Ecommerce.co.za

How to start an online clothing store

So you find yourself wanting to start an online clothing store - great! Ecommerce offers an excellent opportunity for businesses to get off the ground without the unnecessary overheads that come with having a traditional business with physical premises.

However, thinking about starting an online store and actually starting one are two very different things. It’s easy to foresee a world where customers flock to your website as soon as it's up and you become a household name overnight - but achieving this will require a fair amount of work to find a strong product to market fit.

Here are the top ten essential factors to keep in mind when starting an online clothing store that continues to bring in steady revenue month to month.

What do you need to start an online clothing store?

  1. Choose a clothing niche
  2. Research supply, demand and competitors in the industry, and determine where your personal passions and experiences lie
  3. Know your target audience
  4. Choose your domain name
  5. Partner with regular or dropshipping suppliers
  6. Choose an ecommerce platform
  7. Connect to a payment gateway
  8. Design your website for sales
  9. Develop brand story-telling that creates a connection with your customers
  10. Start marketing campaigns
1. Choose a clothing niche

Everyone needs clothes, but everyone has a different preference. Instead of trying to sell clothes to everyone, choose something more specific that is based on your personal interests and business objectives.
  • Stand out from the crowd by being as unique as possible: There are plenty of online clothing stores around, and if your brand is the same as the very many others out there - the likelihood of getting ahead of any of them is low.
  • Choose the clothing niche that you are most passionate about: Products and ideas that you are passionate about are more likely to be successful. Think about the kind of clothing items you’d like to see on the market more and what kind of items you’d be excited to share with the public.
  • Does your clothing niche have the ability to make money?:You may love women’s high-waisted jeans, but every other store is already selling them - so making a name for yourself will be virtually impossible. Find a place to step in where there is a unique proposition that will allow faster growth and the ability to make money.
2. Research supply, demand and competitors in the industry, and determine where your personal passions and experiences lie

In order to build your product or service, you will need to conduct extensive market research.

Your unique background, passion and experience play a big role in the success of your online clothing store. For example, if your background, passion and experience is in extreme sports, consider clothing lines that may relate. If this isn’t relevant, find the holes in the current market in which you can make an impact or add value.

3. Know your target audience

One of the most important things to consider when opening an online clothing store is who you’ll be selling your products to. This is important for what kind of products you sell, how you’ll design your website, your marketing strategy and your shipping requirements.

Ask yourself:
  • How old are my customers?
  • Where do they live?
  • What are their interests?
Create buyer personas to determine exactly who you are targeting to buy from your online clothing store.

4. Choose your domain name

Choosing the right domain name for your online business is absolutely crucial. It’s one of the most important initial steps to take to build a brand online which many fail to get right.

Picking a SEO-friendly domain name is essential. It will take time and a lot of consideration. If you choose a domain name not suitable for your business, you may end up losing search traffic, revenue, or even worse... Google marking your website as spam.

Things to consider when choosing your domain name:
  • Use top-level domain extensions
  • Keep your domain name short
  • Avoid using hyphens and numbers in your domain name
  • Make sure your domain name is easy to type and memorable
  • Avoid using repeated letters
  • Use a domain generator for new domain ideas
  • Add a keyword to your domain name.
5. Partner with CMT (Cut, Make, Trim) manufacturers, regular or dropshipping suppliers
  • Work with expert suppliers/build a strategic supplier partnership 
  • Have an effective system in place to streamline processes i.e. from the moment the customer places their order, your store’s profit/income from the order, forwarding the order to your supplier and paying the wholesale price, to when the supplier ships the product directly to your customer
  • Ensure customer support is available when needed
  • Ensure that providers adhere to service level agreements/manage supplier performance
  • Develop a customer journey strategy to keep the customer experience intact.
6. Choose an ecommerce platform

Your website is inevitably the face of your brand. The ecommerce platform on which you build your online clothing store is a massive part of how smoothly you’ll be able to run your business.

Important factors to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform:

Tools:
  • Does the platform offer all the tools your need to build a successful online clothing store?
  • Does it have marketing capabilities, inventory management and can you sell on multiple channels?
  • Can you customise your checkout experience and automate sales tax?
  • Simply put, will the ecommerce platform your choose have the ability to grow with your business?
Mobile view:
  • Mobile devices have become an accessory of everyday life for millions of people. In 2021, 4.32 billion unique mobile internet users were recorded, which indicated that over 90% of the world’s internet population use a mobile device to go surf the web
  • Questions to ask yourself would be - does my website builder optimise for mobile? Will online shoppers be able to browse your store with ease on their phones?
Design capabilities:
  • Does the ecommerce platform allow you to create a store that looks amazing, but also functions at an optimal level?
  • How easy is it to customise your storefront’s design in the front and back end?
  • Ensure the website builder has a good CMS. A great CMS allows flexibility and creates opportunities to present content in more unique and interesting ways
  • A CMS system should be flexible enough to allow your designers and developers to choose the exact look and feel of your site.
7. Connect to a payment gateway

When creating your online clothing store, the most important thing is how you’ll get paid. This is the process you’ll have to take to ensure payments come through smoothly and securely when your products are purchased online.

First, decide what kind of online payments you wish to accept from your customers. Then, choose the best South African payment gateway for your online business.

What is a payment gateway?

A payment gateway is a merchant service provided by an ecommerce application service provider that authorises credit card or direct payments processing for e-businesses and online retailers on their websites.

Shopify, WooCommerce and Wix are great ecommerce platforms that provide many benefits to ensure smooth payment gateway transactions.

8. Design your website for sales

Now is the time to design your online storefront and ensure that your design is optimised to enhance conversions.

You want your website to look great, but you also want to make sure that your customers’ journey is seamless through the purchasing and checkout process.

Explain what you sell: Unless you’re a top name brand that doesn’t need any explanation, your potential customers will definitely want to know what you have on offer immediately when visiting your site. Make it clear exactly what clothing you sell for your website visitors.

Write clear Call to Actions (CTAs): Through every stage of the buying process on your website, your customers must know what they need to do next to ensure a smooth flow to checkout. Make sure your CTAs’ text is instinctive and makes it clear where the customer will end up when they click it.

Add a large and attractive Shop Now button on your website’s homepage that takes your customer to your catalogue. On every product page make sure to include a prominent Buy Now and Add to Cart CTA.

Ensure the structure of your online store is well laid out: Create a navigation bar in your website header that takes your customers exactly where they want to go. You’re an online clothing store, so ensure you create tabs and categorise for men’s, women’s, kids and any other categories you sell - as well as a tab for what is currently on sale.

Allow your customers to easily track what they have in their carts by adding a shopping cart link in the top right corner of your site that sticks when navigating through your web pages.

Include key links in your site’s footer that include your shipping and returns policies, payment icons, links to your social media pages and general contact info. Be sure that your user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are on top form at all times.

Use high-quality images: Product photography is an essential aspect to selling successfully online. Your customers want to see what the product they’re buying looks like up close, and they need to feel confident and trust the product before purchasing it online. Use professional photos and videos to showcase your product’s look, feel, size, dimensions, weight and overall quality.

9. Create brand story-telling that creates a connection with your customers

Ensure your online clothing store is unforgettable with strong branding. Branding includes everything from your business’ name, logo, colours to your tone of voice. Your business’ brand should relate strongly to the type of customer you wish to attract.

Once you decide on a logo and content style, use exactly this when designing anything your business creates for the public, including:
  • Your website 
  • Marketing and general emails (email signatures included)
  • Invoices
  • Product packaging
  • Marketing campaigns.
Having an impressive, professional website and a consistent branding strategy is even more impactful than you would have thought. By giving your customers the chance to get to know you on a one-to-one basis, they're much more likely to buy from you.

10. Start marketing campaigns

Online marketing is somewhat overwhelming at first simply because there are so many different ways to go about it. Here are a few tips on driving customers to your online store using free and paid marketing strategies.

Free marketing campaigns

Social media

Create a business page for your online store on all relevant social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram. Update your business information on your profile page, including website link, location and contact details.

Then, actively post about any promotions, sales and new products and link them to your online store. Customers can even shop directly from your social media page by integrating your ecommerce website with Facebook Shop or Instagram Shop.

Email marketing

Get an email contacts list together by adding a lightbox to your site that motivates customers to sign up, or by adding a sign-up form to your website. Offer them a discount on their next purchase to encourage them even more to join your mailing list.

Use an email marketing tool to send out newsletters about sales, business updates and more.

SEO

Ensure that your site is optimised to rank well on Google’s search results. Make it effortless for your customers to find your online store when they’re looking for the types of clothing that you sell. A few ways to do this is by writing keyword optimised meta titles and descriptions for each of your website pages, posting regular keyword optimised blogs, gaining links and by making sure your technical SEO is in good health.

Paid marketing campaigns

Facebook, Instagram and Google Ads

Target your ideal customers on social media and Google with paid ads. First, determine the campaign’s main objective - do you want to gain more traffic, customer engagement, enquiries or conversions? Then, determine your ad spend budget and how long you want the ads to run. You’ll need to create your ideal audience to target based on their location, demographics, interests and more.

Useful resources:
Peach Payments
The trusted African payment gateway with easy ecommerce integrations and personalised multi-channel support.
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