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Why wouldn’t someone like free swag?
That’s not a rhetorical question. In fact, Jeremy Parker has been trying to answer that question since he started his company, Swag.com, in 2016. Parker knew that swag and other promotional items were becoming key marketing tools, and he saw an opportunity to build a business that brought those items straight to the people who needed them. But Parker didn’t want to sell the standard pens that barely even write or scratchy hats people toss out. Nevertheless, Parker saw an opportunity before him, he just needed to dial in on exactly what it was he could offer.
“When you think of marketing in general, you have TV commercials and everyone’s trained to now fast forward through commercials,” Parker explained. “You get a magazine, you flip through the ads, or you put your ad blocker on your computer. If you give somebody really high-quality swag, they say, “Thank you,” and it’s really a powerful tool if it’s done really right. And it has to be something that people are actually going to want to use.”
In the early days of the company, Parker and his co-founder each invested $25,000 and used that budget to go out and see what the market had to offer. They bought the swag from the suppliers already selling it and they talked to the folks at the trade shows to hear about what people liked and what they didn’t.
“We were really laser-focused on only offering a curated selection of products that we would actually want to keep ourselves,” Parker said. “It’s constant testing. How we look at the whole process is we want to have the best of what’s out there. It could be relatively inexpensive, or it could be premium. It doesn’t really matter — we have to have stuff in all price points. We don’t want it to be known as the premium quality supplier. We want to be known as the quality supplier.”
With quality set as their north star, Parker and his co-founder started to build up an inventory of great products, as well as a way to sell and distribute them.
The process of building that platform was difficult, though. Parker explained that there were no out-of-the-box solutions that would work for the type of website they wanted to create. They needed to have dynamic pricing and personalization options that simply weren’t offered on the traditional platforms. So Parker and his team created one from scratch.
“Our entire platform is fully custom,” Parker said. “There’s not a lot of companies in the space that could do what we do because it’s fully dynamic. Every price tasting consideration, the quantity that you’re looking to buy, how many print locations, the number of colors in the print, all these different variables that have to be in play. And now if we have 3,000 products on our site and 200 core products, they all have different pricing structures, they all have different under base charges, they all have different kinds of printing methods from screen printing, embroidery, laser engraving, all of these come with different complications.”
For five years Parker and his team have been building and improving the platform and now it is one of the industry leaders. Swag.com can handle unlimited orders, does dynamic pricing in real-time and offers inventory management and distribution all in one place. Plus, every product Swag.com offers can be customized to a company’s specifications, and Swag.com even does special, one-off personalization projects for companies like when it created custom Allbirds sneakers for a team at Google.
Companies like Google didn’t just find Swag.com, though. In the beginning, Parker was working diligently to land one big customer hoping that would create a snowball effect. Parker and his co-founder would go to random offices and try to sell their products. One of those offices was Facebook, and thanks to a contact on the inside, Parker was able to get in front of the right person and land Facebook as Swag’s first big client.
“[We] ultimately ended up selling them a couple of t-shirts, like 100 or 200 t-shirts,” Parker said. “We barely broke even on it. I think we made like 5% margin — barely anything, but it didn’t matter to us. It was just about getting that Facebook logo. Two days later we showed up at WeWork in New York and WeWork asked us who else we work with? And we said Facebook. They assumed we probably had thousands of others because we had Swag.com brand and Facebook, but really it was just Facebook. And we got WeWork and we continued that cycle…
It was doing the really unscalable things like showing up, showing the products in-person, making the sale, really learning the process as much as possible, and then automating the experience and making that whole buying experience effortless. Now, people don’t need to speak to anyone if you don’t want to, that’s really what our main goal was.”
Today, anyone can go onto Swag.com and order customized, high-quality products, and the entire process only takes minutes. It’s a truly streamlined experience, and it has helped Swag.com continue to grow even in the face of change and external uncertainty.
In 2020, while most companies are struggling, Swag.com has had some of its best months in company history. Businesses are flocking to Swag.com to use its platform because everything from ordering to inventory to distribution is easy. And at a time when it’s important to connect, even from afar, finding an easy way to send customers or employees or anyone else a little swag is invaluable.
Parker is proud to be able to deliver those connections and all that swag. And he has more plans to grow in the future.
To hear about all of it, be sure to check out his full interview on Up Next in Commerce, here.
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