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Jan 5, 2011

RedBubble, Merchandising Ideas and the Future of Retail

I recently signed up for the RedBubble service- essentially a shopfront for artists and designers which provides fulfillment services for the production and distribution of framed prints, t-shirts, calendars, greeting cards and the like.  I was admittedly skeptical but was searching for a way to commercialise some of my (modest) creative output.  I have now been posting entries to both the arts section (my portfolio here) and the T-shirts section (portfolio here) for a few weeks. As many of you know I have been promoting myself via Twitter and Facebook.  To my surprise and delight I have even made a few  sales !

However, I wanted to share with you the merchandising ideas I have observed in RedBubble's approach, and at a time when Australian retailers have belatedly woken up to their customers shopping on the Net, a few thoughts on the future of retail.

I was delighted yesterday to receive my first package from RedBubble.  I had ordered a few of my t-shirt designs - for my ego, yes, but also to market them directly, and also to assess the quality of fabric and rendition of the images.  Here is what arrived:

Prior to this, they had done all the best practice stuff for e-commerce - letting me know when my order was being processed etc.  I was very impressed with the cool packaging - the 'attitude' was right on brand as well.

I strongly suggest you visit their site to check out their brand style, tone and manner - irreverent, quirky, relaxed without being 'way out there', ie. still accessible.  Here is another illustration - best warning label I have seen :)

What a cool merchandising idea - they just keep selling the brand's benefits without being intrusive.

And then there was the big 'reveal' for me:  I have to admit to being a tad nervous - not that it had been a huge outlay, but my fragile ego was involved :). I was delighted to see the shirts packed and folded carefully, with a card for washing instructions.  The quality of the fabric is great: super soft, very comfortable to wear.  

I was nervous about the sizing - as you can see from the photos I am not in the 'small' category :)  However, they were excellent fits, and very generously sized, which is not something I can say about most t-shirts I buy locally in the shops.  I have very seldom found my size, the 'cut' has always been stingy, and the quality of fabric mostly poor - admittedly these have been sub-$50 t-shirts.  Personally I do not see myself paying more for a t-shirt.

I landed these in Australia for well less than $40 each.  Delivery time was 15 business days which I thought was pretty reasonable for the busy Christmas and holiday period.
So, here they are: 4 designs:

The Hawk

Bucket List Cities

Iconic Sydney

Life's a beach
So, what does this all have to do with retail ?
Well, I make my main living advising retailers - mostly of the bricks and mortar kind.  Here is what this means:

1. The future is about shopper control and customisation - in this case, choice of colours, sizes, and design (either my own or someone else's).
2.  Savvy web retailers are setting new, increasingly high  standards for customer service - quick response times, well-considered web sites, great FAQs, no questions money-back guarantees, free shipping - which will totally de-risk the purchase for shoppers.
3. Oh, and did I mention it was convenient ?  All done from my iPad or similar - pick a device of choice.  Admittedly I had to wait a while, but if I was really desperate for a t-shirt I might have popped down to the mall. I saw the waiting time as the trade-off for getting exactly what I wanted.  And yes, most of what we buy does fall into the 'wants' category - and people are prepared to defer acquisition to get what they want, as opposed to what they 'need'.
4. There's a great community of fellow travellers - who inspire and motivate.
5. There is huge choice - have a look at the site.
6. The products are authentic - the products of individual passion, not some faceless machine.
7. The culture is strong and distinctive - helpful, friendly, but quirky and full of character and humour - just look up Mr Baxter on RedBubble.  Many retailers have created humourless environments that fail to inspire.
8.  The price is right - the market will decide - moving around Sydney CBD earlier today I noticed designer t-shirts everywhere (perceptual vigilance :P) and noticed how almost all of them were 30-50% off, and then still more expensive than what I had bought.
Once you get what you want - as a shopper as with anything in life - it becomes addictive. almost liberating, a bit like being a bird, really.


  1. Great post and I love your tee shirts. I have bought my own cards and others as well. Red Bubble is fun, but I find it hard to sell there.
    peace n abundance,

  2. nice lead
    I can think of alot of ways that I can put to good use this tip.

    I think new mexicommtngirl Red bubble products ahould be used not as products to resell but as marketing tools.