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How to Start an Online Clothing Store

by GK November 27, 2020
Starting an Online Clothing Store

Want to sell clothing online? It’s indeed a great idea. You have chosen a market diverse and massive enough to let you come up with fresh ideas every day. The scope of clothing and fashion alters greatly with time and place. You could have hundreds of ideas at different points in time to sell unique items at different places.

You must have been enticed by the idea of eCommerce and how it’s changing the markets. However, thinking about the pros of online commerce and actually applying them in your actual clothing store are two different concepts.

First of all, don’t fall for the false positives!

It’s a pure temptation to think that everyone who loves online shopping would have the same kind of feeling towards online shopping for clothing products, too. However, the facts on the ground zero might not agree with your perception. You might have to travel some extra miles to not only stand out but also generate confidence among the customers into online shopping for clothes.

People, for ages, have flocked to brick and mortar stores for clothes. They love taking their time, trying out different outfits and sizes, before finalizing the ones to purchase. It’s an acquired trait, and it’s not easy to develop such confidence among these shoppers where you can expect them to decide by merely looking at the product images.

Despite the challenge, it’s a fact that you can’t just set up a store and wait for the customers to flock to your website. You need to figure out feasible ways to curb every challenge and lure the customers into not just believing in eCommerce but also preferring it over the traditional counterparts.

Let’s understand this with some stats about the two different markets for exactly the same things – clothes.

Selling Clothes Online vs. Offline

E-Commerce is relatively an infant if you compare it with selling clothes offline. These brick and mortar stores have survived countless generations and sustained a foothold very deep in the industry. A major proportion of shopping is still dependent on the traditional environment.

However, time changes and so do the acquired habits. With new technologies and the eCommerce shopping experience improving day after day, the grip of brick and mortar stores has been fading out gradually. Online share of apparels shopping is now over 27%, and it has only increased since eCommerce came along.

According to Statista, in the US alone, the share of online shopping for clothes was 59% by 2018. Interestingly, the survey also revealed that clothing was the highest share-holder in the eCommerce market, followed by books, movies, music, games, shoes, and consumer electronics.

E-Commerce numbers are growing every day, especially the online clothing market. Hence, it’s gullible, with facts and stats, that starting an online business for selling clothes could be a profitable idea. In fact, we haven’t even scratched the surface yet: eCommerce will account for 22% of the global retail sales by 2023, which might seem like a small number, but trust me, it’s trillions of dollars in revenue.

  • The online clothing market is easier to enter than its traditional counterparts.
  • Establishing a brick and mortar storefront can take weeks and months, while eCommerce provides tons of options, as per your convenience, to set up and launch an online clothing store in a few minutes (if you choose the right solutions).
  • It takes a fortune to set up a traditional establishment: building a shop, procuring supplies, warehousing, and other overheads. Whereas eCommerce provides different alternatives to set up an online clothing store, strictly as per your budget and convenience.
  • Take drop-shipping for instance. You could avoid the cost and hassle of procuring, storing, packaging and delivering your supplies. You could be making money by simply connecting the suppliers with customers.
  • Setting up a brick and mortar clothing boutique can cost more than $50,000- $150,000, while most of the online business models for the same cost aggressively less.
  • Let’s not forget the cost of maintaining a physical outlet and hiring helping hands for sales, management, accounting, logistic, and others. Whereas, you could literally do all these chores as a one-may-army in your online clothing business.

It’s Time to Sell Clothes Online

When was the best time to start an online clothing store?

Probably, 16 years ago when eCommerce was still new, and early birds got all the time in the universe to experiment with different ideas and establish themselves as leaders.

So, is it late now for you to start?

Not at all. Now is the time when you don’t have to deal with all those complications and massive investments that early players had to endure, first popularizing online shopping as a trend and then attracting customers to their online stores.

Thanks to the early players, eCommerce is a big thing now, and people have already started loving it. Think of it as early entrants paved a highway for you in a market that did not even have a ridge to walk on back then.

The online market for clothing, fashion, and accessories was over $100 billion in 2019 in the US. The same is expected to grow twice the size by 2024, while the global numbers would soon reach $576 billion by 2022.

Remember that stat? Online retail is still expected to hold 22% of the total global retail sales; you still have so many opportunities to bag-in. E-Commerce still has a long way to go, and the clothing market will claim a major chunk of it.

Steps for How to Start an Online Clothing Store

Having done the preliminary research, if you think you can make it, let’s get going with building your online clothing store now. We will go through a series of steps, which you can follow to build and set up your online business in the easiest way possible as of now.

1.      Choose a Clothing Niche

It was easy for the early entrants. They just had to bring the offline market to the online world, and interested customers would flock to their websites to purchase what they could have also purchased from any other offline store.

However today, things are different. As an online clothes retailer, you are competing with not just offline retailers but also thousands of online retailers like you. You can’t stand out by simply launching an online store, and you can’t definitely succeed by simply doing what other retailers do.

Here is the thing – everyone likes clothes, but not everyone likes the same clothes.

Instead of selling everything for everyone, root for specific stuff. Construct a business model by picking up a specific demographic, personality, preference, or interests, which you can call your niche. A niche, a more refined market that targets not everyone, but generates enough demands.

How do you select a niche?

Just narrow down your choices while keeping the following four aspects in your mind:

  1. A niche should be unique enough to stand out from the crowd.
  2. Your niche should be based on your passion and things you can do better than others.
  3. Dig deep to understand if you can bring in any additional value better than existing competitors.
  4. A niche must generate enough earning potentials while also keeping the competition at the lowest.

Please note that there is no defined classification of a niche. A niche could be anything that sets you apart from others but also gives you ample opportunities to make money. Something that sets you apart, but fails to generate any demands or trends is not a niche. The two conditions must meet in order to become a niche: Uniqueness and Demand.

For example, you can start an online store for socks, but if socks alone can’t generate enough demands, there is no use establishing yourself as an ultimate seller of socks.

Take another example – Printed Shirts.

Printed Shirts are huge in demand, but they still wouldn’t be a niche, as long as you are selling the same prints as others. However, if you can come up with unique designs or print-on-demand products that no other competitor has, it could become your niche.

It doesn’t matter that you focus on better quality, quantity, pricing, availability, or customer service, if your idea can’t excel on these four aspects, you can’t have a niche.

2.      Determine Your Business Plan

A well-organized strategy is critical for starting a business of any scale. A well-thought business plan includes everything from building the storefront to feasible revenue models. In short, you must include strategies about how you are going to run your business once it kicks off.

Prepare documentation of all possible aspects

  • An overview or summary of the outer skeleton of your goals, business objectives, and milestones to achieve in a given period.
  • An understanding of your business, ranging from company description to kinds of products, target customer base, demographics, and competitive strategies.
  • A thorough study of the target market including all important data, available stats, a summary of average sales, number of competitors, projected profits, and average growth rate in the future.
  • A complete study and profiling of all the competitors with details such as price points, range of products, unique selling points, gaps, and feasible competitive advantages.
  • Documentation of brand management, organization, offered products, and variations, etc.
  • A documented marketing plan with both online and offline strategies defined clearly.
  • Detailed profiling of investments, required funding, and how to procure it in a given time. Also, a financial projection of expected short-term and long-term objectives is critical, too.

Selecting the business model (s)

A critical part of your business plan is selecting your business model. It’s important because most of your strategies from this point forward rely on how you are going to organize your business model and what sources of revenue seem feasible in the same. For an online clothing store, you can consider an array of business models. You may pick one or a combination of multiple models to grow faster. We are going to discuss three popular business models here:

  • Inventory model

You need to procure your supplies from wholesalers, suppliers, or the manufacturer directly. Once you have the supplies, warehouse and wait until you get the orders. The delivery can be managed in-house, through a 3PL company, or you can also collaborate with courier partners.

Your income or profit will be the difference between the price you pay for the stocks and the price at which you sell them. The price of your stock includes cost price and expenditure on storage, shipment, payment processing, and marketing as well.

  • Marketplace model

Instead of purchasing and storing the stocks, you can directly allow vendors to sell on your website. Just like Amazon, eBay, or Etsy, the sellers will pay you commissions on the sales they make on your website. As per delivery is concerned, the same in-house, 3PL company and collaboration with delivery partners are feasible in this model, too.

  • Drop-shipping

Drop-shipping is a kind of marketplace model, except you won’t have much control over your products and deliveries in this business model. Several drop-shipping suppliers in the market can work with you. In drop-shipping, when you receive an order, you transfer it to your supplier, who directly ships the order to the customer’s address.

In short, drop-shipping is the easiest of three models and requires the least investment. You needn’t deal with stocks, storage, or shipping. Hence, you can begin quickly with only a few bucks in hand. You can focus on the marketing of your website, while the rest is taken care of by the suppliers themselves.

3.      Select Your E-Commerce Platform

Based on the business model (s) you select, you need an eCommerce platform that supports the same. An eCommerce platform would be any ready-made script that provides you with all required features and solutions out of the box, and you can use it for setting up your eCommerce storefront without developing the entire thing from scratch.

In short, a decent eCommerce platform would constitute at least the following solutions:

  • Front-end of the website
  • The back-end of the website
  • Payment gateway API
  • Support for other essential marketing and utility tools such as Google Analytics etc.

How should you choose an eCommerce platform?

The market is full of competitive alternatives. All of them provide some unique advantages while lagging in some or other areas. Based on your requirements, you need to prioritize the one that gives you a better edge.  Be wise, and don’t just go for the cheapest ones; you might want to consider some other factors, too:

  • How do you want to run the business? With a team or as a one-man-army.
  • How many technical skills do you possess? Some solutions are best out of the box, but they demand you to possess some technical skills, while others might be as easy as a mobile app to operate.
  • What is the basic set of features you want? Depends strictly on your business model.
  • How much can you spare to develop your platform? Some platforms demand upfront but just a one-time investment, while others charge small but recurring periodic payments.

 You should read this ‘SaaS-Based vs Custom-based eCommerce software Comparison‘. This study will help you to decide between the two most common alternatives in the market when it comes to ready-made eCommerce platforms.

4.      Find Your Domain Name

Choose a domain name that not only aligns with your business name but also gives a clear understanding of your objectives and the kinds of products you sell. While it’s important to go for a logical domain name, you might make some mistakes. Here are a few tips that would help you to avoid these common mistakes while choosing a domain name for your online clothing store:

  • Do away with hard-to-spell names.
  • Go for a scalable name; something that does not limit you from expanding into other niches down the line.
  • It must stand out and does not resonate with other similar names in the market. Uniqueness is a big requirement.
  • While it’s not a deal-breaker, it would be nice to have a domain name that you can use in your social media handles without any big variations. For example, it would be great if a Twitter username is available for your native domain name.

5.      Choose Your Templates and Customize Your Store

A template is important if you an eCommerce platform. Since the same eCommerce platforms are used by everyone, the stoke look and feel of your website might resemble thousands of other websites that are using the same eCommerce software. A template can help you differentiate your website from others, while also giving a unique brand identity to it.

Based on the eCommerce platform you are using, choose a template, or you can also customize the stock template to match your brand identity. A good eCommerce website design always boosts your conversions.

6.      List Your Products

You are now almost done with setting up your online clothing store. It is time to list your products. Again, the process of listing your products depends on your eCommerce platform and your business model.

For example, in the inventory model, the product listings are done by the admin, while the marketplace model requires the vendors to list their product from the seller’s dashboard. And if you are drop-shipping, your supplier might give you an API, which synchronizes their listings on your website.

Nevertheless, based on your eCommerce platform, you have one or all of the following two options to list products on your store:

  • Manual product upload: A step by step process to upload product data such as product description, images, stock information, category, shipping information, retail price, applied discount, variations, and description of the manufacturing attributes.
  • CSV upload: A bulk upload that allows you to update the above-mentioned data in a tabular format and upload the same from the product listing work-flow.

A decent eCommerce platform must support both of the options out of the box.

7.      Publish and Market Your Clothing Store

Now that your store is up and running, don’t do what many others do- sitting back and relaxing.

No matter how awesome is your store and its products, customers wouldn’t just fall in your lap. You need to tell them about it and attract users to your site. A competitive eCommerce marketing strategy is what you need now. Apart from the basic marketing mix of email, social media, content marketing, and eCommerce SEO, you must experiment with different marketing ideas to get an edge over your competitors.

Best Practices for Your Online Clothing Store

Best practices are always common. I mean, there are dozens of good writers who have published some awesome tips and tricks. Traverse the internet, you will find great ideas to implement on your website, too. There is no use writing the same stuff again and again.

I too have published a few posts that would certainly help you to design your own set of best eCommerce practices for your online clothing store.  Do check out these detailed posts:

Examples of Successful Online Clothing Store

You should learn from the experiences of others, and what better way is there than checking out some of the most successful online clothing stores in the market? Just take a casual look that these awesome websites and how they have implemented different features and trends to not only attract customers but also convert them into repeat customers. I am leaving you with these three different websites working successfully in three different niches.

SpearmintLove

B-Wear Sportswear

Revelry

Conclusion

  • Commerce is never a risk-free space; it’s always a gamble. If things don’t click, you might end up losing a great deal of time and money. However, the riskier, the merrier it is. Luckily, the online clothing store is comparatively the least riskier business in eCommerce. You can always expect some good demands as people have different tastes, making the clothing industry always available for new entrants.

With the right strategies, a decent eCommerce platform, and a clear business objective, it’s possible to launch a profitable online clothing store anytime. It’s never too late.

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