As you probably know, the textile sector – which includes clothing, leather goods and footwear – moves a significant volume of business all over the world, with a large production, exportation and demand, that is making it easy for both small and big fashion brands to expand their profits.
Yet, today, the sale of clothing goes far beyond the classic shopping streets: more and more fashion enthusiasts decide to open a clothing boutique online, motivated by the possibility to make it real without running into high costs.
In fact, if you have decided to start an online clothing store on your own, there is no surprise: the online clothing stores are a multi-billion-a-year industry and represent by far one of the most popular eCommerce niches. Sales in the textile sector are expected to reach $713 billion by 2022 so there is a lot of potential business to cash in on.
Whether you are the owner of a traditional store who wants to expand their visibility through e-commerce or a fashion victim who wants to dedicate exclusively to the online fashion trade, surely you are wondering how to start a clothing store online and, above all, on how much it costs.
In this article, we are going to explain how to open a clothing store online, revealing to you some strategies and steps you should follow in order to succeed in the online fashion business.
Selling clothes online vs. offline
Running an offline store today may not be enough to maintain a high volume of sales: traditional shops need to increase their visibility and the number of customers in order to keep up with competitors and changes in the market. That’s why more and more offline sellers decide to bring their shops also on the internet.
The biggest advantage of selling online is, of course, the lower barriers to entry. Establishing an online store can take a few days or weeks, while getting started in a more traditional offline environment can take a lot longer with a much higher initial investment. To make an example, to open an offline clothes store the average investment needed is between $50,000 to $150,000, whereas to open a clothing boutique online requires much less. Further, operating a traditional retail shop means hiring employees to physically keep the store open on a limited time table, while ecommerce is available to anyone 24/7.
You can therefore understand why it is very important to combine an online store with an existing physical store; if you are not completely convinced yet, find out 6 Reasons Why You Should Have an Online Store.
Regardless of whether you already have an offline store or you are venturing into the world of sales for the first time, you have to ask yourself a few questions before opening an online clothing boutique. It is not just about choosing the most trending fashion items to sell and finding the best suppliers to work with; you need to carefully plan the online business to predict the costs to be faced and their sustainability over time.
A good trick to explore the market, choose the items to sell and define your potential target is to start selling online on marketplaces or through a temporary shop. Indeed, if you opt to start a clothing store online in a soft way, you’ll be able to evaluate the starting point, study the competitors and define the strengths and weaknesses of your catalog.
First steps on how to open an online clothing store
After clarifying with your accountant how to open an online store with clothing from the bureaucracy and taxes point of view, there are other elements that you should pay attention to for a proper planning of your online clothing store.
The first step is to choose the right web platform for online sales. This is the most delicate and apparently expensive step in the process. Luckily, nowadays there are also valid and cheaper solutions on the market: an example is Vetrina Live, an Italian e-commerce platform that allows you to open an online store in a few minutes and that can be yours at a very competitive price, thanks to the App Promo still valid for a short time and that allows you not only to open your store with a recurrent 50% discount but also to have the iOS and Android app of your store published on App Store and Play Store.
Speed and cost of shipping are key aspects to offer the user a positive shopping experience, so make sure to obtain advantageous agreements with couriers for shipments. Dropshipping is probably the easiest and cheapest business model. In fact, dropshippers act as middlemen: when the customer buys an item online, the dropshipper orders from a third-party company for a delivery directly to the customer.
Whatever items you decide to sell, the choice of serious and reliable suppliers is very important. Again, dropshipping is the easiest selling system, since you can have access to a potentially infinite number of items. If you have decided to start an online clothing store, we invite you to consult in advance the list of the main clothing and accessories suppliers that offer the dropshipping service.
Inventory and warehouse
Another issue quickly solved by the dropshipping regards the inventory and warehouse: as said, you won’t need to physically stock clothing items and can easily sell different kinds of articles. On the contrary, if you don’t want to opt for dropshipping, then make sure you have the skills and tools necessary to manage an inventory and a warehouse, such as a software specialized in managing online clothing stores.
How to start a clothing boutique online successfully
The steps analyzed so far help you to understand how to open an e-commerce, in general; now, instead, let’s see how to open an online clothing store destined to be successful.
1. Study your competitors
One of the most important aspects to consider when you decide to start a clothing store online is the competition. Based on the items you intend to sell, study your competitors, their sales and marketing strategies, discover their strengths, but also their weaknesses to use to your advantage. That being said, try to differentiate yourself, offer competitive prices and focus on personalized promotions and offers, but also on additional services such as low cost or fast delivery.
2. Identify your market niche
Since you are not a department store or an international fashion chain, you cannot think of selling clothing online to an unlimited clientele. For this reason, you need to accurately identify your niche, specialize and stand out in it. The narrower your target group, the more chances your online clothing boutique will have to position itself in the market and to stand out. Furthermore, having a clear idea on who/how your potential customers are will help you in the following step: understanding what to sell on your online clothing store.
Some tips to define your niche:
- Be as unique as possible and distinguish yourself from the crowd – if your brand is the same as hundreds of others, you’re unlikely to succeed.
- Choose a niche that you are passionate about – an idea that excites you is the most likely to succeed because of your personal motivation.
- Find a niche where you can add value and position your brand as an authority – your unique background plays a big role in your store, and that includes prior career goals.
- Make sure the niche has earning potential – find a place to insert yourself that allows quicker growth and the ability to earn money.
3. Create your online clothing catalog
Once you have identified the market segment and the fashion items to sell, before opening an online clothing store you must organize your sample collection as clearly as possible by dividing it by product categories.
Remember that browsing within your online clothing boutique must replace a visit to a physical store, so the catalog must be easily navigable, with the most detailed browsing filters possible and heavily focusing on content, i.e. texts and images. Create a showcase with accurate and original descriptions for each product indicating size, model, materials used, colors available, wearability and all the information that you would ask a salesperson in an offline store.
Since on the web images often count more than words, we advise you to use – for each piece of clothing – pictures taken from different angles, and perhaps a plugin or an app that allows you to zoom in on the item and that gives the possibility to see it in various colors.
4. Position your brand and build customer loyalty
To get good results with your online clothing store, you need to position your brand and retain your customers. If you have been good at identifying your niche, it will be easy to understand which articles of clothing to sell. You won’t therefore have a catalog with everything and more, but precise categories of products for a specific target.
However, for a clothing boutique online to succeed a well-organized catalog alone is not enough: you have to offer something that sets you apart from the competition. It can be a difference in products, prices or you may be offering after-sales support better than the one offered by the competition.
In short, you have to find something that differentiates you and answers the following question: “Why should I buy from you?”. Only when you have answered convincingly you will have a competitive advantage that will allow you to position your brand and build customer loyalty.
5. Define shipping costs and Return Policies
When it comes to opening an online clothing store, speed and costs of shipping together with the possibility of free returns are essential elements. The ideal option is to offer free delivery; when this is not possible, it is always good to specify the existence of additional costs related to taxes and shipping that could affect the final cost of the item.
In addition, the delivery should be super fast (preferably within 48 hours), to prevent users from continuing to browse the web and cancel their order on your e-shop to complete the purchase elsewhere. Another essential point is to properly describe the Return Policy of your online clothing store specifying any costs, methods and times of return. Once again, the ideal is to offer free returns to entice the user to buy and try on the garment comfortably at home.
6. Invest in Marketing and Communication
Marketing and communication are essential points for any successful online sales strategy. Social networks represent a very important tool in this sense: create your page, advertise your offers and connect the fan page to your clothing online boutique.
In addition to being active on social media, participate in discussions on fashion and lifestyle blogs or even open your own blog to give fashion advice and to keep your customers informed: if you prove to be an expert in the sector, you will gain authority and you can much more easily attract new customers to your online clothing store .
Finally, always remember to use images of high quality and good resolution, both on social media and on the blog! If you are looking for free images for your clothing ecommerce you can take a look at this article.
We hope that after this reading it will be clearer to you how to start a clothing online store.
We have seen that, as for any business, also to start an online clothing store you need to follow some essential steps, such as studying the market and the competition, searching for good suppliers, identifying the best sales channels and making an adequate investment in marketing and communication. Other elements that contribute to the success of an online clothing store are personal intuition, management skills and creativity.
Now that you have an idea of how to open a boutique online, all you have to do is put into practice the advice we have been given to you, open your e-commerce with Vetrina Live, create your products catalog and start selling online!