Online fashion sales are increasing. “With retail e-commerce sales worldwide expected to reach just over four trillion U.S. dollars in 2020, the global e-commerce industry appears to show no signs of slowing down. The UK has the highest online shopping penetration rate in the world – 76 percent as of the fourth quarter of 2016. Both Germany and South Korea have penetration rates higher than 70 percent, while the United States ranks fifth with a 67 percent penetration rate. Apparel and accessories is also the most popular e-commerce category in the United States.”
So now is the time for entrepreneurs to take their clothing business to the global marketplace. But where to begin? As with every successful business journey, it always starts with planning and research.
Who or what is driving online traffic?
Unless a business knows who their customers are and the target audience they need to reach, they will not be a success online or offline. A key starting point is to identify the target audience for the product and services offered. Once this is identified then it is possible to find out where online traffic will come from, for example, fashion vlogs, social media, etc.
When a business puts themselves in the driving seat, it is time to ask the question, “Why should this group of customers buy from my online store?” or “What is it about the product that gives it that unique selling point or USP?”. The fashion world is incredibly competitive, so what gives the product offered by your company an edge over others? As soon as that is identified, map out a strategy to get the maximum amount of exposure to the target audience.
Stand on the right e-commerce platform
The right online presence has to have not only the right showcase (i.e., website) but also take into consideration all the behind-the-scenes and back-end functionality. A beautiful website design that falls at the first hurdle because an online shopper cannot easily pay online or it crashes after too many hits, is a waste of time and money. Likewise, if the process from ordering stock to sales, shipping and delivery has not been well thought out, customer loyalty will not be sustained.
Top-hosted e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, for example, come with some nice features such as an app store or abandoned cart recovery which follows up on the consumer who does not check out the goods. Also, easy integration with shipping carriers and fulfillment centers is a bonus, along with a mobile app to manage your online store and accept payments.
There are a number of menial tasks from stock reordering to inventory updates that the right software can deliver which will save the online retailers a lot of time and effort. If the business model includes discounts, special offers and loyalty points in planned stages, this is going to affect the type of e-commerce platform you choose and any subsequent development. Take time to discuss these areas with an experienced website developer.
Create clear sales copy and mind the details
In order to be successful in the clothing industry, it is really important to provide high quality products at a reasonable price and to be passionate about your product line. It has to be as easy as 1, 2 and 3 clicks so a consumer can find their way around your site and browse and shop using mobile devices with ease. This means not only do you need a succinct site map that is very easy to negotiate, but great visual content and well-crafted product descriptions are essential.
The website copy has to be pitched with the target audience in mind. So when you create product descriptions think about it as a sales pitch. An online shopper needs to know about the fit, features and benefits for their body shape, for example, or the versatility. All of the details and finishes that make the product special and unique should be included with stunning clear quality photography and images. If the product has been featured in any press releases, then ensure this is included as well.
Be clear about labels – material to method of ordering, return policy and shipping costs. A list of FAQ’s can be helpful, but ensure company contact details are easy to find.
Build a first-class clothing brand
Once the site basics are developed, and the products and sales offer completed, concentrate on high quality design and an aesthetically pleasing online shop. This is where the branding, the colors and theme including logo has to be well-designed and appealing.
Amber Smith, a Sydney-based founder of Oberoi St. used a Project Manager, graphic designer and web developer to build her online site and for any major changes. She recognizes the importance of keeping an e-commerce site uncomplicated and attractive as well as utilizing the power of social media. One of her tips for success is to align with fashion bloggers who have a similar target audience because shoppers will go for personal recommendations. In this way, an online clothing site can begin to build brand recognition and loyalty.
Make the checkout as easy as checking in
The final part of the consumer’s journey is the checkout page. Online businesses should make it as easy as possible for customers to pay them. Ensure there are several ways to process payments and make sure the payment page matches the rest of the online store. Don’t make consumers sign up in order to shop. Make it clear that their privacy and shopping security is a priority by having relevant security certificates and online payment protocols in place.
Do not redirect the consumer and do not ask for any unnecessary information. The goal is to keep distractions from payment to a minimum. Again, ensure full contact details are clear and available with clear calls to action. When they have completed payment, make it easy once their purchase arrives for them to like or tag your site.
And don’t forget to enjoy the journey which will lead to a number of exciting challenges, and twists and turns, along the way to becoming a successful online clothing entrepreneur.
Monica Lim is the founder and CEO of Aliceisback.com, an online platform for independent fashion designers. She is passionate about supporting emerging and independent fashion labels in an industry that is dominated by mass-produced, big label brands, and loves being able to share the stories of these designers. Having come from a corporate background, she now devotes her time and energy to Aliceisback.com and the fashion label Fame Agenda, which she runs. Connect with @aliceisbackcom on Twitter.
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