If you’re wondering how to start an online clothing business, you’re in luck because today we will be explaining how to start an online clothing store in detail.
Just like creating an actual garment, there are certain steps you should follow to ensure a beautiful, functional, and long-lasting online clothing business.
Every online clothing business is unique. Whether you’re interested in starting a clothing boutique that is very high end, finding a creative outlet through fashion, or just learning how to start an online clothing store with no money, this article will give you the necessary steps to build a clothing website with a solid foundation.
Are you ready? Your online clothing business awaits. Let’s break down how to start an online clothing store.
How to Start an Online Clothing Store in 7 Steps
1. Get Inspired and Gather Your Ideas Together
2. Brainstorm Which Products to Sell in Your Online Clothing Boutique
3. Create or Source Your Products
4. Digital Clothing: The New Fashion Frontier
5. Get the Word Out
6. Set Up Your Finances for a Successful Online Business
7. Manage Your Inventory for an Organized Online Business
Bonus: Build an Online Store that is On Brand
Check out this video for how to start an online clothing store:
1. How to Start an Online Clothing Store: Get Inspired and Gather Your Ideas Together
In other words: brainstorm. Whether it’s by yourself or with a group of creative, business-savvy friends, this will help you establish a cohesive foundation from which to develop your booming business venture and launch an online clothing business with a long term future.
Here is a framework of questions to ask when brainstorming:
If you’re starting an online clothing business, you’ll want to have an idea of exactly who will be buying your clothes. Ask yourself, who is your ideal customer? What will your style represent? Who will it cater to?
Since clothing trends are generally age-specific, there’s a natural inclination to start with a particular age group.
Consider researching high-selling, top-trend items for your target age group. A little time with the right fashion magazines and Pinterest searches can accomplish a lot in this area. Identifying the age of your target customer can be a helpful way to find your niche, but you can take a different approach.
Your style can represent a culture or subculture as you know it. This gives you a huge range to work in- from trendy, modern looks to older, vintage styles.
Reasoning and business strategy
Ask yourself why you’re starting this online clothing business in the first place. Why do you want to know how to start an online clothing store? Why does it matter to you?
These are important questions to ask before you move forward, so all your time, energy, and financial resources don’t go to waste. Maybe you have a talent for sketching clothes and want to monetize this skill. Or do you have a love for fashion and want to start a little side business?
Keep your answers in mind as you’re starting an online clothing store.
Ask fashion influencers
Ask for your friends’ input during these beginning stages. It’s one thing to look at editorial fashion articles or Google trends, but it’s another to interview individuals about how they tend to interact with an online clothing business.
Are they more likely to purchase from an online clothing business if they can read customer reviews first? How much are they willing to spend on a particular item, given their income level? Does an online clothing store need a solid return policy if they have any chance of getting your friends’ business?
Field research for your online clothing business
Brainstorming and asking around is crucial, but so is research. Now that you’re starting to get a sense of what your online clothing business will look like, take some time to compare and contrast how it will function compared to similar brands.
Collect what data you can about online business practices and the fashion world. Combine it with your brainstormed ideas and feedback from your peers.
You now have a developed vision and clear blueprint for starting an online clothing store.
2. How to Start an Online Clothing Store: Brainstorm Which Products to Sell in Your Online Clothing Boutique
Next up: focus on the product. When learning how to start an online clothing store, you’ll need to learn the ins and outs of operating in the clothing business in an efficient, straightforward way.
Study different brands of clothing to see what makes them sell. This type of research for your online clothing business can be as simple as looking up fashion icons online or walking around the mall to gain inspiration. Pay close attention to style trends and to the materials used in creating different products.
Here are some tips for choosing products when starting an online clothing store:
It’s not a popularity contest
Clothing is a crowded market, so you need to be unique to stand out. You might find it helpful to look at styles that are popular right now. However, you’ll want to create a more focused niche for your online clothing business.
This might mean sourcing luxurious knitwear or creating hand-embroidered, upcycled garments. Your online clothing business can be popular without being a fast fashion empire.
Focus on your clothing interests
Take what fascinates or inspires you most about clothing and apply it as you start an online clothing business. However, don’t be afraid to take inspiration from other influences as well.
Music, art, humor, and lifestyle can all inform the vision of your online clothing store and help define your brand.
Start off simple
It’s alright if your styles don’t quite have the degree of flair you envision when you’re just getting started. The most important thing right now is getting started. If you want to create your own products, sketch your ideas. You’ll be amazed at the end results you can derive from random sketches.
Choose your fashion focus
Choose whether you want your online clothing business to focus on a specific article of clothing or a range of items. Generally speaking, you will have better luck with more variety.
However, if you are drawn to a particular item and see a niche for it, then consider starting there and expanding your inventory in the long run.
Plan ahead for online clothing boutique success
How can you prevent your online clothing store from failing down the road? It’s a hard thing to think about this early in the process, but important all the same!
Key question: what could potentially happen to cause an upheaval in your online clothing business, and how can you be prepared?
Key tip: style is always changing.
As you learn how to start an online clothing store, you’ll want to make sure and find ways to stay ahead of the curve. Think of this as a rule of thumb, or even a mantra. Write it down by your workspace, or set a reminder on your phone. Just don’t forget it, because an online clothing business that fails to evolve will inevitably struggle.
When starting an online clothing store, your product inventory will be ever-changing. It will take creativity and innovation, as well as initiative, focus, and professionalism to stay on top. If you’re up for the challenge, your online clothing business can have real longevity.
3. How to Start an Online Clothing Store: Create or Source Your Products
There’s a ton of ways to get going after learning how to start an online clothing store, but it generally starts with your products. Now that you have an idea of what you want to sell, it’s time to create or source those items.
What skills do you need to start an online clothing boutique?
If you want to create your products, it’s time to freshen up your skillset. Whether you love knitting, sewing, crocheting, etc., this is a great opportunity to get creative and let your sense of style shine.
Don’t worry if your first pieces aren’t perfect. You’ll need to strengthen these skills and practice is the best way to improve.
This is an excellent way to pass any idle time during the beginning stages of starting your online clothing store. You don’t necessarily have to make everything from scratch, either.
Consider finding styles you like at vintage and thrift stores and updating them to a more modern aesthetic.
Outsourcing for fashion success
Not looking to hand-make garments? That’s no obstacle to starting your online clothing business. You can look into purchasing products from a drop shipper or consider connecting with a screen-printing company to add your custom designs to t-shirts, hoodies, etc.
If you’re more of a curator than a creator, your online clothing business can carry a variety of different brands. Reach out to brands you feel are most in line with the vision you have for your online clothes boutique and request wholesale price lists.
You may even want to stock accessories, art prints, or jewelry that complements the clothing you have selected.
4. Digital Clothing: The New Fashion Frontier
What if you love fashion, but don’t love sewing? What if you have a tight budget, but dropshipping isn’t your thing?
Digital clothing is a powerful new outlet for creative fashion designers. Fast Clothing has been a trend for years, with Instagram influencers dominating feeds and fashion sales. Many clothing-obsessed fans buy clothes, take a picture for Instagram, then return or discard their latest purchase.
In the neverending search for the newest hottest look, there’s a lot of waste. Enter digital clothing.
Digital clothing is an incredible fashion option that can bring you passive income.
In digital clothing, designers create 3D fashion and fit their new looks to a photograph for a fee. Designs come out in limited numbers to keep each digital look original. Companies are also designing unique t-shirts for online looks only.
So, if you have strong design or 3D modeling skills you can apply your pattern making and design know-how to creating and selling digital clothing online.
It’s simple to sell digital downloads online, whether you want to broadcast an online fashion show or create unique digital t-shirts.
Other digital fashion ideas include:
- Clothing pattern PDFs
- Draping instruction videos
- Fashion makeover courses and live sessions
- Embroidery files for sewing unique patterns
- Fashion instruction eBooks
5. How to Start an Online Clothing Store: Get the Word Out
Begin this next phase by asking yourself, “What attracts customers to my site?” If you want to know how to start an online store, this understanding is vital to your success. In literature, there is a term known as a hook, referring to the opening sentence of a publication that immediately draws the reader into the story.
So what will grab the attention of your customers? What is your particular hook? Let’s cover the best ways to grab buyers’ attention.
Social media has become a huge component of marketing and you can definitely use it to get more eyes on your online clothing business.
Fashion on Instagram
Instagram is an excellent platform to start promoting your online clothing store. Because Instagram is photo-based, it provides a way to easily display the products of your online clothing business.
If there’s a new style you want people to see, post a picture on Instagram. Whether you model the styles yourself or have friends who model for you, this is an excellent way to advertise the plethora of styles you have to offer. Show the products in different contexts. Use Instagram stories to feature happy customers wearing your products.
With social media, the best approach is to test out different platforms and find where your target audience is most engaged. Instagram is the best place to start investing time and effort for your online clothing business.
Showcase your personal style on social media
Tumblr is also a great option if you would like more of a blog format to advertise your products. Don’t forget about platforms like Snapchat and Pinterest.
While Facebook may not be as essentially visual as some other platforms, it’s becoming increasingly commerce-friendly. It’s also the single most popular social media platform.
Facebook can be intimidating for businesses, but Selz makes it streamlined and accessible. Selz merchants can easily manage their business, chat with customers, and even create and run ads with the Selz Facebook integration.
Vlogging is another visual method to advertise your online clothing store. This gives you the opportunity to connect with your customers more personally and in-depth. Talk about the materials you use, show off certain outfits and product combinations, and get your followers excited for new products.
Hashtags to draw your fashion audience
Make a catchy hashtag for your online clothing business. This will make it easier for potential customers to find your content, and help to organize your content, and spread the word that you are starting an online clothing store.
Twitter and Instagram are particularly well-suited to vlogging with hashtags. However, YouTube is bar-none the most popular platform for video content.
Consider starting a YouTube vlog about fashion, or focus your channel on a theme that your niche will connect with.
Google Ads and Facebook Advertising are both helpful ways to reach potential customers who would otherwise be unlikely to find your online clothing business. There are many ways that you can target each of these tools, so spend time figuring out your audience and ideal customer as you craft your message.
Google Ads is a direct way to advertise to customers when they’re already in the buying process. Search advertising allows you to get in front of someone as they’re specifically searching for a product like yours.
We’ve already talked about how Selz merchants can use Facebook to run ads, but it’s worth pointing out the integration also takes advantage of the Facebook Pixel to better target your audience. This means that Facebook lets you boost posts for your online clothing business that you think could have a particularly strong impact.
This can be a great way to get the word out about local events and sales if you want to take your online clothing business offline and to a physical location.
Content marketing is a great way to drive traffic to your store without spending a dime. Your Selz store can easily integrate with existing blogs on sites like WordPress, or you can choose to host a blog section within your store itself.
Regardless, strong content builds a connection with your audience. You can help shape the brand identity and narrative of your online clothing business by sharing outfits, sourcing information, or even showcasing what your day looks like.
With a little work, email can become an incredibly valuable part of your marketing platform. From sending out coupons and special offers to announcing the launch of new products, email is one of the easiest ways to connect with interested customers.
Abandoned cart emails are a particularly useful tool. According to the Baymard Institute, nearly 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned before checkout- so one simple email reminder can be a huge resource for regaining the interest of those customers.
You will need to build up your email list over time, so consider different ways to gather this information.
If you’re looking for a strategy that will quickly bring visitors to your new site, think about paid advertising.
Never stop learning
Read articles and books on marketing strategies. Research online resources constantly. Consult business colleagues for advice. If you have someone who is in the fashion industry, ask for their input in your online clothing business.
Looking for a more in-depth guide into marketing your new online clothing store? Check out How to Market a Product Online in 7 Powerful Steps.
6. How to Start an Online Clothing Store: Set up your Finances for a Successful Online Clothing Business
It’s time to budget. Learning how to responsibly gauge a sustainable income off your talent is tricky, but it is a rewarding and valuable skill to have for future endeavors.
One of the many benefits of starting an online clothing store is learning business-savvy skills that are applicable across a range of industries. So, let’s make a budget plan for your online clothing business
Determine inventory minimums
You probably don’t want to stuff your apartment with hundreds of t-shirts before you have sold a single one. The key to launching a successful online clothing business is having just enough inventory to meet anticipated consumer demand. From there, you can re-order, produce more, or change up your offerings.
If you’re planning to sell digital clothing you’ll need to learn a bit about selling digital products.
Do further research
How much will you need to spend on sourcing materials? If you’re making or altering clothes, how much time will that take per garment? With this in mind, what will the prices on your store eventually look like?
In other words: are you earning an incentive? It’s important that your online clothing business becomes revenue positive as quickly as possible so that you can make a profit.
Because this is an online clothing business, you’ll also need to factor in shipping fees and any other related incidentals.
Quantity over quality (at first)
When the business is first starting out, sell in small quantities to get an idea of where your profit leads you. You’ll want to gain early insight into the growth of the company.
In the beginning, it can be tempting to source the most expensive blank t-shirts to print on, but it’s important to stay lean at this phase. Eventually, as you become profitable, you can spring for higher cost materials and more time-intensive projects.
7. How to Start an Online Clothing Store: Manage Your Inventory for an Organized Online Clothing Business
Inventory is an essential component of your online clothing business’s success. Understocked, and frustrated customers won’t be able to get what they want. Overstocked, and your financial resources are strapped. Have a responsible person (such as yourself) handle inventory!
Keep tabs on popular items and make sure you have plenty in stock. You’ll want to check back regularly to prevent items from dipping too low, so think about systems you can put in place to track sales.
Luckily, you don’t need to keep all of this in a ledger (unless you want to). Having an online clothing business instead of a physical boutique means that software can save you time. Selz makes it easy to set and adjust the inventory of your products.
This way, when a product sells, it will automatically update the inventory count for that product. However, it’s up to a responsible person (again, like yourself!) to update this inventory count when getting more products to sell.
From a statistical standpoint, keeping an eye on inventory has serious benefits. It allows you to identify what types of products sell best, while you may have others that don’t sell well at all. You may even notice that certain items sell more at certain times.
This can look like cozy sweaters moving faster as the weather dips. However, you may also notice that a trendy dress moves faster on the weekend after most of your customers get paid on Fridays.
Use data to determine your clothing inventory
These insights can help you map out the future of your inventory by identifying which product offerings you want to expand, and which you want to cut back.
When your online clothing business takes off, having an efficiently organized inventory is incredibly helpful, especially during periods where there is a large product demand, like the holidays or during an extravagant sale.
Bonus: How to Start an Online Clothing Store: Build an Online Store that is On Brand
As I mentioned before, the toughest part for many entrepreneurs learning how to start an online clothing store is creating an online clothing website that stands out from the competition.
Even the most beautiful products will fail to convert customers if they are sold through a lackluster, poorly designed store. Think of it like this: your products are only as good as their online presence.
You want everything about your store to be visually appealing and easy for the customer to navigate. Your online clothing business should be stylish, easy-to-use, and project an air of trustworthiness to customers.
From a secure checkout to well-organized product categories, there are many details to keep in mind to achieve the online clothing business you want.
It can be a little overwhelming, but let’s break down what you need:
The idea behind this is simple. If you want your website traffic to actually buy something from your online clothing business, you need their trust. Selz online stores are totally secure, meaning that, not only the checkout page but every single page, is secure.
This is a standard best practice for all businesses, but it’s also an important first step towards building a strong connection with your customers.
Professional and stylish online store
Look for an online store builder that not only has pre-designed themes but gives you full control of customization. You’ll want to be consistent about your brand imagery, from text to colors to photos.
Customization lets you take a design template and tailor it to your specific needs. The Selz website builder takes this a step further, by allowing you to manually drag and drop theme elements, so you can rearrange a page’s appearance to your precise preferences.
The best part? There’s no need to hire a professional developer or designer to get your store up and running. The process is intuitive and effective, with 24/7 customer support to bring your online clothing business to life.
With Selz, you can build the online clothing store you want, but that doesn’t need to be the only way that your online clothing business functions.
Selz also lets you utilize embeds and widgets to sell your products on WordPress, independently hosted sites, and social. This enables you to sell from every corner of the internet.
Final points to keep in mind when selling clothes online:
- One of the biggest stresses for customers shopping for clothes online is uncertainty ordering the right size. Use a creative method in which customers can determine accurate size descriptions- whether via a detailed sizing chart tailored to your store, or even a tool in which they can virtually try on clothes.
- Make sure to include high-quality images of the clothes you are selling. You can either work with a freelance photographer or take these yourself with a little product photography research and practice.
- While short, catchy copy always converts, your customers will want more details about something that will be touching their skin all day. From fit to fabric, explain what makes each of the products unique. These types of details will help increase buyer confidence, and ultimately mean fewer returns and exchanges for your online clothing business.
Now that we’ve laid out the steps to starting and running a successful clothing business, you’re ready to get started. Remember, fashion is supposed to be fun. The challenges you’ll face in your online clothing business are natural. Take them in stride, stay flexible, and stay true to your style.
This post was originally published in April 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.