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Growing the Business with Branded Promotional Merchandise

This April, OnFulfillment is celebrating 25 years of meeting the marketing and event fulfillment needs of customers around the world.

To mark this Silver Anniversary, we’re looking back at how the company has evolved over the years. We started with a general overview of the past 25 years (provide link) and are following that with a deeper dive into the various services that have made us an indispensable partner for our customers. (Last week) we covered printing. Today, we’re taking a closer look at how OnFulfillment began offering branded merchandise and other promotional items.promotional shirts and hats on a table

Humble Origins

When OnFulfillment opened its doors in 1999, it was primarily as a distributor of printed materials, offering storage and shipping services for local Silicon Valley companies. Customers would work with their own third-party vendors to get the collateral printed, then store it at OnFulfillment’s Campbell, Calif. warehouse. Using an innovative web-based interface introduced by OnFulfillment, these customers could then monitor their inventory and ship materials anywhere in the world, with OnFulfillment managing the distribution.

The printed collateral storage and shipping service worked so well that OnFulfillment decided to branch out into branded merchandise and other promotional items and giveaways. As with the printed material, customers would work with their own vendors to order and produce the promotional items and store them at OnFulfillment, who took responsibility for organizing them onsite and shipping them out upon request.

Growing the Business

This exposure helped OnFulfillment establish closer relationships with the promotional product manufacturers, eventually leading the company to broker small, branded items such as pens and stress balls that their customers could use as giveaways at events. Over several years, this sideline business evolved into a larger online marketplace through which OnFulfillment could deliver virtually any kind of branded item or piece of apparel that a customer could possibly want or need.

In 2017, these efforts culminated in the creation of an internal promotional products team at OnFulfillment. Composed of salespeople and project managers with experience in the promotional merchandise business, the team set about forging relationships with major manufacturers around the world, including the U.S., U.K., China, India, Sri Lanka, and many other locations. Before long, OnFulfillment had established itself as a major player in the industry.

To extend its reach and further grow the business, in early 2021 OnFulfillment joined Facilis Group, a market-leading management consulting, software, and technology services group dedicated to delivering business growth for promotional products distributors worldwide. Leveraging its membership in Facilis, OnFulfillment has been able to offer customers the best pricing for their branded promotional items—everything from mouse pads to polo shirts—while expanding its network of sources and greatly enhancing its for a promotional product presentation

Worth the Investment

The decision to join Facilis has paid off handsomely. In the approximately three years since joining, OnFulfillment has seen its promotional merchandise business grow fivefold while expanding into, and taking advantage of, new and growing fields.

One such field is event management and material procurement. In a post-COVID world, pent-up demand has resulted in a resurgence of live, in-person events such as tradeshows, conferences, and seminars. Customers participating in these events require reusable branded materials such as banners, pop-up signage, portable booths, and table throws. OnFulfillment produces these items on demand, stores them in warehouses around the world, and ships them out as needed. Sophisticated software allows customers to view which items are currently in inventory, when they are scheduled to be shipped out, and they are expected to return, allowing them to reserve the resources they need, all from their OnFulfillment portal.

shop branded giveaways for your next trade showNew hire welcome kits, service awards, and other gifting programs are also heavy consumers of branded promotional merchandise. In addition to providing easy access to the branded materials required for these programs, OnFulfillment also offers full kitting, distribution, and shipping services to its customers, providing a one-stop shopping solution. Additionally, with locations around the world, OnFulfillment can offer more cost-effective shipping while reducing or even eliminating customs and VAT issues.

Where We Are Today and Where We’re Going in the Future

Today, in 2024, OnFulfillment’s promotional merchandise business is a significant contributor to the company’s financial success. Through its sophisticated software platform, OnFulfillment supports the virtual company stores for several high-profile customers in Silicon Valley, throughout the U.S., and around the world, providing access to a wide variety of branded assets.

These range from the standard tradeshow giveaways like pens, stress balls, and the like to high-end items reserved as gifts for customers and employees. Through its various connections and partnerships, OnFulfillment has access to virtually anything a customer could want, including items from popular name brands such as Yeti, Nike, North Face, Timberland, and more. Essentially, if a customer wants it, OnFulfillment can help them find it.

Looking to the future, OnFulfillment is working on a new program that can anticipate what customers will be looking for and proactively securing sources for those items before prices skyrocket or supplies are exhausted. The company is in the process of building a new product research team that will use technology to actively identify promotional trends as they are in their early stages or just beginning to emerge. By staying on top of developing trends and anticipating which items will become popular—whether they be color schemes, types of apparel, or specific brands—OnFulfillment hopes to offer their customers what they want, before they even know they want it.

Celebrating 25 Years of Service

As OnFulfillment continues to celebrate its Silver Anniversary—25 years of serving the marketing, training, human resources, and channel marketing needs of customers worldwide—we’ll also continue to look back at our origins and tell the story of our evolution. This exercise not only provides an interesting perspective on our history, it also provides a glimpse into the history of the marketing fulfillment industry as a whole.

Please check back next week for the next chapter in the OnFulfillment story. In the meantime, if you have any marketing or event fulfillment needs we can help with, don’t hesitate to reach out.Request a 30 Minute Demo

Topics: Promotional Swag Company Store Corporate Gifting