How to Start an Online Clothing Store – 9 Step Guide

Have you got an eye for fashion?

Maybe you always wanted to launch your own clothing store, but never had the nerve to strike out on your own?

We’re here to tell you that now is the perfect time to take that leap.

In today’s digital world full of online store builders like BigCommerce or Shopify, building your own online clothing store doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems.

There are even dozens of different ways to create the perfect business plan, from designing your own clothing step-by-step to working with other merchants to create your clothing line.

In today’s guide, we’re going to guide you through the ins and outs of designing your own online shop for everything from t-shirts, to swimsuits and boutique dresses. What’s more, we’ll show you that you don’t need a fortune in investment capital to get started.

Creating an online shop today is easier than you can possibly imagine!

Step 1: Create a Business Plan

The first step in building any small business is deciding who you’re going to sell to. Crucially, few online shops thrive when they attempt to appeal to everyone at once. You need to find the audience that actually appreciates whatever you’re selling.

Start by asking yourself why you’re creating your online store in the first place. Is there a particular kind of fashion that you’re passionate about, or are you happy to sell something simple, like custom t-shirts? The more you know about the goals you want to achieve with your ecommerce store, the easier it will be to choose a target for your potential customers.

Once you’ve got an idea of who you want your store to appeal to, you can jump into deciding what kind of business model you want to use for your online store. Just like with any other ecommerce store today, there are multiple business models available for clothing store owners.

The most common choices are:

Let’s take a look at each business model in closer detail.

Print on demand

When you’re keen to start your own clothing store, but you don’t have a lot of experience to use up front, or a lot of budget to help you build your profit margin, this is the strategy for you. Print on demand stores will allow you to jump into building your store without having to worry about finding too much cash. All you need to do is print a design on a blank version of things like t-shirts and bags, using an ink-jet printer. The strategy is effortless and relatively cheap to get started with. For instance, here’s an example of a mockup generator from Shopify:

Printify mockup generator

There are plenty of tools that integrate with WordPress and other online store builders to help you design a print on demand clothing boutique. One popular option is Printify. Printify offers a huge selection of products, ranging from children’s clothing to mugs. The main disadvantage of this strategy is that you’re likely to have a lower profit margin than you would if you were using a more creative business model.

Designing a boutique clothing line

If you have a specific idea for the high quality clothing that you want to create for your online shop, and you don’t want to compromise on what you design, then creating your own clothing items could be the way to go. With this business model, you’ll design and manufacture your own products, which means that you have complete freedom to make your small business as unique as possible.

Unfortunately, on the other hand, there’s a lot more work to create your own clothing brand from scratch than there is to use a print on demand strategy. You’ll be responsible for finding manufactures and pattern makers, as well as tracking down fabric for your clothing items.

Private Label store

Another business plan option for a business owner that wants to create a unique ecommerce business, without too much excessive work, is the private label route. This strategy for your ecommerce website exists somewhere between using the print on demand and cut-and-sew models. With a private label store, you’ll find a manufacturer to make your clothes. The business model will give you more customization than print on demand, but you won’t have to come up with the ideas and background of designing your own clothing business step by step.

With the private label business model, you’ll purchase clothing items that come with absolutely no label, then add your custom logo or design to them. This means that you still have to deal with things like inventory management and order fulfilment on your own. However, you should be able to simplify things by using strategies like eCommerce platforms that allow you to buy and custom finish clothing. For instance, Threadbird is a common option for people who want to use this business model.

threadbird homepage

Dropshipping

Finally, a dropshipping online clothing store is similar in style to a print-on-demand process. It allows you to sell clothing straight from wholesalers. Dropshipping is a fantastic way to save money if you don’t have a lot of cash to launch your ecommerce store with. The best thing about this strategy is that you don’t have to worry about things like buying stock up-front, packing, shipping, or storing merchandise. Of course, there are some downsides to running your online clothing business this way.

For instance, you won’t be able to create a truly unique brand with your new business. No matter what kind of selection of products you choose, you’ll always be competing with dozens, if not hundreds of other people who are selling the very same products that you are. On the plus side, dropshipping also comes with a wide variety of tools that you can integrate with your online store builder to simplify selling. For instance, you can use Shopify and a plugin to access the items that you want to sell on your online shop directly.

That brings us neatly to the next stage in our guide to building your own clothing store.

Helpful articles:

Dropshipping Definition: The Best Way to Setup a Drop shipping Business Quickly

10 Best Shopify Dropshipping Apps for 2020 and a Full Tutorial on How to Dropship With Shopify

What are the Best Dropshipping Suppliers in 2020 (Dropshipping Companies & Free Suppliers List) for Ecommerce

Step 1: Find Your Online Store Builder

Once you have a good idea of who your target audience is, and what sort of strategy you’re going to use to build your clothing line, you can begin working on your storefront. There are plenty of software solutions out there for ecommerce business owners that will give you the tools you need to design the perfect store.

However, the store builder that you choose will depend heavily on the business model you want to use. The kind of store you pick for a dropshipping model is very different to the one that you’ll want to use if you’re designing a boutique clothing line.

Online store builders give today’s would-be entrepreneurs in the fashion industry the tools they need to get started without having to learn about things like coding and site creation. You can start selling online for a fraction of the price that you would usually pay to bring any other online shop to life. However, you will need to sign up to an eCommerce website plan so you can connect payment processors to your store that will allow you to take payments from debit and credit cards online.

As well as simplifying the process of building your online store, online store builders also come with the benefit of handling all of the complicated back end stuff on your website that you might not know how to figure out on your own. You don’t have to worry about things like security upgrades when you start selling; some online store builders even come with their own SSL certificates. These provide you with the power to encrypt the communications between the consumer internet browser and your website so that all of your transactions are safe and secure.

Which online store builder should you choose?

So, which store builder should you be looking at?

There’s a lot of choice out there. The market is brimming with solutions to design your own storefront, and your choice will depend heavily on a number of factors, including:

  • How you want to run your online clothing business
  • How much technical knowledge you have
  • What kind of features you need (email marketing strategy, search engine optimization, domain name choices, SSL certifications, etc)
  • How much of a budget you have to spend

WordPress is one of the most common choices for any company building an online store, because it offers a huge amount of flexibility and simplicity. With WordPress, you can build your entire business model from scratch, and add plugins to give you additional features as and when you’d like.

However, for those specifically interested in eCommerce, Shopify is usually the preferred choice, as it focuses more cohesively on selling, whereas WordPress is intended more for things like subscription and membership websites, or bloggers.

shopify homepage

Shopify also comes with access to plugins and tools that are intended specifically for dropshipping, so you can instantly bring your store to life if you’re choosing that business model. Of course, you don’t have to choose the most obvious software just because it’s popular. There are a huge number of store building software solutions out there, including:

Since many of the tools on the market today come with a free trial that you can use to test the technology upfront, your best bet might be to experiment with a couple of options. Putting each store builder to the test will help you to figure out which of the interface options you consider to be the most simple and intuitive, and which gives you the widest range of features.

There’s no one-size-fits-all online store builder, but you should always choose something that allows you to show off the unique aspects of your online clothing store, without costing you a fortune. It’s also important to find a store builder that’s relatively easy to use, as you don’t want to have to worry about things like learning how to code when you’re also getting started with a new online shop.

Helpful articles:

Top 6 Ecommerce Platforms

Shopify review

BigCommerce review

Square Online Store review

Step 3: Choose the Plan that Suits You

One complicated thing about choosing an online store builder, is that once you’ve found the brand that you want to work with, you’re still not done with the difficult decisions. Next, you’ll need to figure out what kind of plan is going to be best suited to the store that you want to build. Most options rom Shopify to BigCommerce, will come with a number of plans to choose from.

Generally, you can expect to get what you pay for from a number of providers. This means that the more you spend, the more features you’ll get. Crucially, higher-tier plans from online store builders often come with a wider range of templates and a lot of extra storage. That storage will come in handy when your business starts to grow and add more products.

Additionally, the more bandwidth or disk space you have to work with through your eCommerce website, the less you’ll need to deal with issues like a slow website that could affect your SEO.

Look for a plan that includes:

  • Plenty of eCommerce business templates: The more templates you have to choose from, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to find something that suits your personal brand. Stick to high-quality imagery for your online shop and avoid anything that looks too similar to your competitors.
  • Custom domain names: This is an essential thing for any small business. Your custom domain name will make your new business look professional. At the same time, it will attract potential customers to the brand that you are creating.
  • Premium support: Premium support is a common feature of a lot of online clothing business eCommerce plans. It ensures that if you ever get stuck with things like your SSL certificate, or your coding, you’ll always have help.
  • Plugin Access: Access to plugins is how you get things like SEO support for your new website, or email marketing for your marketing strategy. It’s also a crucial way of gaining access to dropshipping tools for your target audience, or Google analytics.
  • Abandoned cart recovery: This is a component of your marketing strategy, but it’s also crucial to growing your clothing line. You don’t want to lose your customers at the last hurdle. Choosing a plan with abandoned cart recovery will allow you to get clients back who might have been distracted when they were going to the checkout.
  • SSL certificate: This will protect and encrypt all the data that moves between your customer’s browser and your online store. It will protect your potential customers, and make sure that you’re defended as a store owner too.

Helpful articles:

Shopify pricing

How to Create Your Own Shopify Store

Find the Best BigCommerce Pricing Plans

Step 4: Choose a Domain Name

If you’ve taken our advice above and chosen an ecommerce plan that comes with a custom domain name for your online clothing store, the next step is actually choosing that name. This is often a particularly tough experience for any small business owner. Choosing a name used to be as simple as figuring out which title would rank best on Google. However, now, you need to think about how your name is going to speak to your target audience.

Whether you’re dropshipping or making your own t-shirts from scratch, a unique domain name will give your business a crucial sense of identity online and ensure that you can stand out from the crowd. It identifies who you are and helps to give your customers something to connect with.

If your store builder doesn’t come with the option to access your new domain name built-in, then you can always go through a separate domain hosting company to purchase your title. Although there’s no one size fits all strategy for choosing a name for your small business, there are a few golden rules that you can follow when building your own clothing store:

  • Make it unique: Don’t just copy the style of countless other clothing brands that you’ve seen online. Differentiate yourself and boost the potential of your marketing strategy by choosing the right title for your online store. The more unique you are, the more memorable your business will become.
  • Choose a .com domain: While there are a lot of different TLD (Top level domains) that you can choose for your online clothing store, from .org to .co.uk, the best option will always be .com. This domain option gives you the highest level of professional appeal for your online clothing business.
  • Keep it short and sweet: For a clothing business name to be as memorable as possible, it needs to be short and straight to the point. Avoid any weird spellings that your customers will have a hard time using. Make sure that the name is easy to say out loud and that your full domain name doesn’t look too long when typed out.

If you can pick a name that follows the three rules above and also represents the unique identity of your clothing brand, or the kind of boutique clothing that you’re going to sell, then you’ll be on track for a successful business in no time.

Helpful articles:

How to Come Up with a Business Name and URL for your Online Shop

How to Start an Online Business in 2020 – The Ultimate Guide

Step 5: Choose & Customize Your Store Template

Choosing a business name can be a fun experience, particularly when you have a wide selection of colleagues and coworkers to brainstorm with. However, for many people launching their own online clothing store, the most exciting part is choosing a store template.

As we mentioned above, ecommerce website builders come with access to a range of templates that you can use to create beautiful and professional-looking storefronts step-by-step. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to use these templates for your clothing store, as they often come with drag-and-drop builders for customization.

The template that you choose will determine how your business is going to look online, as well as what kind of professional strategy you can use to list the products and clothing items that you’re going to sell. Since choosing the perfect template for your company is just like choosing the perfect outfit, we’d recommend trying a few on before you make your final decision.

It’s also worth thinking about the target audience that you’re trying to reach with your online shop. Remember, your storefront needs to be more than just appealing to you and the search engines, It needs to speak to the specific customer that you’re interested in selling to.

Here are just a few of the options that you can consider for templates:

  • WordPress: WordPress is a highly flexible online website builder that comes with literally hundreds of templates and themes to choose from. You can select several themes to suit your marketing strategy, and there are even premium or free options available, depending on your individual budget.
  • Shopify: Shopify has dozens of themes specifically chosen to suit fashion and clothing stores. While the majority of the templates for clothing businesses are premium, you can find a handful of them that are available for free.
  • BigCommerce: BigCommerce gives business owners access to more than 30 templates just for clothing lines and boutique businesses. Again, the majority of these templates will come with a premium price tag. However, sometimes it’s worth paying a little more to make a long-term impact on your customers.
  • Wix: Wix offers a wide selection of more than 20 templates that are specifically suited to the storefront of a clothing brand. You won’t get a vast range of options here, but they are some of the best templates around for any eCommerce platform.

Once you’ve chosen the template that you think is best for your online clothing business, don’t’ forget to customize it to suit your specific style. After all, you want to give your special edge to your online appearance, so you have more of a lasting impact on your target audience. Your domain name is just the first way that you customize your appearance online. Once you’ve picked your theme you can also customize even further by:

  • Adding new pages listing items from your clothing line
  • Adding a blog page or news page where you can keep your visitors entertained
  • Changing or adjusting the color pallet to suit your brand colors
  • Moving or resizing elements on each page throughout your website
  • Updating the different sections of your store
  • Integrating social media buttons into your store

More often than not, you’ll find that the online store builder for your online clothing business will be very easy to use. Because the companies behind these builders know that their customers are looking for simplicity, they’ve built ease of use into the technology from the ground up. This means that many template options can be adjusted using drag-and-drop customization.

If you’re worried about adapting your new online storefront to suit your business, or you need a little help making the most of your new online asset (your website), you can always hire a professional to help you. There are plenty of designers and developers out there that can assist with your store on an hourly basis for a low rate.

Helpful articles:

The 30 Best BigCommerce Themes

The 25+ Best Shopify Themes

20 Best Ecommerce WordPress Themes

Step 6: List Your Products

This is where things start coming together for your small business and clothing store. Your product pages are where you draw attention to the clothing items that you have for sale. Whether you’re building your clothing line from scratch or using a model like dropshipping or print on demand, you still need to make sure that the items you have for sale look amazing on your website.

The good news is that just like choosing a template and customizing it according to your needs, adding products to your online store is usually a very simple process for most business owners. You’ll be able to go into the back-end interface of your website builder and add a product step-by-step.

For instance, Shopify allows you to add a product just by clicking the blue button in your store editor that says, “Add Product.”

Remember to think about what your customers need to see when you’re developing your product pages. They’re probably going to be looking first-and-foremost for a high-quality image that displays the item that they’re going to purchase. However, you should also consider:

  • Product descriptions: How are you going to share the benefits of your clothing items with your potential customers and make them imagine what it’s like to wear your clothes
  • Product display: How big should your pictures be on the page? Will it help to include a video so your customers can see the item from all angles? Do you need multiple pictures?
  • Navigation: How easy is it for customers to get to other related products from a product page? How are items in your product pages grouped together?
  • Checkout: How can your customers add the items that they want to their basket? Is it easy to adjust numbers and other crucial aspects of the item?
  • Search: Can your customers specifically look for the item that you want on your website by things like name, color, material or brand?

Step 7: Set Up Your Payment Processor

Once you’ve finished adding your clothing items to your ecommerce website, you’re not done yet. A lot of business owners setting up their own online store get worried about choosing and implementing an ecommerce payment processor. However, the truth is that it’s often a lot simpler than you’d think. Setting up a payment processor is largely the same as building the rest of your online store.

To start selling clothes online, you need to have a system in place on your website that will allow customers to enter the details from their credit cards and debit cards. You can even keep things simple and just add a button from PayPal to your store that allows people to check out that way instead.

Alternatively, if you’ve chosen Shopify to build your clothing business, then you can use their integrated payment processor, which is called Shopify Payments. This was designed in alignment with the Stripe brand, so you know you’re going to get an easy-to-use environment. Additionally, the Shopify builder also works with tools like Amazon Pay and PayPal too.

It’s not just Shopify that makes accepting payments for your clothing or ecommerce store simple either. Most of the website builders out there come with payment processing integrations available. What’s more, if you get stuck with any of the site builders you choose, the majority of them will have forums or QA pages where you can find the answers that you need.

For instance, on BigCommerce, you can find a wide selection of guides that walk you through how to do things like setting up a payment processor step-by-step.

If this is your first time building an eCommerce store, you might find that it’s helpful to read through the reviews left by other customers into the payment processors available. This will help you to figure out which tools are most likely to give you the best results.

Helpful articles:

Payment Processing 101: What’s the Difference Between a Payment Processor, Payment Gateway & Merchant Account?

The Ultimate Square Reviews 2020: Square’s Top Features, Pros and Cons

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Shopify Payments Review

Step 8: Get Ready for Google

Now that all of your clothing items are listed on your online clothing store, and you know what you’re going to be doing about credit cards and online payments, you can start to make sure that customers will be able to find items online. Selling clothes online doesn’t have to be a complicated experience. However, making sure that your customers find and fall in love with your brand isn’t always easy.

Fortunately, you can start simple, by optimizing your store for Google and the other search engines. Many online store builders comer with SEO tools built-in. Alternatively, if you’re using something like WordPress to design your store, you can add integrations like Yoast to check your SEO.

More often than not, you’ll need to focus on a few basics with your SEO to get started, for instance:

  • Optimizing for keywords: Make sure that your store can be found for the terms that your audience are searching for, like “boutique clothes business”
  • Local appeal: Ensure that you can reach your local customers as well as global buyers. You can do this by claiming your Google My Business page.
  • Backend performance: The best clothing websites need to work perfectly. That means that you should ensure that your pages load quickly and that they’re not weighed down by too many plugins. You’ll also need to ensure that your site is structured in a way that allows Google to find your content easily
  • Internal and external linking: First, you need to ensure that relevant pages in your website link to each other. This will help Google to navigate your website. Next, try to get other reputable brands to link back to you through strategies like guest posting and content syndication.
  • Ease of use and navigation: The easier your online clothing store is for your customers to use, the more likely it is that they’ll stick around on your website for longer. The lower your bounce rate is (people hitting the back button), the higher your search ranking will be.

At the same time, remember the value of having a blog or news area on your website where you can post regular new content. The content marketing strategy that you choose for your clothing business will help you to thrive online in a number of ways.

Not only does content give Google more pages to list on the search engines, and therefore improve your domain authority, but it helps you to access more opportunities for keyword ranking too. At the same time, if you producer valuable content about not just your clothing business, but also the ecommerce industry that you’re in, you’ll attract more visitors over time.

SEO and content marketing are strategies that take time to pay off. However, if you start working on them as soon as you build your small business website, you’ll find that you see the results a lot quicker.

Helpful articles:

How to Choose the Best Ecommerce Platform for SEO

Best SEO Tools for Ecommerce: SemRush vs Ahrefs vs SpyFu vs Majestic vs Moz

Step 9: Publish and Market your Clothing Store

Finally, the time has come to bring your clothing store to life once and for all.

Before you publish your store, make sure that you use the preview feature built into your online store builder. This will allow you to search through your website for any signs of something that isn’t working properly. It’s better to catch these issues now before you go public.

If you’re worried that you might miss something that needs to be fixed about your eCommerce store, then you could always ask someone else to help you with the preview page. Having several pairs of eyes looking over your website is a good way to make sure that you’re not missing anything crucial.

Once you’re sure that everything is working as it should be, you can ensure that you include various tools for marketing within your eCommerce platform. For instance:

  • Email marketing tools: Give your customers a way to subscribe for regular newsletters about your online store. This will ensure that you can nurture your customers over time and boost their chances of becoming a dedicated client. Remember to give them the option to unsubscribe too, however. Although you might not want your clients to unsubscribe, it’s better for them to have the option if they’re not interested in your clothing.
  • Social media marketing: It’s always a good idea to include some manner of social media marketing on your website. Social buttons where your customers can share their recent purchases are a fantastic option. You can also use your own social media profiles to share updates about sales and new clothing items in your expanding line.
  • Content marketing: As mentioned above, content marketing is still one of the best ways to get the word out about your online clothing store. It also gives you the power to build the SEO potential of your website and earn compounding traffic over time. You can invest in content marketing through blogs, videos, podcasts, and more.

Most store owners will use a combination of marketing methods to get the most out of their online presence and expand their digital reach. Experiment with your selection and make sure that you track the results over time so you can see which ideas work best for you.

Remember to Keep Improving

There you have it!

Your online clothing store is now ready to make money online.

However, that doesn’t mean that you should just forget all about it. No store, whether it’s in the fashion industry or elsewhere, will continue to make a profit without work. You’ll need to dedicate time and passion to your online business. That means concentrating on constantly developing your clothing line and responding to the needs of your customers.

Pay attention to the feedback that your clients leave about your clothing brand on social media and your product pages. Keep an eye on the industry and find out how the latest websites in your niche are changing and offering better experiences to customers. You can even experiment occasionally with the new features of your online store builder to see if there’s a way that you can make your website even more engaging.

If you commit to constantly updating and improving your clothing store over time, your chances of earning a dedicated and lucrative audience of customers is much greater. Fashion fans are some of the best customers to have – particularly if you can encourage them to be loyal to your brand. However, like any successful business, you need to be willing to put the work in.

Are you ready to launch your clothing store? Share your tips and creations with us in the comments below!