I first heard the expression Dollar Store Stigma on Renae’s Christine channel and I thought “OMG YES – this is exactly the right way to put it”. It’s something I have been trying to explain for a while but I couldn’t find the right words for it, and those 3 words really resonated.
What is the dollar store stigma?
You suffer from the dollar store stigma if your branding, product photography, and sometimes – let’s be honest – your product isn’t WOWING people at all, and instead, make them feel like it’s a bit cheap.
It’s the difference between:
- something that looks homemade, like a DIY project found on Pinterest that turned out pretty well, or something that’s been made as a hobby and then you thought: “hey I might try to sell that”,
- and a handmade product of professional quality, that yes, has been made by your hands, but it’s a designer product, not a craft-looking product.And guys, the dollar store issue… more people have it than you think. So yes, it could be you.Now I am going to pause here for a second to make something really clear: I’m not saying that if your store makes people feel they’re at the dollar store you suck and your business will never work. NOT AT ALL. Most handmade shop owners start as hobbyists and the transition to “professional/business” is tricky.This article is here to help you understand whether you need to make some changes or not, and if so, which ones. As always I am here to help, not to point fingers. We’re all friends here and good friends tell you the truth. OK, let’s keep going.
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How do you know if that’s you?
- You don’t have a theme for your products. You let your creativity take you places and create whatever you feel like, then list it. That means there’s a bit of everything in your shop (soaps, candles, earrings, couple of paintings, etc.) or maybe you only sell one type of product (eg. printed watercolor illustrations) but they are all very different from each other (some are for nurseries, some are abstract bright neon colors ones, some are portraits, etc.). Doing this can make your store look messy, which automatically makes it look a little bit cheap.
- You follow your heart/creativity at all cost and try to stay away from trends (or thinking to yourself right now: what trends?). It’s important to follow your creative side, but you need to put it into the context of what your customers are looking for and if it fits with the shop’s theme. If it doesn’t, feel free to still do it, but just for yourself – don’t list it.
- Ideal customer pro…what? Do you know who is that perfect customer you’d like to sell to? If you’re not designing with that ONE person in mind, you can fall back right into the problem of not having a cohesive shop. Trying to design a product or a product collection that would appeal to everybody is impossible. You need to find a niche, a target group of people you’re going to design your products for. If you still don’t know who that is, here’s a workshop on crafting an ideal customer profile to help you find it out quickly.
- You have not spent time AT ALL on your product pictures. They’re dark, blurry, zoomed in, and you don’t have time for it. Or you’ve spent time on it but it was too hard so you’ve put it on your “see ya later maybe” to-do list. That’s actually one of the main reasons your store looks all over the place and cheapish rather than professional and designer. Pictures should always look extremely professional. You should have a plain background (most likely white), and then some styled photos of your product, with other elements in the picture.
- Your prices are cheap, too cheap, and you know it. It’s easy to think that if you’ll raise your prices no one would buy, but there’s actually a psychological effect that says the cheaper the product, the cheaper it looks. The more expensive the product is, the more high quality it seems. It might not be true in reality, but that’s what pricing reflects and that’s what people are thinking when they are visiting your store. So if you’ve felt from a long time that you should raise your prices that’s a great moment to do so – you’re going to pay yourself a little bit more and maybe finally become profitable.
- You designed your logo yourself (a few times) and have a few different versions that look a bit the same but also a bit different and you’re using them all in different places. Or you designed a complex logo (=more than just a pretty font, there’s an icon or image with it) without any graphic design experience. Now you could also be super talented and your logo could be killer but as a general rule, I always say, until you can afford a professional designer, keep it simple and use simple typographic logos. You can buy a pretty font e.g. on Creative Market usually for less than $20 and design your logo. Again, I have a workshop on how to design your own brand kit to help with all that. When you’re done, you can join the free and friendly Facebook group for makers and handmade shop owners and ask for feedback there.
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