Whether you plan to earn a little extra cash with a side hustle, start a new business, or lay the foundation for a fashion empire, selling clothing online can be an excellent starting point. A recent study reveals 51 percent of Americans would rather shop online than in a brick and mortar store, and 30 percent order something online at least once per week. 45 percent of shoppers use eCommerce stores to purchase clothing, shoes, and accessories.
While the market for online apparel is robust, it’s also highly competitive. Here are three strategies for making your store stand out from the crowd.
1. Choose your business model carefully.
The platform or approach that’s best for you will depend on the amount of time and money you are looking to invest and the amount of creative control you wish to maintain over your products. A Better Lemonade Stand compares three models for entrepreneurs who are interested in designing some aspect of the clothing they sell.
If you want to set up a shop quickly and easily on a budget of less than $1,000, your best bet would be starting a print-on-demand line; you create the designs, and a company like Printful prints them on blank apparel. While startup costs are low, so are profit margins because of the inability to differentiate your product from every other wholesale clothing item on the market.
If your plan is to create your own brand from the thread up, custom cut-and-sew is the way to go. You have full control over the design and quality of your product, but you’re also solely responsible for finding a manufacturer, testing and selecting fabrics, working with a pattern maker, committing to a full print run, stocking your inventory, and then marketing it, and that’s all before you make your first sale. Because this business model requires up to a year and $10,000 to get off the ground, it’s not for everyone.
Wholesale or private label lines represent the middle ground. You purchase wholesale blank clothing but do the printing yourself, which allows you to add custom tags, labels, and other branding to increase your products’ perceived value. Unlike the print-on-demand model, you’ll need warehouse space to store and ship your items, but you can buy items in bulk at better prices and use cost-effective printing methods. Check out this online tutorial on the basics of screen printing.
2. Make your clothing come alive.
In a retail store, customers would be able to physically inspect each item before making a purchase. In an eCommerce platform, your customers don’t have the luxury of trying on the clothes, feeling the fabric, or reading the tags. Your goal is to provide enough descriptive detail to appeal to the customer aesthetically and enough factual detail to help the customer make an informed choice.
eComdash advises clothing websites to include the brand name, color, and type of item in the title to allow customers to search by keyword. The product description should provide exact measurements, fabric content, and washing instructions. For example, customers might need to know if cotton t-shirts are preshrunk to know what size to order or might be looking for a blazer that doesn’t require dry cleaning. Providing comprehensive product information upfront decreases the chances of items being returned later.
The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” definitely applies to online shopping. Use high-quality photos showing clothing from multiple angles that allow customers to zoom in for a closer look. If customers are choosing different colors or designs, show them what each combination would look like.
You want customers to visualize themselves wearing the item, so photos of real people modeling your clothes are best. However, not everyone has the resources to hire models, and if you are running a print-on-demand business, you might only have the templates your printer provides. A number of free and low-cost tools are available for creating online t-shirt mockups, including existing photos of models which you can add to your designs.
3. Use multi-channel marketing.
Although the design of your store is important, the strategies you use beyond your website are essential to target your audience where they are most likely to engage. Shopify reveals that brands that sell to customers on two or more channels other than their websites increase their revenue by 120 percent on average.
These channels include a variety of social media platforms, online communities, messaging apps, and marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, or Houzz. Research where your target audience is likely to consume content that leads to a purchase. For example, if your customer base is millennial women, good options might be a native Facebook store and buyable Pins on Pinterest. If you are targeting Gen Zers, however, note their preference for mobile in-app notifications and consider shoppable Instagram posts.
What’s the secret to your ecommerce apparel’s appeal? Share your tips in the comments.