trying to reach college goers, cover topics that can help to prepare for life on campus, like decorating the room or making new friends.

A few more content ideas you can experiment with: 

  • Back-to-school shopping list
  • Back-to-school outfits
  • School lunch ideas
  • Dorm decor inspiration
  • Room organization tips
  • After-school activities
  • Fun DIY projects
  • Time management tips
  • Meal prep tips

Clothing, accessories, and home decor retailer Urban Outfitters has a blog with plenty of shareable content their target audience would enjoy—from back-to-school beauty essentials to gourmet microwave meals.

Urban-outfitters-blog-back-to-school-content

While some topics might not be directly related to your store, writing about them can help you connect with your target audience. Remember, the more valuable the content, the more readers will visit your website and engage with it.

It’s fine to include shoutouts to your products in your think-piece or the content you share, but don’t overdo it. 

Class dismissed

Now it’s time to take what you’ve learned and get cracking on your back-to-school campaigns. Craft your deal and promotional materials, add seasonal products to your store, and help others get into the spirit of back-school. Use our free vector files to help share your message—download below!

While you’re still here, from your experience, what’s the #1 back-to-school supply you (or your customers) couldn’t live without? Let us know in the comments below!

This article was originally published in July 2018; it has since been updated.

How to Start Accounting for Small Business

How to Start Accounting for Small Business

Handling accounting for your small business can be the most important aspect of financial success. Tracking income and expenses, creating your budget, and managing your books are all crucial aspects of building your business, making sure it runs smoothly and healthily. There is just one problem.

You’re not an accountant.

Trying to wrap your head around financial statements, CPAs (Certified Public Accountants), debits and credits, accounting software, and entry systems make your head hurt. All for starting a small print-on-demand store as a side hustle.

It shouldn’t be this way. That’s why we’re here to help.

This blog post is an outline to help you get started— from no financial management plan to a simple bookkeeping system you can use as you grow your store. We’re going to go over:

  1. What bookkeeping and accounting are
  2. What accounting lets you do
  3. Whether you should DIY or use an external bookkeeper
  4. Which accounting software you should use.
  5. How to start your bookkeeping system

So let’s jump into it.

1. What is bookkeeping and accounting?

Most people get bookkeeping and accounting mixed up, so let’s start by separating the two.

Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping is the recording and tracking of your business’s income and expenses. It ensures that all your financial records are accurate and up to date. Think of it like writing down all your numbers and making sure they are correct.

Accounting

Accounting is the process of summarizing, analyzing and communicating the financial records of the business, and then using that data to make decisions. Think of it of taking all the numbers you wrote down while bookkeeping and using them to make decisions.

2. What does accounting let you do?

As I stated before, understanding your numbers is vital for preparing your business success. Accounting and bookkeeping help you:

Make better decisions

Understanding where your money comes from and where it goes helps you decide where you want to invest in your business. Having these numbers allows you to make proper, informed decisions about the future.

Prepare for tax time

Using an efficient bookkeeping system can make tax time a breeze. If you want to get the full tax benefit from your business expenses, you need to make sure that all your expenses are properly classified and recorded, a function of effective bookkeeping.

Create financial reports

The numbers provided by bookkeeping and accounting let you make official financial statements such as a balance sheet and an income statement. These reports can be very helpful for you to understand the financial health of your business. They are also used by external parties such as banks and investors as a uniform way to understand your business.

Of course, these are just a few things you can do, but it shows the power and importance of accounting.

3. Should I do it myself or get an external bookkeeper?

A common question many small business owners ask is whether they should try the DIY method or get an external bookkeeper. Let’s go over both.

DIY Bookkeeping

If you are strapped for cash, then you can definitely handle your bookkeeping by yourself. If you choose to do this, you will probably use software to handle the accounting for you. There are a few risks here.

The saying “garbage in, garbage out” is commonly used in computer science to suggest that poor quality inputs will result in poor quality outputs. The same concept can be used when approaching accounting software. If you don’t understand the concepts behind the software, then you will enter the wrong information and get incorrect results.

Finally, I recommend getting in touch with a CPA during tax time to go over everything and make sure your bookkeeping is working.

Using an external bookkeeper

If you are willing to spend some cash so you don’t have to worry about bookkeeping, then getting an external bookkeeper may be the best choice for you.

However, just because you have somebody handling your bookkeeping and accounting doesn’t give you the excuse to be oblivious to the process. To get the full benefits of an external bookkeeper, you should understand their process to make sure you are getting the best data to make the most informed decisions about your business.

Whatever you choose, once your small business starts generating a good chunk of revenue, I recommend getting an external or internal bookkeeper to handle your financials. Your efforts are better spent working on your business, not in your business.

4. Which accounting software should I use?

There are 3 different platforms I recommend, depending on your experience level and budget.

Wave

Wave Dashboard

Wave has everything you need for small business bookkeeping. It lets you track income and expenses, store invoices, create reports, and more. It also integrates with other financial software (like PayPal) and has its own helpful guides you can read. It’s perfect for the entrepreneur just getting started with their own books.

Price: Free

Freshbooks

FreshBooks Dashboard

Freshbooks is another simple and intuitive bookkeeping software you can use. It’s endorsed by many entrepreneurial influencers, such as Tim Ferriss and Pat Flynn, and it’s easy to see why. With powerful tools and a beautiful UI, Freshbooks makes any small business owner’s life easier.

Price: Plans start at $15/month and grow based on your number of clients.

Quickbooks

My final recommendation is Quickbooks. It has the strongest accounting capabilities of the three options. Most small businesses can work with simple bookkeeping procedures, but medium-sized businesses who need a proper accounting package should use Quickbooks.

Price: Plans start from $15/month and grow based on which features you need.

5. How do I start my small business bookkeeping system?

Now that you have chosen your software, I’m going to show you exactly how to set up a simple yet effective bookkeeping system for your store.

1. Separate business and personal finances

This point cannot be stressed enough. Many first-time entrepreneurs mix their private expenses with their business expenses, rather than separating them immediately. This creates multiple issues, as then you can’t:

  • See the actual cash flow of and investments into your business
  • Make a properly informed decision
  • Claim your full tax benefits on your tax return

I recommend you set up a separate bank account, track all the cash you invest and keep all your business receipts separate. This will make your life a bit easier.

2. Create your budget

While not necessarily bookkeeping related, a budget is a key part of any financial plan. Understanding how much you are willing to invest in your business and estimating your monthly income and expenses will put you in the right place to start tracking your finances. People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.

3. Choose an accounting method

There are two aspects to an accounting method: an entry system, and an accounting basis.

Your entry system will determine how you enter transactions. You can choose between:

  • A single entry system, or
  • A double entry system

Your accounting basis will determine when you enter transactions. You can choose between:

  • A cash basis or
  • An accrual basis

Let’s go over each of these:

Single entry vs. double entry system

In a single entry system, every transaction is recorded once, a simple input or output.

For example, when you make a sale, that’s an input of cash. When you buy a new theme, that’s an output of cash.

The single entry system is the easier method of the two, almost anyone can do it. For most small businesses and entrepreneurs, a single entry system will be enough to handle your bookkeeping.

A double entry system makes sure each transaction has two entries. A debit (or increase) is made in one account, and a credit (or decrease) is made in another. Using the same examples as above:

When you make a sale, that’s an increase of cash and a decrease in inventory. When you buy a new theme, that’s an increase in intangible assets and a decrease in cash.

It is used by most corporations but requires an in-depth knowledge of accounting. It makes building financial statements easier and more accurate, and significantly reduces the chance of mistakes and fraud.

As you grow, you will eventually switch from a single entry system to a double entry one.

Cash vs. accrual basis

When you use a cash basis, you record a transaction whenever money changes hands, whether it be actual cash or a bank transfer. If you are running a one-person business, this usually is sufficient.

If you decide to offer customers credit, or request credit from your suppliers, then you are better of going with an accrual basis. This means you record a transaction when the revenue is earned (such as the product is sold), even if the actual cash transfer happens at a later date.

For most beginners, I recommend using a single entry system on a cash basis and then switch to using a bookkeeper who can follow a double entry system.

4. Track your revenue and expenses, and keep the receipts

Now it’s time to start tracking everything. There are two steps here: recording expenses and keeping receipts.

Recording revenue and expenses

Any time you pay a bill, buy some inventory, pay for Facebook ads, make a sale or any transaction takes place, record it. Whether you are using pen and paper, excel spreadsheets, or one of the many accounting softwares out there, you want to record the purpose of the transaction, when the transaction occurred, how much it was for, who the transaction was with, and what accounts were involved.

Keeping receipts

Keeping your receipts ensures your recorded transactions are correct, as you can always check back. It also allows you to claim your full tax benefit at tax time, as you have proof that your expenses are actually business expenses.

The IRS accepts digital receipts as proof, so I recommend that you keep your receipts in a Google Drive, or in your accounting software if it has that feature.

5. Make a monthly report

By keeping good records, you can quickly take a monthly or yearly snapshot of your business. There are two financial statements you should create:

Income statement

The income statement shows your revenue and expenses for the current period, letting you see your profit or loss. All the software we listed can make this report for you, as long as you kept good records.

Income Statement Example

You should also compare your current report with previous reports to track your growth over time.

Balance Sheet

Your balance sheet gives you a list of all your assets, liabilities, and equity.

  • Assets: Everything the business owns (including cash)
  • Liabilities: Everything the business owes or needs to pay
  • Equity: Investments in the business and leftover value 

As with the income statement, your accounting software can create this. Again, track your balance sheet over time to watch your business grow!

And that’s all you need to know to create a basic bookkeeping system!

Where to go from here?

This is just scratching the surface of accounting for small business. You can look into much more depth about topics like the accounting equation, financial report analysis, and much more.

The most important takeaway is that you need to work on your business, not just in it. Once your bookkeeping gets overwhelming, get an external bookkeeper. Your business will thank you for it.

So, did this help you jump into your business financials? Let us know in the comments below!

The Ultimate Guide to Using Instagram Hashtags 2019

The Ultimate Guide to Using Instagram Hashtags 2019

Instagram is still one of the top social media sites for businesses trying to target their online audience. Knowing that Instagram’s monthly active user base is well over one billion, this fact doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  

However, with so many accounts and followers fighting for the spotlight, as far as your posting strategy goes, little can be left to chance—it’s becoming increasingly more challenging to get organic reach. But hey, don’t we all love a good challenge? 

Luckily, there are plenty of methods on how to drive sales with Instagram and boost your Instagram presence. Hashtags are one of them—they’re one of the most effective ways to get more likes, attention, and engagement on your posts. 

This ultimate guide to hashtags will help you promote your online store on social media, boost engagement, and grow your following. At the end of the article, I’ve included a ready-to-use list of 500+ popular Instagram hashtags. Add them in your posts and reach the people you’re looking for!  

1. What is Instagram Business?

First off, a quick reminder about the types of accounts on Instagram. In 2016, Instagram introduced Business Accounts that come with extra features to help brands optimize their content.

Business Account features:

  • Learn about your audience and posts with Instagram Insights, their free analytics tool
  • Promote posts as ads
  • Get a “Contact” button
  • Add an address and location
  • Add links to Instagram Stories (Business Accounts with more than 10k followers)

Setting up an Instagram Business Account will give you access to view and analyze your results on Instagram Insights, and more. You can learn more about your followers and other users are interacting with your account. 

The Insights section of your Business Account lets you track results of your Activity (weekly interactions, reach, and impressions), Content (performance of your posts, stories, and promotions), and your Audience (age, gender, places they’re from, and times they’re online). 

instagram-insights-example

If you’re an online store owner, here’s one more reason why switching to a Business Account isn’t something you should think twice about—Instagram enables brands to sell products to followers without them having to leave the app. Connect your account to a Facebook catalog, and start tagging products in your photos and stories. If a user clicks on the product on the picture, they’re automatically directed to your shop for more details. 

instagram-shoppable-post-example-printful

2. Why use Instagram hashtags

Hashtags help organize the photos and videos on Instagram. They’re used to identify and filter content on a specific topic, so your fans, community, and Instagram wanderers have a better shot at finding you. 

follow-hashtag-on-instagram-example

You can add up to 30 hashtags in posts, but there’s no benefit in using irrelevant hashtags just to make up the quota. 

Doing research is the first step to a successful Instagram hashtag strategy. Browse similar Instagram accounts, find out what industry-specific hashtags they use, and look for hashtags that are more likely to be searched by Instagram communities of your niche. 

If you follow a strategy and include the right hashtags, your posts will be discovered by more people. It’ll help increase your reach and engagement, and gain new followers, but on one condition—these new audiences must be interested in your content! At the end of the day, content quality is the most important factor that drives traffic on Instagram. 

Using hashtags on Instagram is easier than you might think and we gathered up some tips and tools to help you level-up your Instagram strategy. 

3. How to use hashtags and get higher engagement on Instagram

There are three main ways you can use hashtags on Instagram—in Instagram posts, Instagram Stories, and on IGTV. Let’s take a closer look at each. 

3.1. Instagram posts

  • Add up to 30 hashtags
  • Tag up to 20 accounts to increase your chances of being featured on other pages
  • Add ALT texts to your posts to rank on Google
  • Mark up to 5 products per image (for Instagram Business Account owners with Shopping enabled)

There’s one more way how to increase your Instagram engagement.

To beat Instagram’s algorithm and get a better reach, try to get as many likes and comments as you can within the first hour of posting. There are plenty of Instagram engagement pods created just for this purpose where users help each other grow their following. Group members like and comment posts on Instagram right after they’re published, which helps boost engagement, increase visibility, and attract new followers. 

There’s no single formula for maximizing the reach of your Instagram posts, so it’s up to you to create one! It’s all about experiments and analyzing your account performance. Be active, interact with other Instagram accounts, drive as much action as you can with Instagram pods or DM groups, and monitor overall account performance.

3.2 Instagram Stories

  • Add up to 10 hashtags
  • Mention up to 10 accounts
  • Include a location, poll, question, countdown, quiz, donation stickers, or GIFs
  • Tag 1 product (Business Accounts with Shopping enabled)

Instagram Stories is a feature used by 500 million+ Instagram users daily. Not only are they fun and creative, but they’re also organized by hashtags that you can follow. Whatever tags you decide to use, Instagram will add your stories to the hashtag search for 24 hours. 

online-business-hashtag-instagram-stories

If we look at the current trend for Instagram Stories, people educate, inspire, share behind-the -scenes of a business or event, demonstrate their product or services, organize Q&A sessions, share feedback reviews, and so much more. Introduce yourself or your business and show what’s behind it —you’ll see, the more stories you add, the more engagement you receive.

3.3 IGTV

  • Add up to 30 hashtags
  • Add clickable links in a caption
  • Add a cover photo and share IGTV videos to the Instagram feed

Most accounts can upload IGTV videos up to 10 minutes long, but for larger and verified accounts videos uploaded from a computer can be up to 60 minutes. 

IGTV-example

4. How to find the right hashtags for your brand

So hashtags help Instagram recognize what your post is about—the system then picks the most relevant content to go on the Explore page for audiences following accounts that post content similar to yours.

Thousands of hashtags are used every day, and using the most popular tags won’t make your posts any more discoverable—your content will disappear among the other posts.

Focus on trending hashtags connected with your account, business, and target audience. However, be careful using pop culture references. It will help you reach like-minded Instagrammers, but you don’t want to risk losing your brand name and identity among hashtags that overshadow your presence.

Now for an example on how to go about creating hashtags for your account.

Let’s say your name is John, you run a barbershop in Toronto, and you’ve started creating a community around your brand which is all about embracing natural beauty and being proud of having grey hair. But how to reflect that in your Instagram account? 

The good news is, you don’t have to start from scratch to figure out the best hashtags for your business. Here are the five basic types of hashtags and templates on how to build them. 

4.1 Branded hashtags

Examples:

  • #[your brand name]
  • #greyisgold

 
Branded hashtags must be unique to your account or business. Come up with a hashtag that’s simple enough for your followers to recognize and use—it can be your name, brand or company name, your slogan, or a focal concept of your Instagram account.

4.2 Industry hashtags

Examples:

  • #barbers
  • #barbershop
  • #haircut

Out of all the hashtags used on Instagram, industry hashtags have the highest competition.  There are millions of people who use them daily, so include just a few industry hashtags to your posts that are the most relevant to your brand.

4.3 Community hashtags

Examples:

  • #barberfan
  • #torontobarbers
  • #hairaddict

Community hashtags connect smaller groups of like-minded users. The use of these hashtags make you discoverable by topic, niche, location, etc. and there’s a higher possibility to gain followers organically and grow your own community.

4.4 Content hashtags

Examples:

  • #beardcare
  • #howtofadehair
  • #trendinghaircut

Try to think like your customer and find out what they would search for. Content hashtags help you engage with your target audience that’s out there looking for inspiration, new ideas, or instructions. For example, #howto hashtags are highly used on Instagram and can be a good start for building up your hashtag strategy.

4.5 Campaign hashtags

Examples:

  • #hairmarathon
  • #silvertoronto
  • #whatbarbersdo 

Planning your next marketing campaign, event, or special offer? Create a campaign hashtag and ask people to engage with it! Or be a part of a larger movement and add event hashtags that are happening now. This is a great way to connect with others and improve your chances to be discovered by local and global audiences. 

5. Instagram hashtag tips and tricks

There are many tools out there that make social media posting easy. Here are some things you can try out: 

5.1 Use Instagram hashtag generator apps

You can search, find, and copy your hashtag combination for each of your posts based on any topic. Here are some of the most popular hashtag generator apps: 

These tools will help you create hashtag lists easily, but don’t rely on generator app results alone. Use generated hashtags as an inspiration and combine them with your own strategy!

5.2 Automate your posts and hashtags

There are apps like Planoly and Later that help you visually plan and schedule the posts and stories. With Later, you can use tools to categorize Instagram hashtags and analyze the performance of each post. 

It’s a good idea to repurpose content, but avoid using the same hashtags for all your posts. Not only does it make your account look spammy, but it also increases your chances of getting your account or content shadowbanned—blocked. To avoid Instagram shadowban, ditch any hashtags that increase fake activity, like #likeforlike #followforfollow #follow4followback, etc. It might drop your engagement and your photos won’t show up for users who don’t follow you. 

5.3 Try my hashtag formula to get to Top Posts

One of the milestones for any determined Instagram user is to get your post on that coveted Top Posts spot. Top Posts are the first nine posts you see when you tap Explore and type in the hashtag you’re researching. Getting there is challenging, but doable—I want to share with you one of the ways of doing it.

For a little backstory, Instagram has been my passion for a while now. I created my own personal brand and Instagram travel account @justanotherOKday in 2017, started to look for ways to grow my engagement and following. 

I discovered there’s a whole world of Instagram support groups on Facebook. I joined all the groups that caught my eye—that way I found out what tools others were using, and it gave me an opportunity to test different strategies. 

The hashtag formula below proved to be the most effective for my Instagram Business Account. If you’re looking for a strategy to try out, why not give this one a go?

Over the course of a year, this strategic use of hashtags significantly increased my chances to be featured among Top Posts, and impressions from hashtags alone increased by 200 times. 

comparing-instagram-post-performance

Here’s the formula I used for my social media strategy:

  1. Branded hashtag (1)
  2. Industry (1) + content hashtag (1)
  3. Location hashtag (1)
  4. 26 carefully picked hashtags
    • higher density hashtags (6)
    smaller density hashtags (20)

To gain better results, it’s important to mix high and low-density hashtags. High-density hashtags are the most popular, most used tags that help the Instagram algorithm understand what type of post you’ve posted. It’s much harder to rank for these tags though—they’re added to new posts all the time, and tagging your content only with high-density hashtags will make your posts harder to find.

high-density-instagram-hashtag

Low-density hashtags, on the other hand, are community-based hashtags. They have lower competition, and it’ll be easier to rank for them in Top Posts. 

lower-density-instagram-hashtag

6. 500+ Instagram hashtag cheat sheet

If you just launched an online store or have decided to focus on your target audience’s interests and needs, here are  20 popular high-density tags for ecommerce businesses you can start using straight away:

#onlinebusiness

#onlinemarketing

#businessowner

#makemoneyonline

#entrepreneurlife

#personaldevelopment

#financialfreedom

#solopreneur

#gogetit

#entrepreneurlifestyle

#startups

#makemoney

#youngentrepreneur

#entrepreneurship

#hustlehard

#selfgrowth

#networker

#hardworker 

#ecommerce

#mindsetiseverything

Don’t forget to download our free Instagram hashtag list for photography, fashion, travel, and many other tags organized in 20 sub-categories.

Download from the form below!

Find out what hashtag techniques work best for you

Being where your target audience and customers are is vital for any brand. If you’re serious about getting more organic followers and likes on Instagram, getting that exposure will require some work, but the reward will be worth it. You’ll have a loyal user base and you’ll be on your way to finding out what works best for your audience. 

Keeping up with the ever-changing social media trends is a challenge, but the results are worth the effort. Here’s my final tip—to stay ahead of the game, make sure to follow Instagram updates, tools and trends. Instagram is quick to inform about any algorithm changes, new features and pro tips on their blog!

I hope you enjoyed this post, have fun creating your custom Instagram strategy! And feel free to share your experience with Instagram in the comments below. 

3 Easy Steps to Come Up With Custom T-Shirt Design Ideas

3 Easy Steps to Come Up With Custom T-Shirt Design Ideas

Disclosure: some of the links to products or services in this article are affiliate links, meaning that Printful might earn a commission if you sign up or make a purchase through the link (at no extra cost to you). Read more here.

Got the burning desire to launch an online store? Want to start a successful side hustle with print-on-demand? Brilliant. If you have the will, all you need are the right tools to get you started: an ecommerce platform and a print-on-demand provider like Printful.

Another crucial thing you need is an idea. After all, if your customers don’t like your designs, you’re not going to sell anything. And figuring out how and where to get t-shirt design ideas is sometimes the hardest part.

If you’re looking for cool t-shirt design ideas, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, you’ll learn where to look for design inspiration, how to bring your ideas to life, and where to find ready-made cool t-shirt designs you can sell.

As a bonus, we’re also giving away free typography t-shirt designs you can use for your store!

Now, let’s get started.

1. Understand your niche

Before you get to designing, think of who you’ll sell to and identify your niche. Your designs should appeal to your audience.

If you’re having trouble finding a niche, think of what you’re involved in. Are you part of any unique communities? It’s easier to sell to a niche that you already know about than one that’s completely new to you.

Anything can become your niche market – hobbies, groups, events, and more:

  • Sports
  • Businesses
  • Family
  • Couples
  • Pets
  • Food
  • Social movements

Not sure who to target? We have a list of 115 niche market ideas.

You want to hit the sweet spot. If your niche is too broad, you won’t be able to target it effectively. Too small, and you won’t have enough buyers. Always ask yourself whether you can earn a profit with a specific niche.

Bottom line: you need to know who you sell to.

Let’s say you’re passionate about plants and want to target other plant fans. That’s a good start, so here are some questions you should start answering:

  • What’s trending on Instagram and Pinterest?
  • Is there a specific type of plant that’s popular now?
  • Is there a quote or saying that your audience would appreciate?
  • What kind of plant-themed t-shirts are already on the market?

Get an understanding of what’s happening in your community and what would resonate with them. If you’re part of the community yourself, then if you like something, there’s a good chance others will like it, too.

2. Look for t-shirt design inspiration

With a direction and ideas in mind, it’s time to create your designs. This is easier said than done, so first, ask yourself what’s trending in the design world right now? You want your store to be fresh and current.

Printful’s team of in-house designers knows all about current design trends. Watch the video below to learn their tips:

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80s and 90s patterns

Millennials are riding the nostalgia wave—aesthetics from our youth are making a comeback. Think big contrasts, intricate shapes, and pastel colors.

Patterns look best with our all-over products (leggings, sweatshirts, etc.). But you can use 90s elements on t-shirts as well.

Typography

You can never go wrong with typography. Adapt it to any niche by playing around with the style of typography and the text.

Although there are many ways to create typographic designs, two styles are very in right now: isometric and hand-drawn typography.

Isometric typography has a geometric feel with bold, stylized 3D lettering.

Then there’s hand-drawn typography, which is a little more rustic and whimsical compared to isometric.

Going with stylized typography generally works better than using a basic font as it looks unique and professional.

Always consider what your audience likes. Are they more about bold, geometric styles, or a rustic aesthetic? Or maybe they’re drawn to your message, in which case, a simple font could work just fine!

Don’t forget to download your free typography designs at the end of this post!

Collage design

We’re seeing a surge in collage design—that is, two (or more) images juxtaposed together.

The key to this style is the contrast. Pick images that are the opposite, but work well together. Think of the emotion you want to evoke and the images that’ll take your customer there. Photographs combined with some kind of graphic design elements work well.

This design style looks great on t-shirts—it’s easy to see all the contrasts and detail.

Hand-drawn illustration

We covered this in our 2018 design trends video and it’s still current today!

Continuing with the plant fan example, let’s say I want to create a simple design with a hand-drawn illustration from the Mockup Generator. I would simply pick an illustration of a plant, and add witty text under it.

plant mockup example

Printful’s Mockup Generator has a bunch of illustrations you can use to create simple designs, from avocado, pizza, and other foodie drawings to heart-shaped sunglasses and basic shapes.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

The beauty of selling t-shirts with print-on-demand is that there’s very little risk. Since you’re printing everything on-demand, you don’t have to spend money bulk printing designs. If a design doesn’t sell, just remove it from your store. Or if you notice a new trend, add it to your store and see how it performs!

Worst case scenario, you lose on time and effort you invested in creating the design. At best, you have a new, best-selling product on your hands.

3. Take advantage of online resources

If you’re already a design pro, then you know how to create your t-shirt designs. Get started in Photoshop (or these photoshop alternatives).

But if you’re not a designer by nature, executing your ideas can be a challenge. Luckily, you’ll find plenty of help online.

Use Printful’s Mockup Generator

I’ll start with the no-brainer. Printful has a robust Mockup Generator with sample graphics, fonts, illustrations, clipart, and symbols that are free to use.

If your design idea is simple, then you’ll likely find everything you need to bring it to life right here.

We also offer Printful Design Services if you need help with an elaborate concept.

Browse websites that offer royalty-free images and fonts

You don’t have to create a design from scratch. You can find royalty-free designs, photographs, and fonts that you can sell as they are, or edit to make your own. Remember the collage style design? You can find a royalty-free photo and add your own design element to it.

Some image sources may be paid, and if you’ll probably need a commercial license to sell designs on t-shirts. If you print through Printful, you need to hold the rights to your design, so do your research.

We recommend that you stick to designs you create yourself. But if you want to explore paid options, here are a few resources to check out:

  1. Creative Market – your go-to resource for thousands of ready-to-use assets, like graphics, fonts, and themes. You need to pay to download assets and make sure you look at what kind of license you need to sell for commercial use.
  2. Flaticon – 1,720,000 vector icons in all sorts of categories. Download as they are, or edit to your liking. If you use their free version, you need to properly attribute the artist. If you opt for their paid subscription, then you don’t need to attribute the design author (even if it’s for commercial use).
  3. Shutterstock – here you’ll find thousands of high-quality royalty-free photos and vector images. To sell them commercially, you’ll need their Enhanced License.
  4. Vexels – search for vector graphics that are merch ready! They offer tons of vector graphics made specifically for t-shirts, but to sell commercially you’ll need a license.

Hire a freelance designer

It’s easy as ever to connect with a freelance designer. Here are a few websites where you can find one:

  1. UpWork – a freelance platform where you can hire the right person for your job.
  2. Fiverr – a beginner space where artists list their skills for $5.
  3. 99designs – describe what you need and how much you’re offering to pay for it. Then designers submit their ideas and you pick the one you like the best.

We cover how to find a t-shirt designer in another blog post!

Bonus: Tips for DTG design

T-shirts are universal—almost everybody owns at least one. So this is a great product to start with. Here is advice on how to pick your t-shirt and create a design.

Pick the right t-shirt model

The style of t-shirt you choose depends on your niche. Is our audience interested in an affordable basic? Then opt for a Gildan. Are they style-oriented? Then go with a fashion-forward Bella-Canvas.

Other key factors to consider:

  • Are you selling to men or women?
  • Does your audience prefer loose- or tight-fitting tees?
  • What price range do they expect?
  • What colors are trendy?

Keep print file guidelines in mind

Pay close attention to Printful’s print file guidelines before creating your designs. They’re a little different for each product, but these are basic rules to follow:

  • Submit your design files to Printful in PNG or JPG.
  • Your designs should be at least 150 DPI (dots per inch). Anything smaller and your design will look pixelated when printed.
  • Remove the background before submitting files. We print everything that’s in the file (including white backgrounds), so remove whatever you don’t want printed.
  • Make sure all of your elements are opaque. DTG printing doesn’t work well with designs that are see-through, so your colors should be solid.

Use our Mockup Generator to get an idea of how your product will look, but remember that what you see on screen won’t always look exactly the same when printed in real life. Order samples at 20% off to test your designs before selling them to customers.

Time to create your t-shirt designs

It’s easy to start selling t-shirts online. All you need is an idea, a niche that’ll love it, and the readily available tools to get you going: an ecommerce platform and print-on-demand provider. With this blog post, you have the tools to find your niche and create a design.

We’ll even help you take it one step further by giving you free t-shirt designs. Use them as they are, or add some unique elements with our mockup generator!

What designs are you selling on your store?

How to Use Zapier and Printful to Automate Your Ecommerce Business

How to Use Zapier and Printful to Automate Your Ecommerce Business

Running an ecommerce business requires you to wear a lot of hats. That means you can’t waste precious time on tedious tasks like completing data entry, notifying your team about orders, and creating receipts. If you want to focus your energy on the creative side of your business, turn to automation.

With Printful, your order fulfillment and shipping is taken care of. But there’s even more you can do. Zapier is an automation tool that helps anyone connect apps without any technical know-how. And now that Printful integrates with Zapier, you can automate your Printful workflows as well.

What can Zapier’s Printful integration do?

You can use Zapier to connect your Printful account with 1,400+ apps that will automate your ecommerce workflow. This means you’ll have more time for the fun part of your job—creating awesome designs and getting them to your customers.

Zapier is free for basic features and comes with a 14-day trial of its premium tier. Premium plans start as low as $20 per month.

Using Printful as a workflow trigger

You can use Printful as a workflow trigger. When something happens in Printful, that event will cause something else to happen in another app. For example, whenever an order is canceled in Printful, you can automatically send a follow-up email to the person who canceled.

With Zapier, you can trigger workflows whenever any of the following events happen in Printful:

  • A new order is created
  • An order is fulfilled (all items shipped successfully)
  • An order is canceled

You can use Zapier’s built-in Filter tool to create trigger events that are more specific.

For example, maybe you only want a trigger to work when a new order that costs more than $50 is created in Printful. Or maybe you only want to know when orders to Australia are fulfilled. Zapier gives you complete control over your workflow so you can drill down into whatever data you’d like to see.

Once you select the trigger from Printful, you’ll be able to choose your action app and automatically send your Printful data to that app every time the trigger event happens in Printful. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it system.

Using Printful as a workflow action

Of course, you might also want to take action in Printful based on trigger events in other apps. For example, you might want to create an order in Printful whenever you add a row to a Google Sheets spreadsheet. With Zapier, you can create a new draft order in Printful whenever a trigger fires in the app of your choosing.

That means Zapier will automatically create Printful orders instead of you having to manually do it yourself.

How to set up your Printful and Zapier integration

To make use of the Printful and Zapier integration, you’ll need to have both a Printful account and a Zapier account. Once you set up both, you have a couple of options.

Use pre-made Zaps

The easiest way to get started is to try some pre-made Printful and Zapier workflows, which Zapier calls Zaps. All you’ll need to do is click Try it next to the Zap you want to use and authenticate your Printful account and the accounts of any other apps you’re using in the workflow—Zapier will take care of the rest.

pre-made-printful-zaps-zapier

Here are a few pre-made Zaps you can start using today:

    • Connect Printful to Slack so you can automatically notify your team about new, canceled, or fulfilled orders.
    • Automatically send an email confirmation for each new Printful order. Greet your customers with a personalized message or share useful information about their order.
    • Connect Prinftul to your accounting app to automatically create sales receipts or invoices.

Build custom Zaps

If you can’t find what you’re looking for in pre-made options, consider building a custom Zap with Printful and Zapier. Here’s how you do it:

Step 1

Within the editor environment, click Edit trigger and select the app that will trigger your workflow. For example, if you want to send a direct message on Slack whenever you get a new order in Printful, select Printful as your trigger app.

setting-printful-as-trigger-zapier

Step 2

Then select the trigger you want for your workflow; in this case, New Order.

choosing-trigger-event-zapier

Step 3

If you haven’t already connected Printful to your Zapier account, you’ll be asked to do so (and given instructions on how).

Step 4

You can then specify the trigger; for example, you might only want to have a trigger on pending orders.

Step 5

Once you’ve done that, Zapier will test your connection and find some sample data from your account that it will use to help populate the rest of your workflow.

Step 6

Then you can select the action; in this example, sending a direct message in Slack. Select Action and then choose Slack as your action app in the same way you chose Printful as your trigger app. Choose your action (in this case, Send direct message), and then connect your Slack account.

Step 7

You can customize the message you send through Slack, using data from the Printful order that triggered the workflow. For example, you might want to include information like recipient name, item ordered, cost, or any of dozens of other data points. Click the + next to any given field to insert data from the previous step.

create-custom-message-in-zapier-slack

Step 8

Once you’ve finished your action, test the Zap, turn it on, and that’s that.

zap-turned-on

Automate your ecommerce workflow with Zapier

As your ecommerce business grows, the number and complexity of your day-to-day tasks can become overwhelming. Luckily, there’s a way you can take some weight off your shoulders without having to hire your first employee: automation.

Together, Printful and Zapier can save you countless hours of manual work. That’s time you can put back into growing your business, whether it’s introducing new products or marketing them to your target audience.

How to Sell Custom Jewelry Online and Actually Make Money

How to Sell Custom Jewelry Online and Actually Make Money

29 million Americans said they owned jewelry in 2018. To put in perspective, that’s the size of the population of Texas. We did the math, and you’d need approximately 362 lifetimes to meet that many people.

As an ecommerce store owner, you can see there are a lot of possibilities in that number, and it’s just a matter of finding the right path for your business to access them. We’re here to help you understand how to sell personalized jewelry and grow your store in the process.

In this blog article, we’ll go over why selling jewelry online is the next big thing, how to find that pricing sweet spot and best places to sell your jewelry, and how to introduce custom jewelry in a way that makes sense for your store.

Why sell personalized jewelry online?

The jewelry industry has been slow to adapt to the world of ecommerce that apparel sellers embraced so quickly. But now jewelry is catching up fast. According to McKinsey, jewelry sales are expected to reach $275 billion by 2020, and a whopping $645 billion in 2035.

McKinsey predicts that 10% of jewelry sales in 2020 will take place online. And with jewelry profit margins averaging 42.6%, it’s a market well worth researching for all existing and potential ecommerce business owners out there.

Another reason to sell jewelry online is its evergreen quality. No matter the time of the year, custom jewelry is never out of season. If your ecommerce marketing calendar has the right dates on it, you can create holiday-related marketing campaigns focusing on your line of jewelry.

For example, June 8 is Best Friend Day, which means you can come up with a special offer for best friend necklaces. Boss Day on October 8 is perfect for designing custom bracelets celebrating the world’s best bosses.

Where to start?

When it comes to choosing the products to sell, bracelets and necklaces are classics for a reason—people love and wear them. As you know, jewelry can be made from a lot of different materials, but if you want to add value to your store consider fine jewelry that’s made from quality silver, gold, or other precious metals.

There are various production techniques used with precious metals, but engraving is the way to go since it adds a unique tactile feeling to a bracelet or necklace. So by adding engraved jewelry to your product selection you’ll attract customers who love high quality premium products. That’s why in this blog post we’re going to focus on how to sell engraved necklaces and bracelets.

First things first—you have to decide how much time and effort you want to invest in creating personalized engraved jewelry.

Option 1. Create and fulfill custom engraved jewelry yourself

The biggest benefit of creating jewelry yourself is you have full control over the process. You’re the one who chooses a quality engraving machine and supplies, and handles each order to make sure the customer has the perfect unboxing experience.

However, this option comes with some potential deal-breakers. First, you have to get the supplies and tools for engraving, which means investing your own money, especially if you’re going to order in bulk. For those starting in ecommerce, this might not be financially possible.

Second, not all of us have the time to master precise and sleek engraving skills to create minimalistic jewelry, which is particularly difficult with hand-held tools. But without properly learning the skill you can end up with poor quality products, damaged items that’ll make you lose money, or even worse—bad reviews on your store.

creating-your-own-jewelry

Third, engraving, packaging, and shipping each order takes time. And after your business takes off, this model can be difficult to scale unless you’re willing to manage your store full-time. So with future success in mind, it might be more beneficial to choose a trusted fulfillment partner for your personalized jewelry.

Option 2. Use an on-demand fulfillment service

Using an on-demand fulfillment service that offers custom engraved jewelry solves the problems outlined above. You lose control over the creation and fulfillment processes, but gain quality and time to focus on your business and marketing the products.

To get the best results, you need to choose a reliable white-label production partner that has engraved jewelry in their product range. For example, Printful offers high quality engraved silver bar necklaces and bracelets with silver, gold, and rhodium coatings. You just need to add your designs to the products, and start selling jewelry on your store.

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Printful charges your account only when a customer makes an order. Then they fulfill the order and send it directly to your customer under your brand. You set your own profit margins, so you can mark up your custom jewelry the way you see fit.

With Printful, all jewelry orders have free shipping, which can significantly increase your average order value.

Using a partner makes sense if you prefer developing a business strategy and marketing the products, and leaving the production process to professionals. To find a fulfillment partner that meets your standards, order some product samples and test them out.

How to price jewelry?

Once you have the fulfillment sorted, find the right price for your products. Pricing is tricky because the price tag needs to reflect the quality of the product and bring in profit, but also appeal to customers who have a lot of other shopping options at their fingertips.

As we mentioned before, jewelry generally has very high and stable profit margins with sellers reporting similar results year after year despite market fluctuations. Researching how established competitors value their products can give you an idea of what works for the audience you’re targeting.

For example, a search for engraved silver bar necklaces on Etsy reveals products with prices ranging from $16 to upwards of $150. A simple Sarah Chloe engraved gold-plated silver bar necklace at Macy’s costs $118. So evaluate the competition, calculate the profit margins, and decide what makes sense for your store.

gold-necklace

Source: Macy’s

Let’s take the Macy’s $118 necklace as an example. Printful would charge you $24.95 for a comparable product. Since all orders have free shipping, the necklace would give you a $93.05 gross profit with an 80% profit margin.

Some ecommerce platforms, such as Shopify, Woocommerce, and Etsy even offer a personalization feature that allows customers to design their own bracelet or necklace directly on your storefront. Giving your customers the option to order jewelry with their own unique designs increases your profit margins even more.

Read our article on how to market expensive products to learn helpful tips and tricks on finding the right price work for your engraved jewelry line.

Best places to sell jewelry online

When you’ve decided on the price, it’s time to find the right place to sell custom-made jewelry. One option is to create your own online store (or add a new category to an existing store—more on that later). This way you can customize the store to your heart’s content, creating a truly tailor-made shopping experience.

Another option is to use online marketplaces that are well-known for their extensive jewelry collections. Even if you already have an established store, multichannel selling can be a game-changer when it comes to finding new target audiences. Let’s take a look at some of the marketplaces you should consider.

Etsy

Note: The term ‘Etsy’ is a trademark of Etsy, Inc. Printful’s application uses the Etsy API but is not endorsed or certified by Etsy, Inc.

Personalized jewelry is one of Etsy’s best-selling categories, so Etsy is the place to sell jewelry. With almost 39.5 million active buyers in 2018, it’s a good place to get noticed.

sell-engraved-jewelry-etsy

Source: Etsy

Just being on Etsy, however, is not enough. You have to optimize your product listings by using the right keywords, adding eye-catching product pictures, and constantly monitoring what works and what doesn’t. So invest some time to research how to successfully sell products on Etsy.

eBay

eBay is one of the few industry leaders with years of experience in ecommerce, and its 167 million monthly visitors make it a formidable market player.

ebay-engraved-jewelry

Source: eBay

But such numbers also signal that there’s a lot of competition, so you should have some tricks up your sleeve to make sure your bracelets and necklaces are seen. This means getting to know eBay’s algorithms inside and out and reading up on how to boost your rankings.

Amazon

Amazon is an ecommerce giant that’s not going to stop their expansion anytime soon. In 2018 alone, the company’s net revenue was $232.89 billion dollars. Plus, Amazon has global marketplaces for sellers who want their engraved jewelry to go international.

amazon-angraved-jewelry

Source: Amazon

Just note that Amazon has rules in place for all sellers, so it may take some time for you to actually start selling jewelry on their marketplace. Luckily, there are plenty of resources to help you get started with Amazon.

Introducing custom jewelry to your store

If you already have a successful ecommerce store, jewelry can spice up your product range. Adding new products shows your customers that your business is thriving and expanding. So put some time into planning a launch to make sure the new products tie in with your brand image.

When planning, always have your target audience and business niche in mind. Here are some strategies you can use when introducing custom engraved jewelry to your store.

Connect it to your brand

The designs you use on your t-shirts aren’t going to work on jewelry. But you can definitely connect the two products to attract customers who are already fans of your t-shirts. For example, jewelry works very well with text-based designs, so if your t-shirts feature words or taglines, put them on your jewelry as well.

Or if you’re the owner of a brand that’s already a household name, create bracelets and necklaces with your branding, so your most loyal customers can act as brand ambassadors.

Do limited editions

Use FOMO as a marketing tool, and create limited edition personalized jewelry that’s exclusive to your store. There’s nothing like a countdown clock to motivate customers to make their order.

limited-edition-jewelry

Source: Mango

If the limited edition campaign is successful, you can consider adding jewelry products to your product range with a “back by popular demand” announcement. This way you can test out your customers’ response and make sure they’re not surprised seeing a new category on your store.

Target special events

Special events are a great time to introduce something new to your store. And there are so many options to choose from! For example, you can pick an international holiday, like Siblings Day, and come up with a line of jewelry to celebrate all the amazing siblings out there.

It can also be an event that’s special for your brand. Offer a new product as a thank you to all your customers a year after launching your store, or when you get your 100th 5-star product review.

Start selling custom jewelry today

Whether you’re just at the beginning of your ecommerce journey, or you’re already an established player with lots of experience, consider selling custom jewelry as your next passion project.

With all the impressive sales numbers and possibility for high profit margins, jewelry can become a best-seller on your store. Especially if you put in the work and do your research. So go ahead—discover a new niche in your ecommerce journey! And don’t forget to share your own experience with selling jewelry in the comments below.