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How To Start a Successful Online Clothing Store

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Responding on business e-mail. Beautiful young African woman working using computer and smiling while standing in workshop

For over a generation, brick-and-mortar retail has been giving way to digital alternatives. The fact that there are fewer office workers toiling in downtowns since the pandemic has only accelerated this trend.

Shopping for clothes, which many people prefer in person, has expanded online due to return policies that let customers send back those tight turtlenecks and itchy sweaters.

Consumers can buy apparel from the comfort of their homes, while at the same time, the growth of platforms built to help e-commerce newbies sell their wares has spurred a wave of opportunities for would-be entrepreneurs.

Starting a digital boutique lines up with the existing passions of many side hustlers. With the proper brand identity, social media presence, and marketing strategies, selling clothes online can be a rewarding venture.

Finding a Fashion Niche

The first step in setting up a clothing store is finding a niche. Everything will follow from that decision, including the name of the brand. Once the niche is selected, you’ll need to pick a domain name through a site like GoDaddy and register the business in your jurisdiction.

It’s best to pick a niche you’re passionate about, but if that aligns differently from market realities, be sure to pick one that many other people are passionate about.

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“If you are working with a modest budget, picking a small niche is essential for starting out,” says Manuel Dreesmann, owner of premium leather goods merchant Atelier Madre. “To analyze trends and competitors, look for tools like Ahrefs and Semrush to see behind the curtains.”

There is a wealth of in-demand directions to pursue, from athleisure wear to children’s outfits or vintage t-shirts. The key is to do market research on what people are searching for and buying before investing time and money.

Sourcing Clothing and Apparel

There are various ways to source fashion products; the right choice will depend on the business model. Keep in mind shipping times, and get samples whenever you can. Some of the more common business models include the following:

Dropshipping

It’s possible to source clothes from wholesalers and run an online shop without original products. This method is less creatively satisfying but among the simplest ways to get started, as there is no need to keep inventory.

Print-On-Demand

Some clothing brands source from an outside service that manufactures the products only when an order arrives. The downside is the service providers charge a significant premium, leaving smaller margins for the brand owner.

Private Label

This model is for people who want to source wholesale items and then apply their logos or modifications. While cheaper than print-on-demand, it’s necessary to keep bulk inventory.

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Cut-And-Sew

This is the route for anyone who would prefer to source materials and do the rest themselves. Of course, this is equal to playing the game on the hardest settings, but it could be worth it for motivated designers.

The fashion industry is notoriously plagued with labor and environmental issues, so it’s crucial to do your own research when sourcing items to ensure you’re following ethical practices.

“We produce our own products to ensure maximum ethical transparency,” says Dreesmann. “But we would always suggest choosing suppliers you have the means to visit on a frequent basis by yourself. Certificates are good, but seeing things in real life is really different.”

Photographing Fashion Inventory

In a traditional department store, elegant window displays can play a role in bringing in customers. The same holds online; compelling photography can be the difference between a sale and no sale.

Maximillian Nestler, who co-manages the clothing store Jutta Nestler, advises inquiring if suppliers can provide high-quality images. When that’s not possible, he suggests using a simple setup with a white wall and a smartphone camera: “Interestingly, less-than-perfect shots resonate more with customers, possibly because they can better relate to these images.”

Sally Samuels, head designer at Savile Row Company, recommends showing different angles: “Capture front, back, and side shots of each garment to provide a comprehensive view for potential buyers.”

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She says it’s best to use a coherent style and color scheme throughout the advertising material, highlighting unique features, patterns, and textures that make the clothing special. She adds that using models can help people to see the clothes in action.

“Remember, your product images are the closest your customers can get to your clothing before making a purchase,” she emphasizes.

Managing an Online Platform To Sell Clothes

Once you’ve settled on a domain name, it’s time to get the store up and running. It will usually make sense to use a simple and established website builder, such as Wix, Squarespace, or Shopify. Some platforms like Magento or WooCommerce offer more customization but may have a slightly steeper learning curve.

“If you’re starting from scratch,” says Nestler, “simple and user-friendly platforms like Shopify or WordPress are ideal. They allow for easy modification and updates, which saves you from hiring external assistance.

When building the site, make sure its theme matches the brand identity. Craft succinct and SEO-driven product descriptions to go with the photos, and start a store blog to document progress and broadcast promotions.

It’s key to examine the site on a range of devices to ensure functionality for all customers. When everything is ready, run a few test shipments before the launch.

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Fashion Marketing and SEO

Running an online clothing business requires a firm grasp of digital marketing techniques. Most of these strategies are the same across industries and can be adapted or mixed and matched.

Optimizing for search results by using the right keywords found on Ahrefs and Semrush is essential for any approach, regardless of other tactics.

“Dedicate time to refining your product pages, ensuring they adhere to standard SEO practices such as image file naming, alt tags, H1 and H2 titles, and meta tags,” according to Dreesmann. “Strive to optimize each product page to a level where it could potentially serve as an effective landing page because Google may direct traffic to these pages.” 

It may also make sense to run paid ads through Google or Meta, though only once the seller has some familiarity with the target market. It’s possible to waste a lot of money very quickly with ads. Focusing on building up a brand’s social media with lots of content before launch may be a better move at the outset.  

“We recommend adopting a strategic approach towards ads. Utilize them as tools for customer insights, message testing, and channel assessment,” Dreesmann adds. “Alternatively, ensure your website is fully optimized to convert incoming traffic before investing heavily in advertising. Without such measures in place, your ad spend could potentially yield minimal returns.”

Some sites lean heavily into affiliate marketing techniques, meaning other sites promote products in exchange for sales commissions.

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“It’s imperative to cultivate naturally obtained backlinks through effective public relations outreach and by listing your website on relevant online directories,” Dreesman explains. “This strategy not only enhances your visibility but also contributes significantly to your overall SEO performance.”

Another popular approach is to solicit email addresses with a discount offer and then run email campaigns through a service like Mailchimp. Other tools like Upfluence connect brands with influencers who will sell their products. It’s even possible to reach out to reporters by answering queries on sites like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) or SourceBottle.

“The visual appeal of fashion lends itself to platforms like Instagram,” says Nestler. “We found that videos convert better than photos. They allow us to showcase our expertise and provide background information, replicating the in-store experience.” 

“It’s essential to stay motivated, even when you don’t see immediate results,” he continues. “The initial stages of your online store are a perfect opportunity to experiment, find your style, and understand what resonates with your audience. Persistence, adaptation, and continuous improvement are the keys to long-term success.”


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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

In a recent announcement, Snapchat revealed a groundbreaking update that challenges its traditional design ethos. The platform is experimenting with an option that allows users to defy the 24-hour auto-delete rule, a feature synonymous with Snapchat’s ephemeral messaging model.

The proposed change aims to introduce a “Never delete” option in messaging retention settings, aligning Snapchat more closely with conventional messaging apps. While this move may blur Snapchat’s distinctive selling point, Snap appears convinced of its necessity.

According to Snap, the decision stems from user feedback and a commitment to innovation based on user needs. The company aims to provide greater flexibility and control over conversations, catering to the preferences of its community.

Currently undergoing trials in select markets, the new feature empowers users to adjust retention settings on a conversation-by-conversation basis. Flexibility remains paramount, with participants able to modify settings within chats and receive in-chat notifications to ensure transparency.

Snapchat underscores that the default auto-delete feature will persist, reinforcing its design philosophy centered on ephemerality. However, with the app gaining traction as a primary messaging platform, the option offers users a means to preserve longer chat histories.

The update marks a pivotal moment for Snapchat, renowned for its disappearing message premise, especially popular among younger demographics. Retaining this focus has been pivotal to Snapchat’s identity, but the shift suggests a broader strategy aimed at diversifying its user base.

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This strategy may appeal particularly to older demographics, potentially extending Snapchat’s relevance as users age. By emulating features of conventional messaging platforms, Snapchat seeks to enhance its appeal and broaden its reach.

Yet, the introduction of message retention poses questions about Snapchat’s uniqueness. While addressing user demands, the risk of diluting Snapchat’s distinctiveness looms large.

As Snapchat ventures into uncharted territory, the outcome of this experiment remains uncertain. Will message retention propel Snapchat to new heights, or will it compromise the platform’s uniqueness?

Only time will tell.

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

While it is tempting to try to appeal to a broad audience, the founder of alcohol-free coaching service Just the Tonic, Sandra Parker, believes the best thing you can do for your business is focus on your niche. Here’s how she did just that.

When running a business, reaching out to as many clients as possible can be tempting. But it also risks making your marketing “too generic,” warns Sandra Parker, the founder of Just The Tonic Coaching.

“From the very start of my business, I knew exactly who I could help and who I couldn’t,” Parker told My Biggest Lessons.

Parker struggled with alcohol dependence as a young professional. Today, her business targets high-achieving individuals who face challenges similar to those she had early in her career.

“I understand their frustrations, I understand their fears, and I understand their coping mechanisms and the stories they’re telling themselves,” Parker said. “Because of that, I’m able to market very effectively, to speak in a language that they understand, and am able to reach them.” 

“I believe that it’s really important that you know exactly who your customer or your client is, and you target them, and you resist the temptation to make your marketing too generic to try and reach everyone,” she explained.

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“If you speak specifically to your target clients, you will reach them, and I believe that’s the way that you’re going to be more successful.

Watch the video for more of Sandra Parker’s biggest lessons.

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

Instagram’s testing out some new options to help spice up your live-streams in the app, with some live broadcasters now able to select a game that they can play with viewers in-stream.

As you can see in these example screens, posted by Ahmed Ghanem, some creators now have the option to play either “This or That”, a question and answer prompt that you can share with your viewers, or “Trivia”, to generate more engagement within your IG live-streams.

That could be a simple way to spark more conversation and interaction, which could then lead into further engagement opportunities from your live audience.

Meta’s been exploring more ways to make live-streaming a bigger consideration for IG creators, with a view to live-streams potentially catching on with more users.

That includes the gradual expansion of its “Stars” live-stream donation program, giving more creators in more regions a means to accept donations from live-stream viewers, while back in December, Instagram also added some new options to make it easier to go live using third-party tools via desktop PCs.

Live streaming has been a major shift in China, where shopping live-streams, in particular, have led to massive opportunities for streaming platforms. They haven’t caught on in the same way in Western regions, but as TikTok and YouTube look to push live-stream adoption, there is still a chance that they will become a much bigger element in future.

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Which is why IG is also trying to stay in touch, and add more ways for its creators to engage via streams. Live-stream games is another element within this, which could make this a better community-building, and potentially sales-driving option.

We’ve asked Instagram for more information on this test, and we’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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