If you’ve been kicking around the idea launch a clothing store online, this article will show you how to start an online clothing store.
Compared to brick and mortar store, online clothing store has several advantage:
Distribution and Customer Reach: The online clothing store model has a virtual address and a potentially global reach. Its distribution channel can grow overnight by word of mouth. Theoretically, your customers can be anywhere in the world and purchase from your store.
On the other hand, the physical clothing store is limited to a geographic location. Its the physical location that determines whom your can serve.
Low Cost of Operations: The biggest advantage to start an online clothing store is the dramatically low cost of starting and running it.
On contrary, cost of opening a physical store is exponentially high compared to that of an online clothing store. You need to pay rent, install security systems, open merchant account, keep employees, purchase inventory, spend in utility services and local advertising (in print and outdoors).
In contrast, the expenses for an online store are a fraction of it. Your overhead are extremely low, whole your scalability and reach are extremely high. You could hire a virtual assistant to manage incoming orders and answer to customer requests without even having your direct involvement in day to day operations.
1. Figure out the costs and set aside a budget
Ideally you should figure out a six months budget that involves all costs involved in setting up and running your online operations. Let’s look at the costs involved in setting up an online clothing store:
- Website hosting
- Design and development
- Cataloguing (photography and writing product description)
- Online marketing
- Payment Gateway
Once you have worked out the costs associated with opening your online clothing store, it’s time to decide what you want to sell and to whom.
2. Choose your Market (Target Audience)
Before you can start your online store, you have to figure out what type of clothing store you want start? Which market segment do you want to serve?
Are you selling to men, women or children? Will your store be an all-purpose online boutique that serves men, women and children? Or you want to launch a specialized clothing store for a specific product type?
If you are starting out from scratch, we recommend to pick up your speciality and build your business on top of it. There are many advantages of starting a specialized clothing store, such as:
- Lower marketing cost because you can reach out to a precise audience quickly
- Easier to manage inventory
- Better understanding a specific segment leads to better product selection
When you are starting out small, focus on one specific segment and then excel in it. Become a market leader in that segment. Then you can think of expanding to more segments.
For example, Customique sells only occasional wear shirts for men.
You can narrow down to a market segment in several different ways such as:
- Clothing for plus sizes
- Children’s summer apparel
- Fashion socks (HotSox.com)
- Women Ethnic
- Men’s Wedding
- Only Cotton Shirts
- Formal Only
- Women Casual
3. Understand your Customer
Once you’ve locked in on what you will sell, your next step is to get crystal clear about what your customers want.
Who is your perfect customer? What are their shopping habits, likes, dislikes, wants and desires? Where do they spend their time online? When they speak about clothing what language do they use? Understanding your perfect customer allows you to start an online clothing store they will love. Your store is for them.
4. Choose a Supplier
If you are brand new to the world of retailing, you need to figure out your suppliers very carefully. Your goal is to find a quality supplier who can give you products based on your needs on a timely basis. Here are a few criteria for choosing a quality supplier:
- Is their product quality top notch? Is their quality consistent?
- Are they reliable (can they meet demands during peak seasons)?
- What’s their credit policy (you can negotiate this)
- What’s their return policy?
- Who are their existing customers?
The bottom line is, you need to have multiple suppliers whom you can trust and rely on.
You’ve figured out what your perfect customer loves to buy. You have also determined the suppliers who can feed you with ample supply of products when you need them.
Now now it’s time start creating the product catalogue.
5. Creating a Product Catalog
Though it may sound simplistic, product catalogue development isn’t as easy as you might think. First you need to decide on number of products you want to sell and the right product mix. You do not need to stock your entire inventory; you just need to make sure that sufficient quantities are available for each product with your supplier. This will save you a lot of investment.
Since your customers cannot touch, feel or try your products, high quality product photos are necessary to create a visual impact. If you have a knack at photography, you can do it easily yourself using a decent camera. Make sure you shoot your products outdoors either in morning light or evening light.
However, if you think that photography is not your forte, do not hesitate using services of a professional photographer. Later on, when your operations scale, you can buy photography instruments and even train one of your staff to do it.
Pricing your products
While pricing your products, make sure to take into consideration the costs for running your online store, the cost to acquiring merchandise, shipping costs, and return/damage costs. Make sure that your item is neither overpriced or under priced and you also earn decent profits after discounts.
6. Customer Service
Being available for communication throughout the purchase process is essential to create a remarkable customer service experience. Make sure you have a communication system in place to offer phone support. Make a list of answer to frequently asked questions and keep them handy while answering customer calls.
Logistics arrangement determines how product will be delivered to your customer. What shipping methods are available to your customers? Will you offer a low rate with standard 5-day delivery? Is there a possibility of two day or next day air delivery? Who will be your service carrier? Which service is most cost effective for your business?
Logistics and Customer service is the cornerstone to bring a great shopping experience to your customer.
8. Promote your Online Store
With advent of Social Media, promoting your online store has become relatively easy. You can open account with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to promote your products. You can consider launching dedicated fan pages for your online brand which can become the centerpiece for your customer relationships.
Social media allows you to drive targeted traffic to your online clothing store, establish relationships with your customers and lower your overall marketing cost. Having an active social media assists you in delivering quality customer service, builds your brand and allows you to be a part of the conversation with your customers on a daily basis.
Now that you know the blueprint of how to start your online clothing store, it’s time to take action.
We are coming up with a free course to help you start a profitable online store. Enter your email address below and join the waiting list. We’ll notify you when the course begins.