4 Ways to Increase Your Order Sizes During COVID-19

Does it feel like even though decorated apparel orders are still coming in or are starting to pick back up, the order sizes have decreased? You’re not alone. With the second wave of COVID-19 hitting Canada, we’re once again dealing with lockdown restrictions and uncertainties.

In order to avoid succumbing to the ups and downs of the market, some distributors have started upselling, cross-selling, bundling products, and providing solutions rather than just taking orders. Here’s a look at the range of experiences we’ve been hearing about from our fellow distributors in the United States. Find out how these strategies have helped them increase their order sizes and given their businesses new life.

Upselling Quality and Solutions

Upselling has been a sales mainstay for decades, but with the downturn in the economy, it’s more important than ever. What does this mean? Well let’s say you regularly sell employee work shirts to your customers. It makes sense to present three options: a $5 shirt of decent quality, a better-quality shirt for $10, and a top-notch item for $15. When the customer calls in, they may want to order 100 shirts at the lowest possible price. This would be a $500 order for you. But if you upsell correctly, even just to the second tier, you’ve doubled the value of your order.

A client will invest in the second-tier shirt if they realize it’ll save money in the long run because the shirts wash better and hold graphics longer. Plus, better-quality shirts present a more professional image. “Having a lower budget doesn’t mean that a cheaper shirt is the answer,” says Brett Bowden, owner of Printed Threads in Texas. “Sometimes, the best answer is a lower quantity of great-quality shirts.”

Since a lot of people are working remotely, many corporate clients don’t need an on-hand supply of apparel and swag. “As a solution, we offer online stores with a print or embroidery-on-demand model,” says Tom Rauen, CEO of Envision Tees in Iowa. His team ships directly to employees, whether they’re working at the office or at home. While this results in lower minimums, Rauen says he benefits from higher margins with fewer quantity price breaks.


Let’s say that a client tells you she wants to order 200 T-shirts for her event instead of the usual 500 because of decreased attendance. You can mention that other clients with similar events also purchased facemasks, water bottles, and lanyards with a lip balm, hand sanitizer, or small sunscreen bottle attached to them. This is a little different than bundling (more on that in a minute) since it’s done on the fly as you deal with a specific customer’s needs.

“The key is finding out your client’s desired outcome for the event or what they want their customer or attendee to feel emotionally,” Rauen says. “This takes creative thinking to find the best solution to help your client achieve their goals.”

Lee Romano Sequeira, co-owner of Sparkle Plenty Designs, blings out apparel and accessories for clients and then recommends other uses for the designs. “We pitch non-sized items like tote bags and caps,” she says. “We also encourage customers to purchase extra heat transfers if they want to iron them onto additional items.”

Bundling Products

This may seem like cross-selling, but there’s a difference. If you have a customer who’s ordering shirts for their clients, then you may want to suggest they bundle the product with two shirts, a shirt and a hoodie, or a shirt with a hat or face mask.

Rauen says bundling works well for teams and retail-focused clients. For example, for a brewery client, frame the bundle for them in terms of how much profit they’ll make on each instead of how much it costs them. “This reframes their mindset from merch being an expense to being a profit center,” he says.

Let’s say a $10 tri-blend T-shirt that retails for $20 can be combined with a $2 pint glass and be sold as a combo for $25. “At a quantity of 144, this increases the brewery’s profits from $1,440 to $1,872,” Rauen says.

You can also bundle products together in special branded or personalized packaging that adds perceived value, which will help increase your bottom line.

Providing Solutions

Imagine how many times this conversation has occurred: a customer calls you with a specific order. You ask, “What colour? What sizes? How many?” The result? Your customer views you as an order taker instead of a pro with years of decorating and marketing experience.

“It’s our job to deliver excellent customer service and a personalized experience,” Bowden says. “We have customers who use us because of who we are and why we exist.”

This means you need to develop rapport with your customers to find out about their needs and then suggest ways of fulfilling them. Rauen suggests figuring out exactly how to help your customers—and their customers—win big. “Think two levels deep and sell that solution to your client,” he says. “If you come up with a winning formula of the right message and product to help your customers generate more revenue, you can rinse and repeat with others in the same industry.”

Ryan Moor, CEO of Ryonet in Washington, advises decorators to adopt a consultative sales process that dives into questions about a client’s situation, pain points, and what type of solution would deliver the results they want. “When you dive into the pain or real need, it’s easy to create and upsell a creative solution,” he says.

In addition to decorating products, Sequeira asks her clients how the goods will be used and offers promo tips and marketing ideas, since one of her specialties is social media.

Moor advises just asking for the sale. “You can do it on your website with product recommendations or checkout add-ons,” he says. If you’re on the phone, pitch face masks with every order. That item might change in the future, but always have a relevant product to continue the conversation.”

Another reason why being consultative is a great idea: you’ll upsell, cross-sell, and bundle even more successfully. Customers are more likely to listen to your recommendations if they view you as an in-demand expert who can help them achieve their business goals.