Small businesses should always be looking for ways to improve brand recognition and increase their brand exposure. One way small business owners can improve their brand profile is by updating their merchandising strategy. After all, small businesses that can’t pick up a dedicated clientele won’t have as much success with growth as businesses with more adaptable marketing and merchandising.

Everyone loves merch, and merchandise is one of the best ways to promote your brand and company values. For example, say you run a coffee shop. As customers wait in line, a neat and organized merchandise display with cups, t-shirts, and other novelties is sure to catch their attention. Strategic merchandise use and placement is invaluable for building your brand.

The team at Your Brand Cafe discusses reenergizing your business’s approach to merchandising in the paragraphs below. Check out these tips for your merchandising strategy and learn how you can elevate your brand to the next level.

What Is Merchandise Branding?

In a nutshell, merchandise branding is the process of imprinting your brand on merchandise—t-shirts, keychains, cups, bags, etc. That might sound simple, but branding as a concept is more complex than just a logo or colors.

Branding is about communicating your company’s identity and values through your designs. When designing branding, you are making intentional choices to evoke certain ideas, feelings, and attitudes in customers. In that sense, one of the main goals of branding is getting customers to associate certain values and attitudes with your marketing materials.

Branding encompasses every design choice you make, including your storefront colors, logo imagery, voice in text, and website layout. The point of branding is to affect how potential customers perceive you as a company and what kinds of values they ascribe to you.

Merchandising and Brand Recognition

Strategic merchandising is one of the most cost-effective and lucrative ways to improve brand recognition and identity. In today’s competitive economy, businesses have to work harder than ever to capture the attention of customers whose preferences can change every day. For instance, economic factors might mean more people are saving money making coffee at home. Brand recognition is one thing that keeps customers loyal and coming back to your business for more.

Think about the typical visit to a coffee shop. The customer enters the store and waits in line to put in an order at the counter. While they are waiting, they are looking around the shop, taking in the look and decor of your storefront. When customers are in line, they are a captive audience, and you need ways to direct that attention towards your brand. A display full of fun and unique branded merchandise is a perfect way to capture their gaze and attention.

Many coffee shops and restaurants do offer merchandise, but they often don’t have the best display practices to entice shoppers to purchase a product. Disorganization or dust on shelves can give customers a negative impression of your business and brand. Showcasing your merchandise is just as important as having merchandise available, because presentation helps customers form positive psychological associations with your brand.

Benefits of Merchandise Branding

Pretty much every brand uses some kind of merchandise nowadays. The simplicity of creating and offering merchandise makes it uniquely suited for expressing a company’s brand and image. Moreover, branding can increase sales, and sales and profit are the primary goal in any market. With that in mind, below are some of the key ways that brand merchandising can help your brand.

Increase Customer Loyalty with Free Merch

Imagine a company decided to gift free cups or hats to you. You wouldn’t be very likely to forget about that company in the near future, right? The kind of gestures merchandise makes possible are great ways to foster brand loyalty. Getting new customers is already difficult, and having free promotional items is a surefire way to attract positive attention and get them to remember your company.

Improve Employee Morale

The most successful companies recognize that employees are more than just a source of labor—successful employees make a successful business. Merchandising is just one small way that owners can show they care about team members. Simple gestures like free merch and branded team gear can build bonds between workers and help them run a smooth operation. Employee morale is one of the most important things determining business success.

Stand Out Among Competitors

Even if you have a perfectly optimized business strategy, it can be difficult to compete with competitors. Markets have their own random “x-factor” that can tip the scales in unexpected ways. One of the biggest roadblocks businesses have is making themselves stand out from competitors and maintain that competitive advantage. These difficulties are one reason why so many businesses fail in the first five years.

Your merchandising strategy helps cultivate a unique identity to differentiate your company from the competition. Merchandise can create an interesting and engaging picture of your brand and identifies the values that separate you from others in the same business niche.

Generate Leads

Lead generation is a crucial aspect of every business as every business needs to grow their customer base at all times. Lead generation is about more than just getting new customers but also keeping the old customers. Merchandise like shirts, mugs, and keychains give existing customers a reason to come back and can act as a kind of advertisement for prospective customers.

Promote Brand Recognition

Brand recognition is more than just someone recognizing your branding and remembering your store. Branding recognition is also about connecting certain ideas and values to your branded materials, so customers can create positive psychological associations between your business and your values. In that sense, your merchandising strategy is extremely useful for cultivating a unique identity.


Finally, merchandising remains one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to promote your branding. Online and print advertising are useful, but they do not pull the double duty of generating brand awareness and directly creating revenue. Because merchandise is “concrete” and less abstract than marketing, it is very easy to determine whether your merchandising strategy is having a positive effect on your bottom line.

Examples of Merchandising Strategies

It’s easy to talk about merchandise branding as a concept, but what about specific category-based merchandising strategies? You can understand merchandising strategies based on how they seek to improve your business. Every merchandising strategy has a specific objective that depends on the retailer and category of merchandise.
Below are some useful physical merchandising and clever ecommerce merchandising strategies that have been successful for brands across the country.

Traffic Building

The point of traffic building merchandise strategies is getting more foot traffic in your store. Traffic building merchandising strategies direct attention towards merch by placing displays in key locations where customers are likely to congregate. In the context of a coffee shop, a traffic building strategy would involve placing merchandise in spots that are more accessible and visible to store patrons.

Transaction Building

Transaction building, or cash generating, merchandising strategies are meant to increase the amount of the average transaction through complementing other transactions. These kinds of merchandise are the things a customer might also need if they are purchasing something else. For example, if someone is buying paint at a hardware store, they will also need brushes, paint thinner, drop cloths, etc.

The point of transaction building strategies is to introduce additional complementary products, so customers are more likely to make an impulse purchase. In the context of a coffee shop, a good spot for merchandise for a transaction building strategy would be right next to the register. Customers may make an impulse decision while they are paying for their coffee.

Turf Building

Turf building strategies are a bit unorthodox as their primary focus isn’t on customers but on defending your market share from competitors. These kinds of merchandising strategies utilize promotions and in-store sales to keep a competitive edge on similar businesses in the area. The best kind of merchandise for these strategies are items that many customers buy.

Other types of turf building merchandising strategies involve gift programs, rewards cards, and promotional sales—things that keep your existing customers coming back for more.

Profit Building

Profit generating strategies exist to boost revenue and profits through selling high-quality merchandise with high margins. Similar to traffic building strategies, you can place high-value merchandise in a location that receives a lot of attention and traffic. Profit building strategies can be useful for bolstering your bottom line, but can also be risky because of the high margin investment required.

Excitement Building

Excitement building strategies are about instilling a sense of urgency or excitement for a particular physical product or category of merchandise. These strategies rely on creating a feeling of “exclusivity”—a feeling that the customer might miss out on a great deal if they wait too long. Things like seasonal items, new arrivals, and limited editions of high-selling items are all merchandising opportunities to build excitement.

Tips for Your Merchandising Strategy

Your merchandising strategy is a key building block in your brand recognition strategy. Below are some great tips to consider when retooling your approach to merchandise.

Organization Is Key

One of the most important parts of showcasing merchandise is having the right organization. No one will care much about your merch display if it is dusty and unorganized so no one can find anything. Shirts should be neatly folded, and items should be differentiated by their type so customers can easily see what fare you have on offer. For instance, you can put small items like keychains right near the cash register, while larger items can be on separate shelves near customer lines.

Know Your Audience

It wouldn’t make much sense to sell graphic t-shirts and flashy hats if your customer base is primarily older patrons or professionals. Your merchandise should be tailored to the specific clientele you see the most. Putting irrelevant products on display not only wastes display space but also runs the risk of alienating your most loyal customers.

Keep Things Relevant

Merchandise can be annoying if it is just clutter and doesn’t serve any functional purpose. This is one reason why merch with utility, like shirts, mugs or tote bags, are usually a better option than something like a keychain that doesn’t serve much purpose. Similarly, customers are more likely to favor merchandise like reusable bottles because they provide excellent value.

Change Your Selection

A big risk of having merchandise is letting it become static or boring. Customers might stop paying attention to your merchandise if you keep the same stock throughout the year. For example, you can introduce knit hats for the winter or bring out short-sleeve shirts during the summer. Alternatively, you can switch up colors to match the seasons, such as red and green for the winter holidays or black and orange for Halloween.

Don’t Have Too Many Options

On the other end of the scale, having too many merchandise options can be harmful. You may want to show off your creative muscle with a ton of interesting designs, but too many merchandise options can put off customers and make it harder for them to choose something. Pick a few different colors and designs to keep your merchandising strategy tight and focused to avoid choice overload.

Branding For Your Business

If you are tired of spending money on advertising that’s not generating returns, our team at Your Brand Cafe can help. We specialize in creating popular products to help businesses build brand recognition and identity. We understand everything that goes into making attractive marketing merchandise and can help make sure your logos and designs meet your exact business merchandise specifications.

Contact us at Your Brand Cafe or give us a call at (866) 566-0390 to learn more about merchandising strategy for your store!

Drew Thomas

Drew Thomas is a graduate of Georgia College & State University, where he earned his Bachelor's Degree in English Literature. He is an expert in brand marketing and has experience in freelance writing on topics ranging from sports to music reviews. He has also spent time as an editor, having revised website copy and press releases for local businesses. In his free time, Drew enjoys performing music, reading, hiking, and spending time with friends.