Internet shopping is everywhere these days. If you are in the business of selling fashion, you simply cannot ignore online platforms. If you already have a bricks-and-mortar business, selling products online can take your business to the next level.
But whether or not you’re just starting out or are expanding an existing clothing business, the good news is that your investment and risk are much lower with online retail than with a physical shop, A pop-up or even a market stall. What’s more, selling on the internet allows you to potentially reach new customers near and far, even abroad.
Selling clothes and accessories online can be done via three basic channels, and you can use any combination you wish: Your own ecommerce website, online marketplaces and social media sites. Let’s take a look at each one in turn.
Having your own online fashion emporium has the immense advantage that you’re in total control of your website. You choose the look and feel to give your business credibility and trust, something that is not really possible if you sell via third party websites.
Your website should have a domain name that is memorable, short and easy to type, and perhaps include a relevant keyword too. For best results, try to make it the same as your business name, and add .co.uk, .com or .net as a suffix.
As a fashion aficionado and retailer, you may not feel that building a website for your business is something you have the skills to do. Depending on your level of confidence and time available, you could use an ecommerce website building platform such as Wix, Weebly or Shopify and make life easy for yourself, or delegate the task to a professional web designer. Here’s a beautiful Shopify website for SIR, an online fashion label from Australia:
Here are some essential features that your online fashion shop must have:
High quality product images
A picture is worth a thousand words, particularly in the fashion industry, and even more so when your customers cannot touch the garment or try it on before they buy. Images must be of professional standard, and should be sharp, detailed, convey true color, form and scale, and there should be a zoom function your customers can use to see any item close up. If you can include a ‘catwalk’ type video too, even better.
User friendly navigation and checkout
Create a pleasant online shopping experience to encourage maximum sales. A clear layout with product categories and descriptions, and filters by size, colour and price are essential to guide your customer through their selection and help them find their way around the site and towards the basket. Make sure the shopping basket is easy to use and edit, and that the checkout button can be found easily. Tina Bucknall’s online ladies fashion shop is a great example:
Clear, engaging written content
Product descriptions must give clear information of all the details your target customers will want to know, but at the same time your copy should ‘sell the sizzle’ – you need a balance of features and benefits. Contact details – a phone number or email – should be prominently displayed in case of queries, and a separate contact page, along with frequently asked questions (FAQs) will help customers feel supported.
Genuine customer reviews
Online customer reviews and testimonials can be as powerful as a personal recommendation. Did you know that customers are likely to spend a third more on a business that has received ‘excellent’ feedback? You can take control of the customer feedback on your site by proactively sending out customer satisfaction questionnaires and use the data to produce your own statistics. Any negative feedback should be addressed promptly, and with good will, to keep your brand perception high.
Reliable payment options and returns policy
Convenient and secure payment options for online transactions are a non-negotiable feature. Installing an SSL Certificate establishes an encrypted link for online payments, so that your customers feel safe when shopping with you. Shipping methods and returns policies should be easy to understand and use, and they can be used to add to the appeal of the online purchase. ASOS is an excellent example of the power of a great delivery and returns policy.
Marketing your online fashion business
In a crowded online market with hundreds if not thousands of competitors worldwide, just having a website is sadly not enough. How will your target audience find your fashion emporium on the internet? This is where Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can make a real difference. Put bluntly, it’s a way of showing search engines that your site is authoritative, interesting and trusted, which means higher Google rankings, greater visibility, more traffic and, ultimately, increased sales.
Selling on marketplaces such as Amazon, Ebay or Etsy is very popular and it’s not hard to understand the appeal. You get instant access to a vast pool of potential customers, there are easy-to-use templates to help you get set up, no upfront costs, and the payment process is all taken care of for you.
Amazon is the largest ecommerce marketplace in the world. Choose between two pricing plans – Individual, where you pay a small fee for each item you sell, or Professional where you can sell unlimited items at a flat monthly fee.
Ebay is first and foremost an auction platform, and the dynamic pricing feature could mean that you achieve higher prices through an auction sale than a ‘buy now’ price. Ebay charges listing fees, final value fees and potentially other fees too. You can also set up an Ebay store – here’s how.
Etsy can be a handy channel if you’re selling handmade garments or vintage clothes – the onus is very much on ‘craft’. Creating your shop is easy, listings are active for 4 months, and listing fees, commission fees and payment processing fees are very reasonable.
Social media sites
Selling direct through social media sites gives you instant access to literally millions of users with a huge potential for sales at very little cost. Use a personal Facebook profile to set up a business page to keep in touch with friends and family, and post in targeted public groups and Facebook Marketplace too. At an extra cost, you can use Facebook Ads to attract likes, to promote your brand and convert sales. Sometimes, all it takes is a fabulous image of a dress or coat posted to the right target audience, and enquiries will start to flood in.
Instagram is a visual site, which is perfect for showing off your latest collections with pictures and videos. You can also include information about your manufacturing processes, show a glimpse of your retail shop, or interview your designers. Instagram’s latest feature is called Shoppable Posts, which allows people to buy products straight from your posts.
Twitter is not strictly speaking a sales platform, but a superb way to find potential customers and reach out to them in a helpful, non-commercial way, further up the sales funnel. You could take a leaf out of Gary Vaynerchuk’s book, the multi-millionaire who increased his online wine sales from $3million to $60 million a year, largely thanks to the advice he provided on Twitter.
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