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The Shocking Truth About What Customers Want in a T-Shirt

in Branding, Design, Market Research, Packaging, Social Responsibility

If you want to be good at t-shirt business, one thing you should be expertly good at is knowing what your customers really want in a tee. You can be good at taking charge of the business and finance side of things but if you know only very little of what your specific market wants in a t-shirt or what people in general look for when they buy their tees, then you’re not yet ready to start a t-shirt business. You have to stop planning about your business right this moment and just take time to study what customers want in a t-shirt. Research is probably the most important part of business. For starters, here are some basic things that you need to know about how customers choose their t-shirts:

Quality Is Still More Important Than Affordability

You might think the regular customer won’t notice the quality of your t-shirts because they’re too enamored by the artwork. Or, you might think that they’d like to purchase your shirts right away (and in bundles) because they’re so dirt cheap. Well, cheapness is only a big plus if it’s the kind of tee that they have to wear one time only (like required family reunion shirts, school event shirts, etc). But if it’s something that they’d wear on a date or to work, meaning it’s something that’s really reflects their tastes, then cheapness in quality is actually a big no-no.
You should not underestimate the customers’ expertise when it comes to choosing good quality t-shirts. They will check certain details like the neck bindings, the stitches, whether or not there are loose threads, and if the fabric feels smooth and light or stiff as leather.

So the next time you’re thinking of purchasing the cheapest t-shirts for your t-shirt printing business, choose the ones that you’d be willing to wear. That doesn’t mean you have to choose the most expensive t-shirts, you just have to choose something that would pass the basic standard of a regular buyer. Meaning, the t-shirts should not be too stiff, too thick, etc. You get the picture.

Simple Designs Get More Love

Always have, always will. Some newbie t-shirt designers think that the more detail and color they put in their design, the more people will feel that they get more bang for their buck. But consumers are actually more attracted to simpler t-shirt designs. This applies to both the actual t-shirt design and the printed t-shirt artwork. Why is this so? Maybe it’s the influence of the west or maybe people’s tastes are now somehow evolved, or maybe consumers favor simpler designs because of scientific reasons. Simple artworks and texts are more impactful (and therefore, memorable) because complex designs confuse people. The process of getting information on an overly designed shirt is strenuous because **we’re already having information overload** from all the other sources of information – TV, internet, billboards, etc.

But the goal is not simply dumbing down artwork, it’s something much more than that! It’s a well-known psychological fact in design that when there’s less information, the message/beauty is amplified. That’s why “less is more” is so popular because it works. Think of Apple’s logo (or any logo from good brands) to remind you that you don’t have to put so much information, so much detail, so many colors, so many frills, so many kinds of textures, because they will just cancel each other out and become one blob of clutter.

Eco-Friendliness Is a Big Plus

You may not want to join the eco-friendly bandwagon because you think those businesses are just pretentious. But you know what? It might be worth it. It may be worth the trouble because not only will you have a more responsible way of doing your business, your customers will love your t-shirts, too! Statistics show that people (especially Millennials) have their loyalty on businesses that support causes and show social responsibility. That means to say that if you’re choosing eco-friendly materials and you’re doing t-shirt production with care for nature, you’re not just doing Mother Earth a favor, you’re doing your business (and yourself!) a big favor, too.

So how can you become an eco-friendly t-shirt company? First, use eco-friendly materials. Choose recycled hemp fibers, polyester, and other sustainable textiles. When it comes to cotton, make sure you only buy those from organic cotton because non-organic cotton uses over ¼ of all insecticides on the planet. Next, you can check how you work. Are you using too much paper in processing orders? Are you still using plastic bags? Finally, you can donate a portion of your profit to charities. Now, please be honest with your claims. Do not put a seal that you’re 100% organic when you’re not or else you’ll feel rotten inside and out. There’s nothing more despicable than a businessman who fakes eco-friendliness just to get more profit.

Shirts Should Make Them Cool

Even though many people actually do buy basic tees from Cotton On or The Gap, it doesn’t mean that they’re not thinking about how their personality is being reflected by their garments. T-shirts are a reflection of the wearer’s personality. This is arguably the major factor on how customers choose their shirts. Sure, there are those who buy shirts just for the sake that they’ll have something to wear. T-shirts are just purchased for functional reasons. But the majority of us who are conscious buyers and choosers of our shirts, we choose shirt designs based on our personality or the personality we want to create for ourselves.

For example, if someone is a filmmaker or a film enthusiast, he’d easily buy a shirt that has a Hitchcock print on it. Once that person wears it, he/she wants to be associated to Hitchcock and filmmaking. Ultimately, what the wearer wants to say is that “I am a fan of Hitchcock. I am cool.” Same goes with band t-shirts. Fans go crazy over these t-shirts because they want to broadcast to people their coolness. But it’s not just coolness, it could be angst, calmness, silliness, and other things people want to be recognized for.

So how should a t-shirt entrepreneur like you deal with this well-known fact? Identify your market and get to know what makes them feel good (and not just the fabric) when they wear your shirts. There is no t-shirt store that caters to everyone’s personality and needs. Find your niche and offer them t-shirts they can’t resist.

T-Shirt Packaging Matters

How you package your t-shirts is as important as the actual design of the t-shirt especially if you’re trying to create a brand. Case in point: Johnny Cupcakes. Johnny Cupcakes calls itself as the world’s first t-shirt bakery. Their t-shirt artwork designs are awesome but they’re not really something to die for. However, they’re killing it with their concept. The designs of the t-shirts are incorporated in the t-shirt packaging, which is under the big concept of the brand (bakery). They have t-shirts in cupcake boxes, ice cream containers, cereal boxes, and a lot of other creative t-shirt packaging.

What many people love about cool t-shirts in incredible t-shirt packaging is that it can be an instant present. They don’t need to gift wrap their shirts because they are already in presentable containers. There are also many musicians who put their t-shirt merch in creative packaging like a vinyl sleeve. What should you do as a t-shirt entrepreneur? If you have a store, make sure you have a solid brand. Then, incorporate your brand to your t-shirt packaging. Do not just put your tees in a cheap, forgettable plastic bag! If you’re a t-shirt printer who prints t-shirts for other people’s businesses, offer them a t-shirt packaging option. Advise them first hand that the design of their t-shirt should match the design of their t-shirt packaging. You’re helping them improve their brand, you’re earning more in return. Win-win!

Now that you’ve read some important facts about customers’ preferences in t-shirts, apply them to your t-shirt designs and t-shirt business as a whole because (Are you ready for the most shocking truth?) in order for your t-shirt business to flourish, the only secret is to make your customers fall in love with your shirts. It’s no easy feat but if you follow all the things mentioned above and then some, you’re on your way. This is just the first step of a hundred steps. You have to keep reading and interacting with your customers and analyzing to find out what they really, really, really want.

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