When you first set out to chase your dream of starting your online clothing store, things can quickly turn quite confusing. There’s so much to do: identifying the right ecommerce development company, setting up the website, negotiating with wholesalers, making marketing and branding decisions, managing your inventory, promoting the site… At times, all this can appear a bit scary.
No one’s going to tell you all this is going to be easy – nothing worthwhile is easy. But with the right planning combined with hard work and a bit of guidance, it can turn out not only successful and profitable but also a lot of fun!
This post will guide you through each of the activities and help you make the right decisions at every stage. Here are the 10 things you should consider before launching your online clothing store.
1. Study The Competition
Everyone wants a piece of the $370 billion market of online retail sales. That means you aren’t alone, no matter what you intend to sell. And that’s good news: You can study so many potential competitors beforehand!
Stantt combines customization with standardization extremely well
To begin with, what was the phrase (called ‘keyword’) you typed into the search engine that brought you to particular site? Note how different combinations of words produce different results on the search engine and see which of them are most likely to apply to the line of products you intend to carry.
Next, understand product classification and display. Pay attention to product descriptions, since product descriptions must be short yet riveting. See what features the shopping cart carries and how the site responds to abandoned shopping carts. Finally, if you are technically competent, you can study the platform. For instance, if it’s built on Magento, you’d like to understand the level of sophistication the Magento development company has been able to provide.
2. Decide What Lines You’ll Sell
Anyone who has even a basic understanding of the clothing business knows there are several categories in clothing: newborns, kids, teens, sports, women’s, men’s, casuals… Do you intend to cater to customers in each of the categories or are you focusing on some niche?
Typically, startups prefer being a unisex, general apparel store. However, a number of factors influence this decision. On the one hand, niches tend to offer better margins, and mostly it’s easier to build a brand around something that’s special or unique. On the other, the volumes are small and established players offer stiff competition.
Combatflipflops.com successfully sells a wide range of clothing and accessories
Names are important. A generic or an abstract name (e.g. www.7frogsflyinghigh.com) can easily switch its line of clothing, while with something highly specific (e.g. Dream Diva Plus Size) you can almost never change. (Hint: Abstract names are safer!)
3. Write a Business Plan
eCommerce website development has come long way in terms of technical excellence, yet it cannot replace a clearly thought-out business plan.
No matter how sure you are of your next big idea, it’s strongly recommended you write a business plan. If you’ve never written one before, surf a little and you’ll quickly understand the basics.
Korra.in, founded in 2012, focused on customization from the start
As the first draft of your business, it’d include finance, marketing, hiring challenges and other critical aspects. That will also raise a few questions. For instance, what strategies do you plan to use to break into this crowded market space? What will be your pricing policies?
A business plan serves multiple purposes: It opens your eyes to what you are getting into, it helps get funding, and, importantly, clarifies the founder’s vision.
4. Choose the Right Platform
Approach this technical question with an open mind, since there are no universal truths. A lot will depend on your budget, your own technical competence and a number of other factors. To begin with, you’ll need to be clear about what level of control and customization you’re looking for – not just right now, but also a year later.
Our long experience in Magento ecommerce development has given us some valuable insights. There’s no denying Shopify, Etsy or Zepo have their own advantages. However, Magento offers a certain freedom that brings out the uniqueness you see in your online clothing store and that can prove to be critical in the medium to long term. You may want to check out the post that compares Magento vs Shopify.
5. Setting up, Hosting and Domains
Often, the comparison comes down to choosing between Shopify and Magento.
Shopify offers you free domain and takes care of hosting when you sign up for one its plan (starting US$ 29/mo). To some, it’s a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it takes a lot of load off your back, while on the other hand it’s a closed platform so you get limited flexibility. The analytics report it brings up is easy to interpret but also relatively simple.
Quirksmith.com, a jewellery startup, is comfortable with Shopify
Magento is open-source so there is a great scope for customization. Its Community Edition (CE) is free. You get to choose where you’d like to host your site. If you take a little interest in the technical area, you’ll come to enjoy the kind of freedom Magento offers. There’s a very huge Magento community out there that you can turn to if you feel you’re stuck somewhere.
All said and done, there’s a strong case in favor of Magento. An experienced Magento development company can build you, in your budget, a stunning, stable, secure and fully functional webstore.
6. Focus on Payment Gateways and Shopping Carts
A payment gateway is basically an interface which accepts and processes payments your customers make when they purchase from you. It must satisfy the following two important characteristics, without which your business suffers very badly.
There are many options available for ecommerce
Firstly, the payment gateway must be fully safe and secure. If it’s insecure, customers will not buy from you. A strong and a reliable gateway, on the other hand, inspires confidence and customers will pay without hesitation.
Secondly, the payment process must be simple and swift. Multiple authentications both frustrate and discourage customers. Your payment gateway must be easy to use and payments must be processed without undue delay.
Another important feature you’ll need to take care of is the shopping cart. Choose a shopping cart that allows easy addition or removal of products. Also, the customer must be able to view, at all times, whatever items they have placed in the shopping cart. Finally, you’ll need a strong shopping cart abandonment management in place. Make sure you are clear about these aspects while you proceed for ecommerce website development.
7. Manage Your Sourcing and Inventory
Now you’re talking business!
Even a virtual clothing store needs real products – clothes. And for your online store to run profitably, your purchase and inventory costs should be as low as possible. While you’ll certainly need to purchase clothes at low prices, you don’t want to buy them cheap to the extent of badly hurting quality.
Different items have different minimum order quantities. And there are great bargains too!
In order to strike the right balance between quality and pricing, you’ll have to get in touch with a number of suppliers, verify their quality, ascertain if they can deliver the same quality and in the quantity you want and negotiate the price. Depending upon how small or how big you intend to start, your suppliers can be the local vendors, lesser-known designers, Etsy stores or even international suppliers.
Another critical aspect is inventory. Depending upon your business model and the terms you negotiated with your suppliers, you may be carrying a lot of inventory yourself. While stocking assures you can supply anytime there’s a purchase, it also drives up your costs.
8. Take Care of Shipping Logistics and Returns
Shipping time that’s too slow discourages customers from repeat purchases or making a purchase at all. You can negotiate drop-shipping: your supplier will carry the inventory and will deliver when you ask them to. Managed well, this can keep your inventory costs down considerably. However, you’ll want to instruct them on how to properly store the product and how to carry out special wrapping orders (e.g. holiday gifts, birthday gifts).
If you are managing the shipping yourself, you’ll want to check out and negotiate with delivery solution providers. Costing, time taken to deliver, number of locations served, their system of processing orders and insurance are five of the most important elements that go into choosing the right shipping partner.
Next is your returns policy. An experienced ecommerce development company can help you with the basics of the policy. If you’re delivering to international locations, you’ll find a simple international conversion chart can reduce a lot of headache. Your shipping partner should be able to take care of collecting the returns and delivering them to the original vendor.
9. Make Branding and Promotions a Top Priority
What most startups probably don’t know is branding begins long before your marketing efforts. If, for instance, you specialize in bridal clothing, your website color and texture simply cannot have a denim look! Your brand promise, therefore, is the sum of line of products you seek to deliver, the target customer, the overall design of your website, your pricing strategies, the messages you send out on social media, the values you stand for, and even your name!
Platforms like RedPolka promote various brands
Launching and then continually promoting your online clothing store is going to be as important as selecting the right ecommerce development company. Building reputation online is time-consuming so you need to prove yourself to your customers and earn their trust. An offline launch, like having a pop-up stall, is a pretty good idea. Your customers can see you, check out what you’re offering, try a few items and then make purchase at the pop-up stall. Once they begin seeing what you stand for – bargains, value for money, premium quality, exotic designs – it’s easier to become their top choice.
Finally, you’ll have to make some strategic decisions regarding promotional offers. If you claim to be selling only very high-quality, designer stuff, frequent discount offers can do more harm than good. However, if you’re positioning yourself as a value-for-money online clothing store, Happy Hours or Bargain Wednesdays will take you a long way.
10. Get The Most Out of Your Marketing
Product descriptions, as pointed out earlier, tend to be short. Hence, building your SEO around product descriptions is a big challenge. A competent Magento development company can make your life on the marketing front a great deal easier. That’s because Magento is enriched with SEO features.
Popular fashion and design blogs as this can greatly push your store
Besides, you might want to consider setting up a blog, or even a video blog. The alternative to this is to use popular, third-party blogs to promote your products. You can offer them free products for quality evaluation, offer their readers a special discount or request them to write a guest post on your site. In return, your site gets visibility.
Feely use the major social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – to drive traffic. But always remember everything you share must not be salesy. Use social media platforms to build a ‘personality’ of your online store. For example, you can share various interesting stories of your struggles or accomplishments. That can make your brand more ‘human’, more engaging.
At Infigic, we’re committed to making everything we take up a big success. Feel free to get in touch with us for requirements you may have while you chase your dream of setting up a great online clothing store! We’ll be happy to help!