How to start an online clothing store
Are you interested in starting your own online clothing business? To start selling online, you will need to choose a target group and, of course, the clothing products. In this guide, you can find information about putting together the right product range, logistics, marketing and about building the ecommerce store itself.
The online fashion market is expected to reach a turnover of 175 billion euros by 2025, 33 percent of the branch’s total revenue. This is why new clothing businesses keep popping up. Starting a new clothing business online can seem like the easiest way to do this.
With this type of business, you do not need to rent a store space or purchase materials for fitting rooms. You may not even need to hire employees. You could run an online store by yourself, out of your own home. However, there are some challenges involved with setting up an ecommerce business. And when your store starts gaining customers, more challenges will arise.
Preparations needed to create your business
To have a higher chance at launching a successful business, there are some steps you should take beforehand. Attracting traffic and customers should be the main focus. But how can you make sure that your store attracts customers?
Write a business plan before starting your online business.
By recording a few things in advance, you can ensure that your shop will soon actually appeal to a group of customers. Many ecommerce store owners write a business plan before starting their online clothing business. Determine, for example:
- What your target group is
- How you will reach them
- What style your website should have
- Whether you will do everything yourself or outsource it
- Whether you will produce your items in-house or buy everything
Basic components of an online fashion store
After deciding on the beforementioned basics, you will need to think about the online store itself. There are some business processes involved with it and you will need to prepare those. You need to choose things like:
- A domain name
- Web hosting of your site
- Software to create your ecommerce store
- Storage and packing area
- Product photography and descriptions
- Payment methods
- Shipping methods
Of course, the most important thing you need is your inventory. You need to offer a range of clothing items and make sure that your stock is big enough. Additionally, these items will need reasonable pricing in order to make sales.
Things to consider about selling fashion online
If you are interested in selling fashion items, you should be aware that the fashion world is known for rapidly changing trends. With an online store, you can adjust your offer quickly. However, do not get tempted by discounts from suppliers when you are picking out your assortment. You want to be sure that you will be able to sell those items.
It is better to specialize in a specific niche, instead of buying a large assortment.
When you are deciding which items to purchase for your store, you should keep a target audience in mind. A larger target audience will also require a larger assortment, which can become quite costly for a new online store. It is usually better to specialize in specific items first. You could focus your store on t-shirts, jeans, dresses, sportswear, underwear, accessories or shoes.
Finding your own niche
It is possible to specialize your online store in a specific niche within ecommerce. With a specified product range or target audience, you come across as an expert in your area. There are a lot of different specializations to choose, like a specific style:
Casual: comfortable and casual clothing for daily activities, such as jeans, shirts or sneakers.
Business: More formal clothing items, like suits, shirts, skirts and neat shoes.
Evening wear: elegant clothing for special occasions or parties.
Childrens clothing: you could specialize this even further, into a specific style or cater to children in specific age groups.
Vintage: clothing inspired by fashion from the 1920s to the 1990s.
Streetwear: items inspired by urban and skate culture, such as hoodies, sneakers and sweatpants.
Sustainable and ethical: items with a focus on eco-friendly materials, fair working conditions and long-term use, such as organic cotton, recycled fabrics and fair trademarks.
Designing and producing clothes yourself
If you are creative, it can also be fun to design your own collection. That means that you will also need to find a way to produce those items. Will you do that yourself? You could also design and produce those clothes through online printing companies.
If you design your own collection, your product range will be more unique.
Benefits of designing your own collection:
- Your items will be more unique
- You are creating your own brand, which you can have legally registered
- You will be able to sell your clothing brand via other (online) stores
On the other hand, a disadvantage is that it requires a lot of time, more than a collection that you can purchase from a manufacturer. And if you outsource the designing and printing, the costs are higher than when you purchase clothing.
Purchasing clothing items
Instead of producing clothes yourself, you can also purchase them. Newly starting entrepreneurs often have trouble putting together a complete product range. They often buy from thrift stores, markets or fairs.
If you want to buy items in larger quantities, you can purchase it at a wholesaler. Wholesalers usually handle a minimum order, which means that you have to buy large quantities right away.
Wholesalers want to see that you dare to invest.
A wholesaler wants to see that you dare to invest, because that can indicate that your shop will be successful. Let them know what you expect to sell, how often you plan to place orders and what your visitor numbers are (if any). But be careful in the beginning. Clothing is a seasonal product and you don’t want to end up with leftover stock.
Provide customers with information about items
To sell your products, your online store customers will need information about them. Giving detailed product information is almost as important as the product itself. Another very important aspect that you need to provide visitors with: product photos.
Good product photos make customers want to buy your products. Suppliers usually also have product photos that you can use, if you buy your inventory from them. These pictures are made by a professional, so you can expect good quality. However, that means that your competitors, other shops, also use them.
Good product photos make customers want to buy your products.
You could also take your own product photos, or have them professionally made by someone. Keep in mind that customers need to see as much information as possible quickly. They do not want to have to search for it.
To achieve that, you should take several photos of each product, preferably from different angles, and zoom in on details. By doing this, your customers will get a better impression of the product. This is also advantageous for you, because this will avoid returns.
Do not forget to mention what materials, color and what dimensions your garments have a in product descriptions. If a model is wearing the item in a product photo, you could also mention which size they are wearing and how tall they are.
Creating an online store
There are a lot of different ways to create your online store. If you have programming skills, you can build one from scratch. There are different types of software solutions for online sellers available:
- Ready-made ecommerce software
- Open source software
- Custom software
In short, ready-made ecommerce software is a cloud-based solution, where you can use standard formats to build your ideal online store. The software gets updated automatically, which means that its safety measures will be up to date. With open source software, you will still need a designer or programmer to make everything to your liking. You could also hire a programmer or designer to build your entire online store, which will be a custom solution. For starters, the ready-made ecommerce software is recommended, because it is most simple and stays up to date.
Ready-made software is recommended for new online stores, it is easy to use and stays up to date.
What you should at least mention in your online clothing store:
- Contact details
- Return policy
Your shop will showcase your own clothing, of course, but you will also need to put information about your company. You should also mention your return policy on the website. How many days do your customers have to return a product? Also indicate whether customers can return their orders for free or not.
In addition, you will need to add payment links to the site. You often get automatic payment links with ecommerce software, such as PayPal or credit card. Think about which options your customers especially want to use and make sure they are on your site.
Logistics of your store
Once you’ve built your ecommerce store, received your clothing items and uploaded your product photos, you will want to start sending out orders. There are several ways to take care of your logistics:
- Bringing parcels to the post office yourself
- Enter into an agreement with parcel deliverers such as DPD, DHL or UPS
- Use shipping software solutions, that have agreements with couriers
- Outsource your fulfillment
Ecommerce store owners often start out by bringing their parcels to a post office or parcel point themselves. However, this can get quite expensive. As your shipping volume increases, it becomes more convenient to sign a contract with a delivery service. That will come with better rates.
Shipping software automates many parts of the logistics process.
Another option is using shipping software, which automates many parts of the shipping process. These software providers often have subscriptions to parcel shippers, which allows you to take advantage of their logistics network and offer more shipping options.
Outsourcing the entire logistics and inventory to fulfillment companies is also an option. The companies store your inventory in one of their warehouses. They handle shipping, order picking, as well as returns and customer service. Of course this does come at a price, but it is often cheaper than if you were to handle it all yourself.
With dropshipping, customers receive the product directly from your supplier.
A completely different way to handle your logistics is to use dropshipping. In this case, you do not buy any inventory. Instead, when a customer places an order, they receive the product directly from your supplier. This saves you a lot of storage and shipping costs, although the supplier will of course pass these on in the price margin. You also remain legally responsible for the shipment, even though you have no influence on it.
How do you attract customers?
Now that you know exactly how to put together a beautiful online clothing store, but your products will not start selling by themselves. You need to attract customers and persuade them to buy your items. Online marketing is a profession in itself and there are many different advertising possibilities you can use. It is advisable to learn more about them. Advertising through Google Ads or selling on large marketplaces, like Amazon, are commonly used options.
Online stores with a small budget often use the following options:
- Google Ads
- Search engine optimization
- Sending out press releases
- Social media
- Influencer marketing
- Affiliate or email marketing
- Printing the name of your online store on business cards, stationary, etc.
There are a lot of seminars and workshops for online sellers where you can learn more about marketing.
Fortunately, there is a lot of support in marketing, growth and in the legal and logistical areas available for online sellers. There are plenty of seminars and workshops to attend. There are a lot of associations geared towards ecommerce, that set up meeting or workshops for business owners. Also ask around in your network how other entrepreneurs are handling their marketing efforts.