Written by Dani Sherman

Christmas and the holiday season is just behind us.  Did you spend a part of it curled up with a good book (or Netflix), and a hot beverage? If so, no doubt that hot drink was poured into a mug.  (Brilliant deduction, yes I know!).  Did you habitually reach for a favorite mug-- out of say perhaps a selection of countless more that you had in the cupboard?  Don't worry, I really am going somewhere with this: Why you should be selling mugs online. Emphasis intended!

Let's get started...

If you didn’t see your favorite mug, because it was already in use by someone else, or in the dishwasher waiting to be washed– were you more than just a little bit disappointed? 

I’m not about to call you obsessed– in fact, just the opposite. 

Read all about it in this Psychology Today article: in a Heinz Study, almost 60% of people admitted they had an emotional attachment to their mug.  

What's in a Mug?

Mugs carry with them memories and meaning.  A little bit like jewelry, if you ask me.

I left Canada many years ago for the UK– and I still have the first mugs I excitedly bought at IKEA for my first-ever apartment in a leafy neighbourhood of Toronto. Mucho cozy and excited vibes!  Now, do I still use them? That would be a resounding ‘NO’-- which is kind of a shame.  And, quite inexplicable when you consider that  I thought enough of them back then to carefully pack and send them in a box with my other belongings on a freight ship to meet me cross the Atlantic.

But– I just can’t bear to part with them. They’re a bit like museum pieces of my earlier-lived life. I'm sure that I associate these mugs with a person (younger me), place (Toronto), and time (my first apartment in my desired neighbourhood).  At face value, there's nothing extraordinary about the look of them, just that I liked their shape and the glazing treatment on their inside. Comforting to hold, and elegantly shaped. That's it.

There is more value to mugs than just being familiar and cozy, however.  People overwhelmingly identify with slogans and images on mugs.  And for your online store, that is where the real magic lies.

Mugs as Gifts are Everywhere– and Evergreen

As you may know from your own experience, mugs are often given as gifts to make associations– again with a person, place or time of significance.  

Lucky for us, the mug season is all year-round, although it does have its peaks with the seasons. Think Christmas, Father’s and Mother’s Days, and Halloween to name a few. 

If you are looking to make money from the comfort of your home with a winner, start selling this ubiquitous drinkware online. Mugs are a true gifting staple, and they’re here to stay. Selling mugs online makes sense!

You might agree that selling mugs sounds like a good business idea, except that you dont have a stock of them in your garage or basement, or a sublimation printer.  Don’t worry, that was the ‘bad old days’ of online selling!

If you’ve read one of my earlier blog posts, What is Print on Demand, and is it For Me?, you’ll soon understand why you will be selling merchandise that you never touch or see.  How incredible is that?  You can run a business just by touching the keys on your computer or laptop and not ‘your’ product.

How to Choose the Best Mugs for Your Store

Believe it or not, trends show that the most popular type of mug is the everyday 11oz and 15oz all-white ceramic mug.  A close second, and a fun twist on the classic white is a white mug with color inside and on the handle. Glossy black ceramic mugs are also a popular choice, and make that bolder statement that some people favor.

Depending on the audience and niche of your store, consider which type of mug fits best. Or, mix it up with a combination to keep your customers engaged! As long as your designs are strong and attractive, you can’t go too wrong with that plan.

Most, if not all mugs offered by POD companies will be dishwasher- and microwave-safe nowadays, though come with the manufacturers’ advice that hand-washing them may prolong the life of the printed design.  Make sure that you include that in your own product pages’ descriptions.  After all, you want your customers to get the best out of their purchase, and enjoy their mug for years to come.  And, to come back for more!

Mugs are the ideal mix of practical utensil and gift, especially when adorned with a custom design. That means you can sell mugs that fit a specific style, your chosen niche, or mugs that match a particular holiday or celebration.  

If you’re planning to sell mugs for specific holidays, remember to get your designs done up well in advance so that you can list them stress-free. By this, I mean have them listed at least six weeks before the upcoming holiday, and your virtual shop window 'stocked'.  This will give plenty of time for your listings to get noticed in the algorithms, and hopefully sold-- then processed and shipped when ready. As with many things in life- the earlier the better.

Accordingly, you should put up a shop announcement giving a clear indication of the order cut-off date so that nobody buys a Christmas-themed mug on the 20th of December, still expecting to have it in their hands on the big day!  Managing your customers’ expectations as the holiday approaches is vital to your and your store’s health.

Selling Mugs Online: Tips for Beginners

I suggest that you start selling mugs on Etsy, because it’s easy to navigate the site and survey what your competitors are selling. Etsy loves to promote its sellers, and will link site visitors’ search entries with a “You may also be interested in…” pop-up feature. Make use of that to spy on your competitors! But-- never, ever copy them. That's not cool, and you wouldn't like it to happen to you. Even though it can, and does happen-- but that's another blog post entirely!

Research SEO For Your Design Ideas

You can also deduce which products are selling best, by checking stores’ customer reviews and also Etsy’s own visible notification: “# people have this item in their baskets right now”. This will give you good anecdotal data of trends, tastes, and demand for any type of product.

Also, pay attention to the terms used in product titles and descriptions, you will get some direction from that-- but always back it up with proper research. There are some excellent apps that integrate with Etsy to reveal more empirical data, such as store statistics, listing audits and SEO (search engine optimization) search volume results. These are the three most popular:

  • Erank
  • Alura
  • Marmalead

In future blog posts, I will look into each one in more detail and discuss the pros and cons as well as pricing structures.  I highly suggest getting started with Erank.

Using the Etsy Search Bar

Simply by typing in our keyword: Coffee Mug to start our research into the Etsy search bar, we are able to see some of the most popular searches for that term autopopulate, and more. There will be some variations and niche specifics pop up that even give you some new ideas of trends and interests.

Say that you’re getting your shop ready for Mother’s Day.  A coffee mug for mom can be a great gift on Mother’s Day, on a birthday or any other celebration.That means you can make sales from this product all year round.

Start by typing that basic phrase: coffee mug for mom into the Etsy search bar, and see what comes up. Make sure to have a notebook handy to jot down your ideas! You think you'll remember them, but trust me-- you won't.  

Most of these types of designs for family events are text-based and have either humorous or sentimental quotes. It’s also a great opportunity for you to offer personalization– which is the backbone of the family and celebration theme.  People will always be on the lookout for gifts for family milestones--in my estimation this is the greenest of the evergreen niches.

Personalization Pays!

I highly recommend that you offer personalization services for some of your mugs, where of course it makes sense to the design. Otherwise, you are leaving money on the table. Buyers love to be able to customize gifts to their specifications, usually with names and/or dates! Give them that option, and you will be rewarded with their eager business if they love your overall product and presentation.  

There is no greater satisfaction than securing satisfied, repeat buyers.  I make it a point to welcome them back every new purchase by sending them a quick message inside Etsy acknowledging their return and that I'm glad to 'see' them again.  

Remember that the customer has chosen your shop-- again, and and some level wants to feel appreciated. Don't skip this step! It is the perfect antidote to our Amazon Prime-oriented eCom world-- and can pay dividends in customer loyalty to your online store.

Plus, it just feels good to build relationships with your buyers, and know that you're helping them to achieve something in their lives, however simple it may seem.

Offer Your Customers a Variety of Mug Types

So far, I’ve mentioned the popularity of ceramic mugs.  But the buyers' interests don’t always stop there.

Think of the many means of recreation.  There is an abundance of activities where people need and use durable drinking implements. Places where ceramic can't go! Think: camping, hiking, fishing, biking, boating and so on. Not forgetting gyms and yoga studios and the need to keep well hydrated during visits.

Most POD (Print on Demand) suppliers now offer an enticing array of bottles, mugs and other containers for people on the go.  Stainless steel water bottles are very popular, and lend themselves to a variety of designs and messages for application. Again, think personalization!

Also, when thinking of different types of mugs, marry that variable to the calendar. For instance, if I wanted to create a mug for Father's Day for dads who love camping, I would choose the enamel mug. The enamel mug is lightweight and durable, which is ideal for campers and that’s exactly why it’s a popular choice for them. It's also a bit quirky, and that alone can be a unique sales feature.

Selling Mugs Online -- You Know it Makes Sense!

So, there you have it. I hope I've convinced you of the various benefits of selling mugs online. Quite simply, buyers are looking for them, and for all sorts of reasons-- all year round. Don't miss the boat on this multifaceted, popular seller!

What are some design ideas that you would love to put on the mugs in your store? Drop your thoughts in the comments, I'd love to hear them!

Until next time, and to moving forward.

Dani Sherman

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About the Author

Dani Sherman, CEO at EcomGemini

Dani's been immersed in the online space for the past several years, and she knows what it takes to establish a presence on multiple e-commerce platforms. She would like to help you get started with your own dreams of running a successful online business. Her weekly blog focuses on all things Print-On-Demand and eCommerce.  So, check back often to see what's new, and to be inspired!