Finding Your Perfect E-Commerce & Merchandise Partner


Nick Rizzuto

February 26, 2024

Six key questions for creators and artists venturing into e-commerce & merchandise...

🤔 The rise of the creator economy has opened up lucrative opportunities for creators to launch their own e-commerce businesses. Finding success in this space requires that creators strategically navigate this complex landscape. This article aims to arm creators with the right questions to ask in order to find a partner that can help them throughout their e-commerce journey.

The creator economy is now everywhere you look. No matter what app you open, there’s a flood of content from creators waiting for you. 

There’s a reason artists, YouTube and TikTok creators were all over Super Bowl LVIII. Creators hold immense influence - they entertain us, shape our opinions, and impact our decisions about what to buy. 

And this phenomenon isn’t going anywhere any time soon. In fact, Goldman Sachs estimates the creator economy will double to nearly half a trillion dollars ($480 billion to be exact) by 2027.  In that same timeframe, e-commerce is expected to grow to account for 41% of all global retail sales. The demand for content and product from these audiences also continues to grow. Goldman Sachs also recently pointed to a $4b untapped opportunity in catering to “super fans” of artists. Combine these two trends and you begin to see the unstoppable force that is creator e-commerce

We’ve all seen a creator or artist posting on behalf of a brand or endorsement partner with an #ad hashtag or creators reviewing their favorite new products. But beyond sponsored posts and affiliate marketing, many creators and artists are sitting on a potential gold mine by extending their own brands and launching their own e-commerce shop and products. 

In fact, according to Linktree’s 2022 Creator Report, a majority of creators were already finding their own physical product lines to be their primary source of revenue.  The trend has only grown since that report with more and more creators venturing into the space every day. Over 100,000 creators have connected their merchandise on YouTube, while many TikTok users have seen the growing prevalence of TikTok Shop in their “For You” feeds. 

However, navigating this space can be challenging. Creators and artists entering e-commerce face questions like “How do I launch my own shop?”, “What should I sell?”, “Where should I sell it?”, “How do I handle warehousing and fulfillment”, “What about customer service”, and “How do I market it?”.

Many creators and artists that have already built an audience turn to e-commerce partners and specialists to help answer these questions. In fact, whichever creator you shopped from last, there’s a great chance that their store was managed by a company behind the scenes. 

But choosing the right creator/artist e-commerce partner can unfortunately also be daunting. Many creators are left wondering who they can trust after several creator-focused e-commerce companies have struggled in various areas, while others have gone out of business.

Thankfully, there are mature and legitimate e-commerce partners out there that creators can trust. Keep reading to learn what questions to ask to find your ideal e-commerce partner. 

By the end of this article you’ll be poised to be the next creator e-commerce success story!

What to Look For in an E-Commerce Partner

A specialized full-service merchandise partner can be the critical difference maker to unlock e-commerce success. Companies like Mainfactor bring a massive amount of diversified in-house expertise to manage everything from the launch of your store, to manufacturing and logistics, to ongoing fulfillment,  customer service, and marketing.

When evaluating full-service e-commerce partners to elevate your business, you’ll want to find someone with the background, expertise, and capabilities to grow with you as you scale.

Here are the 6 key questions to ask to help find the ideal e-commerce partner for you: 

  1. “What services do you provide?”
  2. “How will you help build my business?”
  3. “What sorts of products should I sell?”
  4. “Where will my products be sold & marketed?”
  5. “Can you help me sell in person?”
  6. “How does the partner make money?”

Let’s break down each of these question in detail:

1. What services do you provide?

You will want to clarify whether your new partner can provide all of the services that you’ll need for your store. Many e-commerce partners will offer end-to-end services, all the way from conceptualizing your product to getting it to your customers’ front doors. 

Beyond these basics, you will want to confirm whether your partner is able to provide additional services like supporting you in your merchandising strategy, your manufacturing, optimizing your business, your customer service, and overseeing marketing. Some partners may offer all of these services in-house (either as part of their fee or as a la carte services), while others may outsource key areas to their own network of trusted partners, and others may simply only offer some, and not all, of these services.

You will want to understand what your partner can provide and what they can’t, and whether they’ll be able to support you as you grow.


Mainfactor's Comprehensive E-Commerce/Merch Services

2. How will you help build my business?

Next, you will want to get a sense of how involved your partner will get with your business. Will they simply be managing the storefront and logistics, or will they be approaching your work together from the viewpoint of a true partner that’s responsible for your business success? 

A skilled e-commerce partner will proactively think about the marketing of your store to acquire customers and the experience your customers have with your store, and will closely monitor and optimize the fundamentals of your e-commerce business. They’ll pay close attention to your costs and revenue, as well as key performance indicators like your average order value (AOV), customer acquisition cost (CAC), and customer lifetime value (LTV or CLV). 

They’ll also think beyond passively maintaining your store and will consider the long-term health of your business. Optimizing your business typically requires dialing in the above metrics over the course of several product releases by looking for opportunities to cut costs, offer products that better resonate with your customers, and thoughtfully marketing to customers to get them to shop with you on a repeated basis. 

You should look for an e-commerce partner that is able to pull off exciting product drops in the near-term, but that is also focused on the longevity of your business.

Meeting Customers at the Right Place and Right Time

3. What sorts of products should I sell?

For many creators, beginning with some simple print-on-demand (POD) options like t-shirts, posters, mugs, tote bags, etc. with your logo and branding can be an excellent place to start, however you should be aware that there can be quality issues with print-on-demand from time-to-time, and you should weigh the potential negative consumer consequences of utilizing POD versus simply creating a short-run to being with, or doing a pre-order.  Print-on-demand products can help you better understand what your customers want from you, and their willingness to spend with your brand, but so can a short-run or preorder, and the importance of quality assurance should be thought-through.

Today’s consumers are more conscious than ever. They want to buy high-quality products that are unique, will fit their tastes, that they can use regularly, and that will last. Fundamentally, they want to buy products that delight them. Offering them anything less can degrade your audience’s brand trust, meaning that they may think twice before making their next purchase from you. Make sure that your partner is able to produce premium products that will delight your customers. 

From there, deciding exactly what products to sell requires considering why your customers interact with you in the first place. 

For example, for Mainfactor’s client Ilana Muhlstein, her followers come to her to learn how to improve their practice of mindful eating. With that in mind, we designed & produced a new line of unique products called Ilana Housewares which were intentionally designed for mindful consumption, focusing on helping people eat smarter, not less. The goal was to integrate Ilana's principles of mindful eating into every aspect of these housewares in a way that would instantly resonate with anyone already in “the know” and would look like a beautiful design to anyone not already following her weight loss program.

Ilana Muhlstein Custom Plates and Bowls

Producing unique products like houseware requires sourcing the right manufacturing partner through an exhaustive process of due diligence and product sampling. For any given product, there may be multiple specialists around the globe that need to be brought in to make your concept a reality. 

When choosing the right e-commerce partner, you want to make sure that your partner is fluent in consumer trends, equipped to execute nontraditional product lines, and can tap into an extensive network of manufacturers in order to offer your customers the exact right products. 

Example Products from Mainfactor's E-Commerce Supply Chain

4. Where will my products be sold & marketed?”

Once you have your store and your products ready to go, the next step is marketing to let your fans know that you have exactly the thing they’ve been waiting for. 

Where do you start? Your most followed social media account might feel like the most obvious place. However, the average social media user accesses 6.7 different social media platforms each month. If you only post about your products on your primary channels, then you ignore potential customers who spend their time elsewhere. Not to mention, as most creators are aware, social media algorithms on major platforms limit the reach of your posts, meaning that you will never reach 100% of your audience through posts to your feed alone (without spending on advertising).

The way to maximize your reach and sales in 2024 is through what’s referred to as “omnichannel commerce”. This means meeting your customers wherever they spend their time while leveraging the latest marketing tactics and e-commerce integrations.

Mainfactor's Omnichannel Commerce

YouTube, Meta, and Pinterest have longstanding programs for e-commerce sellers, whereas TikTok Shops are the latest place that creators and brands are focusing their attention. Link-in-bio platforms like Linktree also offer features to integrate your existing storefront and highlight products. In some instances you may also want your products distributed into other e-commerce platforms like Amazon and eBay. 

Whatever channel mix is right for you, you’ll want to make sure that your partner is experienced in building strategies to reach customers everywhere and is leveraging storefront technology like Shopify that integrates with as many sales channels as possible. 

5. “Can you help me sell in person?”

If you’re a creator that tends to be in front of your fans in person through conferences, touring, or pop-up events, physical logistics can often be a headache. 

Artists in the music industry know these complexities well. Say you’re an artist touring your new album in 40 cities across the U.S. and want to make merchandise available to your fans that attend. Making sure there’s enough inventory for each show, getting the inventory to arrive and be received on time, and having someone available to oversee selling the merchandise takes nuanced planning well in advance. Many artists have horror stories from early in their careers where their merchandise doesn’t show up on time, therefore missing out on a key opportunity to sell products where fans are most eager to buy them.

Event commerce logistics is an expertise in and of itself.  An expert will have established practices for estimating how much of each product to send and how to price each product appropriately. If you plan to sell in person then you’ll be best suited by working with a partner that has ample experience doing this at scale. 

DJ Shadow Merchandise Display- Webster Hall, Feb 7th, 2024

6. “How does the partner make money?”

We’ve covered how partnering with an e-commerce partner can help you bring your business to the next level. But how do you know that you’re getting a fair deal from your partner?

The golden rule is that if your partner’s deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is! Make sure you understand how your partner makes money and how they structure their agreements in order to avoid any common pitfalls. You don’t want to sign with a merchandise company that goes out of business! 

Many e-commerce and merchandise partners will make the majority of their money by sharing in the revenue your store generates. They may also charge for one-off costs or retainers for added services (like product design and marketing), but the primary way they sustain their own business is through these revenue shares. 

As with any agreement you sign as a creator, we recommend that you consult a lawyer to consider the partner’s terms carefully before moving forward!


Although entering the creator e-commerce and merchandise space for the first time may feel daunting, there may be a massive opportunity for you to diversify your revenue streams by offering your fans new ways to support you and represent their fandom! 

Here’s a summary of all the green flags to look out for in an e-commerce partner:

🟢Offers end-to-end services to make your store a success

🟢Approaches their work as a true partnership to advance your business into the long-term

🟢Can support you in identifying and producing the right products for your customers

🟢Fluent in omnichannel e-commerce

🟢Can support you in selling products at events (if relevant to you)

🟢Offers fair and transparent deal terms that aren’t too good to be true!

We’re confident that you can find the right partner to catapult you to success by asking the right questions. 

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