The resurgence of graphic tees is the big fashion story of the last ten years. Years ago, t-shirts with graphics on them were relegated to the status of tacky party favors and walking billboards (“Oh, would you like to buy the world a Coke?”). But now, graphic tees are an increasingly popular part of the fashion-aware wardrobe. They’re an effective way to express a whole range of ideas, from support for a home team or home town to good taste to general weirdness.
Most graphic tees embody a lot of what makes certain kinds of design uniquely American: they’re cheap and easy to mass-produce, but it’s also trivial to make them radically different from one another. This means that they will be ubiquitous, on average, but still be stratified internally: even though everyone is wearing graphic tees, the shirts Ivy League students wear will be different from the shirts that blue-collar workers wear. This sets up an interesting dichotomy: they’re trendy in total, but that doesn’t mean that any given t-shirt will be popular with any prospective customer.
every graphic t-shirt company has learned to navigate the market
The companies that sell graphic tees have learned to navigate this tricky market quite skillfully. They carefully consider their target market and try to design the entire shopping experience around getting the right person to view the right clothes (in the right mood, too). Most retail stores accomplish this through various tricks: they use store displays and music to set the mood, hire engaging salespeople to make their customers feel appropriately upbeat, and present graphic t-shirts in a visually appealing manner. All this is designed to provide some background “noise” by distracting the customers a little, but the end goal is to keep them focused on making a purchase.
Online stores offering graphic tees face a different challenge. They can’t provide music (visitors don’t like it — and usually have their own) or much in the way of displays (visitors often tune out background images). To sell their shirts, they have to drive the right kind of traffic to their sites and then compellingly present their graphic tees. Fortunately, online stores have some hidden advantages: although they can’t overwhelm visitors with graphics, they can vary their pictures more frequently. This is not just a quantitative difference: it creates a qualitative difference in sales techniques.
When selling graphic tees online, it’s possible to grab your viewers’ attention and maintain it for an extended period by experimenting with different displays and layouts. You can even afford to go for edgy, controversial new looks — at worst, you have to revert to your previous configuration; at best, you get lots of free publicity and traffic.
Pursuing controversy isn’t the only way to sell online, whether you’re selling graphic tees or other clothes, or even something completely unrelated.
Many online retailers thrive with an excellent web-compatible design but a more brick-and-mortar ‘vibe.’
This middle ground is one of the most effective ways to sell graphic tees since it combines the flexibility of online stores with the atmosphere of an established retail location.