So you are keen on starting an online boutique!
Starting an online clothing store has elements and approach which is quite close to any other ecommerce store. However, there are few factors which make starting and running an online clothing store a different challenge to address.
Here are 7 Elements you should pay added attention to if you want to make your online clothing store a success.
1. What kind of clothes to sell – Product research
Apparel or clothing has many categories. The first thing you need to decide is whether to sell labels/brands in your store or design clothes on your own and sell it. One that is decided then you need to seek answers to-
- Do I sell all type of clothes or enter a niche market where I sell a particular type of clothing like lingerie, party wear, formal clothing etc.
- Who to sell? Men, women or kids? Young or Old?
- If you decide to sell established brands then which brands? What those brands stand for? How will they sync with my store’s brand?
- If you decide to sell your own designed clothing then what type of clothing? Where to get it designed? Where to source fabric? What will be the pricing & margin?
Take your time answering the questions. Do research online to understand what’s there in the market? Can you identify a gap which your store can fill? Think over them in your morning walks. Keep a diary with you or use some app on your mobile to capture your answers.
2. Apparel photography tips
93% customers consider images essential in purchasing decisions.
Appearance is of utmost importance in the clothing industry. What looks good, sell. And that’s why your product images matter. Your customers will decide to buy or not depending on whether your images impress him or not. Here are a few tips to boost your apparel photography-
- Models or Mannequins- Hiring models for your photo shoot will cost you more but it helps you connect with your audience at a deeper level. Mannequins are not just low cost but help you in shooting wherever you want, unlike a model where availability may be limited. We suggest choosing models over mannequins. Hire amateurs or college kids if it goes with your product line.
- Setup Your Own studio- Purchase a few items like camera, tripod, duct tape etc., and set up a studio in a small corner of your home. Please ensure that your studio has a big window to get enough natural light for your shooting.
- Ambiance- Keep the ambiance simple with minimal distractions. Use white or grey as the backdrop. Position your product close to the window so as to get even light on it.
- Camera Settings- Understand your camera setting before you shoot. Use a tripod to prevent shakes and get consistency in angles, height etc.
- Post- Shooting-
Use photoshop or any other image editing software to clean, crop and standardize your images for the store.
3. Choose an ideal theme
Apparel is all about showcasing. You would need a website theme that gives you more opportunities to display images of various sizes with some space for texts. Also, shopping stores need good website navigation as there will be multiple categories and filters. So choose a theme that can fit all your needs. Pick your theme after checking if it passes these criteria.
4. Selling Apparel
You would need to sell your clothes and pitch it to your customers. In the absence of direct interaction with customers in the online medium, it is done through product pages. Your product page must have-
- Multiple, high-resolution images of the apparel from different angles with the zoom feature.
- Sizing guide to help customers know the right size.
- A simple but informative product description giving information on fabric type, colours and sizes available, shipping time and costs, stock availability etc. Add all the information which you think will help your customer take a purchasing decision here.
Also, ensure that you have ‘Add To Cart’ and ‘Buy Now’ buttons on the page from where customers can add the product to his cart or buy it instantly.
Use Product Images Which Inspire Awe
As per a report by HookLogic 60 percent of apparel shoppers chose product images as a top three influence on a purchase, which is 1.5 times the average across other categories. Product images are of utmost importance when you are selling apparel online. Product images have a bigger influence on purchase decisions when it comes to apparel as compared to books, toys or gadgets. A good product photo is a combination of storytelling, lighting, model presence and detailing.
- Tell stories – Your product image should show how exactly your clothing fits in with everyday lifestyle. If you are selling formal wear you might have a pic wherein the model is part of a business meeting. Selling summer fashion outdoor photography by the beach will be more appealing.
- Lighting – Lighting is critical. The right lighting reflects the right color of the product. It is important for the user to get the right color and fabric of the apparel.
- Detailing – Users should be given an option to zoom into the product to check out the texture of the fabric. This will eliminate the drawback of feeling the fabric in offline context to an extent.
- Edit your pics – Editing is a critical aspect. Shadows, exposure, and manipulating angles give the product the much needed extra appeal.
- Angles – Multiple angles of model shoot gives users a 360-degree view of the product. It gives them a closer perspective on the product.
Forever21.com shows multiple angles of the dress including close-ups on the design for the user to get a close view of the product.
5. Use Sizing Charts
When it comes to clothing, size is the most critical aspect. Misinformed sizing can lead to a lot of product returns and customer disappointments and revenue loss for your business. If you are serving an international audience the way people understand size in the UK might be much different from the way people understand size in Australia. You must have a sizing chart which eliminates all such disparities. You can even go to an extent of mentioning the exact length of the collar, shoulder or hip in inches to give the user an understanding of how large is L actually and how small is S in real. Bonobo elucidates this via clean size chart below. The same is placed on all relevant product page.
Size charts should be mentioned on the product page within close proximity to the size select feature. This will help users use it before they make a decision.
Freepeople.com goes a step further and gives more power to the user.
- It tells the user how to measure the size of their waist, shoulder, bust, and hips.
- The user can switch the size chart between centimetres and inches based on what the user finds most comfort in.
- It displays size charts for each dressing type.
- Clothing sizes might leave few users with many questions. For such users, it places an email and phone number in case they need help.
- The sizing chart is placed as a pop up on each product page for easy access of user without a need to leave the page.
6. Educate your customer about the apparel
Great copy can convert users and bring in tons of SEO traffic. If you are selling plain t-shirts you might not have much to talk about the product but if you are that retailer who has put in a lot of effort in the stitch, fabric, dye, and colour you might want to boast about it to your audience. The product page influences buying decisions and should be used to provide relevant and useful information about the product. You must have the following aspects mentioned on your product page.
- Product Description – A list of all benefits of the product and why it is really cool. The copy must be in a tone which is familiar to your audience.
- Directions for wash – Clothes need to be cared for. Your customer should know what kind of wash is right. Mentioning this upfront is your responsibility.
- Sizing guide – The right fit is often one of the biggest concern when buying online. A definitive sizing guide can fight friction, frustration, and returns.
- FAQ – Your customer might have multiple questions regarding texture, colour, design, and seasonality. These common questions could be addressed in a small FAQ section within the page.
7. Get your shipping and return policies right
Shipping Policy – Is the product shipped for free? Does it ship internationally? Can the user try before she buys? What are the various shipping options you provide to the customer? How long does it take for you to deliver the product to the customer location once the order is placed? As an ecommerce entrepreneur, these aspects have to be thought over an communicated to the consumer upfront to set customer expectations right.
Return policy – While buying clothing online “What I see is NOT what I may get” is a persistent fear in the mind of a consumer. With clothing, there is always a degree of uncertainty in the mind of the buyer since he or she is not using the trial room as in the case of an offline experience. Having an option to return will help customers overcome the fear of wrong fit, color, and fabric. You can fight this friction by offering users an option for a return or an exchange. This can instil buyer confidence in the consumer.
Refunds Policy – On what conditions do you initiate a refund? What if the clothes returned by the user has been inked or torn? Since apparel have a limited time before they perish and potential damage with every use you must be clear about your refund policy while selling clothes online. You should not take a customer mistake as a business loss.
8. Sell on Marketplaces
The hardest part of a newly launched online store is to get the attention of shoppers. While marketing your store is essential but it will take time to bear fruits. Meanwhile, you can use third-party marketplaces to make some quick sales. Places like Amazon and eBay can give you access to millions of customers. Here are some of my favorite marketplaces for selling clothes online, you can use to sell your clothes-
- Amazon: One of the most popular online marketplaces in the world, Amazon has earned the trust of its customers. You will need to subscribe to an Amazon Professional Sellers account which costs $39.99/month. There is also 15% average referral fee on orders on clothing items. Recommended only if you are selling high margin items.
- eBay: Another huge marketplace that can help you take your products to millions of shoppers. eBay charges different fees for listing items and on sale. Click here to know eBay fees.
- Lyst: It is a global fashion search and e-commerce destination used by 65 million people every year. Many global brands and renowned designers sell their products here. The marketplace is not for everyone as it has its own eligibility criteria on minimum product value and seller eligibility. It charges 16% on every sale.
Recommended Reading: Selling on Marketplaces With Shopify: How to Choose Where to List Your Products
9. Leverage Social Media To Promote Fashion
Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram are perfect places to sell your clothes. They have billions of accounts together and is a place where your customers are.
- Facebook offers a marketplace to sell products. Read more about Facebook Marketplace here
- Instagram, the photo, and video sharing app allow you to showcase and sell your products. A lot of businesses are using to boost their outreach and sales. Read How To Use Instagram To Drive Ecommerce Sales?
- Instagram offers buyable pins that allow you to sell products. After a merchant is approved for Buyable Pins, people on Pinterest will see Pins with a “Add to bag” button that links back to the merchant’s store. When people choose to buy a product on Pinterest, order details and payment information are sent to the merchant for processing. Read more on selling on Pinterest here
Clothing has a close affinity for a person’s identity and personality. People like showing off their cool look in their new attire. You can encourage tagging among your current customer base and give away free gift vouchers to everyone who shares. You can even give discounted pricing for users who tweet your online store URL to their friends.
Cathkidston curates a shopping gallery using it’s customer Instagram photos. This encourages more participation among its users and builds the brand’s social presence on Instagram.
- How to hack your online store for social media traffic?
- Social Commerce and its future in online retail
- Twitter Marketing for ecommerce websites
- Ultimate Guide To Pinterest Marketing for ecommerce websites
10. Differentiate your business and products
With starting an online store happening within few clicks of a button there are numerous players trying to get their share in the online clothing business. Competition is cut throat and with big players like Amazon, Macys and eBay capable of giving deep discounts of a range of products it has become all the more important for clothing store owners to innovate both with product and strategy. Few ways you can differentiate are
- Selling custom goods with a core focus on core audience segment. Examples – Printed School hoodies, B2B t-shirt selling, wedding dresses for rent. You can get this done using apps like Printify and Printful.
- Focusing on one social platform like Pinterest and churning maximum sales through it. See buyable pins.
- Selling products from homegrown artists rather than big brands.
- Providing online support like no other clothing company in the world.
Start with your brand differentiator. There are thousands of apparel stores and much more are getting launched as you read this. Don’t be afraid to narrow down your focus. Don’t be afraid to narrow down your niche. Don’t hesitate to have an added value service. Find that awe factor your business delivers and hustle till yorur business takes off.