2022 started off on an unusual note.
It feels like a lifetime ago now, but January was supposed to be a phenomenal start to 2022, a year when we were shaking off the turbulence of 2021.
Instead, it started with the cancellation of skucon, 4 days before we were to host our biggest in person gathering of the year.
This set the tone for what became a wild 2022, a year defined by “rolling with the punches” and uncovering significant pockets of growth and opportunity for our industry.
We continue to be amazed by the resilience of the distributors we have the opportunity to serve in the promotional products industry. Despite economic headwinds, changing buyer demands, uncertainty about public health, we saw our distributors thrive in 2022.
A few trends also caught our eye in 2022 that we feel create a very strong foundation for continued growth in 2023, not to mention a safeguard against economic uncertainty.
In our careers, we don’t know that we’ve ever seen the popularity for branded merch as high as it is now. Julia Janks, Senior Analyst at Trends wrote that “Gifting is the new customer retention strategy”, and listed it as her #1 future marketing trend, which included, among other things, direct mail marketing, the return of retro, NFT marketing, audio SEO, and more. We know the pandemic had something to do with this but also the collision of both the consumer’s demand for merch and their desire to use it as a form of self-expression.
David Nicholson with PCNA coined this term to denote the current and future intense interest by suppliers to invest more in their infrastructure to enable distributors to spend more time selling, less time tracking, following up, etc. David related this to a myriad of tools but with a primary focus on technology.
In 2022, we saw many suppliers on commonsku invest in their connected workflow experience with distributors. Whether this was access to live inventory, ship notifications, order status and electronic purchase orders, 2022 was the year that suppliers got very serious about reducing friction for their distributor customers. The impact on productivity for 2022 (and beyond) is profound as suppliers and distributors can focus more time on manufacturing and selling, respectively.
One big change that portends a huge future trend is that more and more distributors are investing in their infrastructure through two primary roles: production and creative. We are seeing more production managers now than ever before, likely largely due to supply chain issues. We’re also seeing more and more creative people, including marketing and even creative directors being added to a distributor’s team.
This investment is paying off. Distributors now show up in the marketplace with first class brands that showcase our medium in the very best light.
The GDP rose 2.9% in Q3, better than expected. And surprisingly, Black Friday online shopping hit an all-time high and even in-person retail visits increased a smidge according to Adobe Analytics Holiday Shopping Report.
This certainly does not suggest that we have moved beyond economic uncertainty, but it does indicate that marketers still have budget. Our industry has demonstrated time and again that we can match the right products for buyers looking to invest in their marketing.
While economic storm clouds may gather in 2023, the promotional products industry is so effective at adjusting to economic realities. After all, this is the industry that found a way to pivot and thrive during the darkest days of Covid when our industry and end client businesses were literally shut down.
All of us at commonsku are so grateful for the work we get to produce every day on your behalf. 2022 was an exceptional year of growth for the commonsku team and platform.
Our optimism for a strong year ahead is high.
2023, let’s do this.
Mark and Catherine
Shops Created (YTD)
Projects Created (YTD)
Episode 224: The Meteoric Rise of Merchology (with CMO and Co-Founder Ally Ward Delgado)In this podcast episode, Ally Delgado will talk about Merchology’s meteoric rise in sales growth, its evolution from an online-only player to a fully consultative and service-driven company, its expansion into more sustainable practices, its brand Zusa, and more!
Episode 220: “The What, Why, and Wow of Marketing!” with Shelley Williams (VP of Marketing, SanMar)From pixie dust to promotional products, Shelley Williams has tackled a wide range of creative and marketing challenges over her 20+ year career. Shelley joined SanMar as the VP of Marketing in January 2020.
Episode 216: Into the Metaverse with Harper+Scott's Michael Scott CohenHarper+Scott is a name that is spoken of almost reverentially within the industry, their branding, their team, and their mission have all been behind a secret veil and there’s a reason for that: they’ve just been busy — cranking out innovation after innovation.
We kicked off the year by debuting our new look on the commonsku platform! The navigation, dashboard, and analytics pages in the application received a makeover. These improvements created a more intuitive user experience and allowed teams to onboard new members faster.
The commonsku Learn tab received an update to its look, and its content, in order to create a customized experience for each role in your company. Commonsku Learn’s free educational resources help customers grow their businesses and be more successful in their roles.
This year we added blank electronic purchase orders (ePOs) and live product data for alphabroder, and Cutter & Buck, as well as fully decorated ePOs, live product data, decoration details, custom charges, and SureShip for all PCNA brands (Leeds, Bullet, & Trimark).
We're streamlining how you work with your supplier partners in commonsku. With three distinctions; community, connected, and connected+, you can easily identify the features and benefits your supplier partners are able to offer you on the commonsku platform. We'll also be introducing a new look and design to our Collections to make adding products from suppliers on commonsku even easier.
A new look and updated content library is coming soon to your commonsku University tab! Users will be able to view complete video libraries based on their role type, level of experience with the platform, and topic area.
Our incredibly popular Shops feature will become even more amazing in 2023 with a host of enhancements. First up, we'll release new Shops templates with customizable design elements like colors and fonts. We'll also be launching a new Shops checkout flow and a shipping integration with ShipStation.
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