If you're looking to start an online clothing store, you're in good company—online retail is a multi-billion dollar industry and one of the most popular e-commerce niches. In fact, there are 12 to 24 billion online retailers, which means plenty of potential customers but also many competing brands.
Launching and running your own online clothing store is not always easy, especially when considering the competition. However, with a little hard work and dedication, you can turn your passion for fashion into a profitable business.
In this article, I'll walk you through all the crucial steps for running an online clothing store, from deciding what products you want to sell to implementing a business plan. While the prospect of running a profitable online clothing business may seem overwhelming at first, implementing the tips and tricks from this guide will help you turn a profit and run a successful business in no time.
Let's get started!
What Is An Online Clothing Store?
An online clothing store is a retail business that specializes in selling clothes, shoes, and other apparel through a digital platform. Online clothing stores can either be standalone businesses or an extension of a brick and mortar store. Online stores make up a significant chunk of the fashion industry—in fact, 29.5% of clothing sales in the United States are made through eCommerce sites.
There are many benefits to starting an online clothing store, including the following perks:
As you can see, the benefits are numerous. However, the online retail industry is saturated with entrepreneurs who have similar ambitions because of all these benefits. Therefore, developing a well-thought-out business strategy is essential for succeeding when opening an online clothing store. You'll need to be able to manage a well-designed website, effectively market your online store, and have a basic understanding of e-commerce logistics, including sourcing and shipping your products.
Do you think you have what it takes to launch your own online clothing store? If so, read on for a step-by-step guide that will walk you through what you need to ensure that your business will be profitable and stand apart from the competition.
How To Start An Online Clothing Store In 7 Steps
Selling clothes online takes a lot of work, but luckily, you can break down the process into manageable steps. When building your online clothing store, there are several factors that your business success depends on, such as:
Here’s the process you need to follow.
Step 1: Determine Your Niche
The first step to starting an online clothing store is choosing a niche, a specific category, or clothing style. Your niche will determine what type of products you decide to sell and how you will advertise your business to a target market.
Having a specific niche will aid you in sourcing the right apparel for your brand identity and building a loyal customer base of shoppers who love your products.
When choosing a niche, focus on an aesthetic that fits your tastes and interests. For example, selling athletic gear might be the best option if you're into fitness. Or maybe you're knowledgeable about luxury brands— in that case, selling designer clothes could be a profitable niche.
Whatever your passions and skillsets are, there are several different niches. Here are some of the most profitable online clothing niches:
While you should strive to be unique, make sure that your inventory will appeal to enough consumers and that your chosen niche has the right earning potential. You can put your own spin on a popular retail area and stand out with your website and marketing techniques, but you have to ensure that enough potential customers will be interested in your product.
Once you’ve chosen your niche, it’s time to start sourcing your products. In the next section, I’ll walk you through how to determine what apparel to sell in your online store.
Step 2: Choose Your Online Clothing Store Products
Now that you've decided on a niche, it's time to choose the products you'll sell in your online clothing store. This step can be tricky since you need to take various factors into account, including what will appeal to your niche market, what's trending in the fashion world, and what fits in your budget.
To get started, brainstorm a list of apparel and accessories that make sense for your brand. Once you have a list of items, do some research to determine the average prices for those products. You can find brands with a similar vibe and check out their stores for inspiration and ideas about pricing.
You'll also want to make sure that there is a healthy demand for your products. You can search for trending products or keywords on Google Trends. You should also check out popular clothing apparel sites or walk around your local mall to see what types of clothing and accessories they have in stock.
On the other hand, you'll need to ensure that there isn't too much competition in the space—if you're only selling trendy apparel, standing apart from similar stores may prove difficult. That's why it's essential to strike a balance between keeping up with fashion fads while also sourcing quality, reliable pieces that are more likely to stay in style for years to come.
Once you’ve made a list of potential products to put in your online clothing store, there are a few more aspects to consider, like the size of your inventory and your long-term inventory goals. Below are some additional tips to get you ready to start sourcing your products.
It's important to start small when you're in the early stages of running an online clothing store. Start by stocking a limited number of items and then gradually add more products as you get a better sense of what your customers want. That way, you can test the waters and determine what products sell and which don't before making a larger investment in inventory.
If you pre-order a wide array of products when starting out, you may have trouble moving inventory. Therefore, gradually adding stock is the key—by testing small batches of orders, you'll be able to budget accordingly as your online clothing business expands.
You need to have a long-term plan when choosing inventory for your online clothing business. Fashion trends are constantly evolving, so don't only stock your store with products that may go out of style soon. You don't want to be stuck with unsellable products, so your success will depend on your ability to plan ahead. You’ll need to adapt to new fads and trends without deviating too far from your brand identity.
Try to select items that will remain popular for several seasons and are historically reliable with sales, like basics and neutral-colored products. While you can experiment with your inventory as you go, having a solid stock of reliable products means you won't have to constantly update your inventory and can focus on other aspects of running your business.
Set Your Focus
When it comes to choosing products, you also need to think about your store's long-term goals. As I mentioned in the section about niches, having a specialty will help you attract a specific customer base and make it easier to market your business.
Think about where you see your online clothing brand expanding in the future and your goals for sales. Do you want to start with apparel and gradually add accessories and shoes? Or do you hope to incorporate a wider variety of brands in the future? The better your idea of how you want your business to grow, the easier it will be to implement the necessary steps to reach your goals.
Don't be afraid to dream big, but also be realistic about the costs and effort it will take to grow your business. In the next section, I'll detail choosing a suitable business model for your vision.
Step 3: Choose Your Business Model
Once you've narrowed down the products you want to sell, it's time to choose your business model. A business model is a plan of action that maps out how you want to operate and run your company. Regarding online clothing stores, your business model should focus on how you will source and manufacture your clothing.
The type of business model you choose for your online store will depend on various factors, such as your overall sales goals, your budget, and whether you want to hold your inventory or have others do it for you.
There are four main business models for online clothing stores: print-on-demand, custom cut-and-sew, private label, and dropshipping. Let's look at each of them in detail so you can make the right choice for your business.
Print-On-Demand Business Model
Print-on-demand (POD) is a business model where orders are manufactured only when placed, eliminating the need for high up-front inventory costs. This type of store is perfect for new entrepreneurs who want to get their business off the ground without investing a lot of money upfront.
POD businesses will usually handle fulfillment and shipping for you, making this one of the easiest and cheapest methods for selling apparel. You can use popular sites like Printful or RedBubble to get started.
However, the print-on-demand business model offers little opportunity for branding and customization since most of these companies can only print a limited number of designs. All the products are wholesale so the quality may be lower. The lack of creativity with this model can be a downside if you're looking to build a strong brand identity or invest in unique pieces.
The print-on-demand business model typically yields lower sales margins since you have to pay these companies to manufacture, package, and ship your orders. While the POD model is a quick and easy way to start an online clothing store, it may prove difficult to expand the variety of your products.
Custom Cut-And-Sew Business Model
Custom cut-and-sew (CCS) is a business model where you will be in charge of the entire production process, including making sketches, finding fabrics, and sourcing manufacturers to create your products. This option is best for those who want to design a clothing line from scratch, which allows for more freedom regarding customization and branding.
This type of store typically has higher sales margins but requires a more significant up-front investment and a longer timeline to launch. To run a CCS store, you'll need to invest in manufacturers to make your designs a physical product. The good news is that, with this model, you'll have complete control of branding, and your product will be unique to your store.
However, this model can be a big undertaking, so make sure you have the skills to design your own clothing before starting down this path. In addition, having sufficient funds to pay manufacturers is vital.
Private Label Business Model
Private label is a business model where you source products through private labels suppliers to then resell on your store. Think of it as the in-between of print-on-demand and custom cut-and-sew models since you'll buy wholesale clothing and accessories to sell under your fashion brand.
This option may be more cost-effective than CCS, as you'll be able to purchase the garments at a lower price point and won't have to design the merchandise yourself. You'll also have more control over the quality and branding of the products than with a POD model since you can customize tags and shipping products with your brand name with a private label.
However, since you're purchasing products upfront, you'll need to have sufficient funds and do research when deciding what company to work with. Usually, these companies require minimum order quantities (MOQs), which means you'll have to purchase a set amount of a product.
Therefore, the private label business model is best for entrepreneurs who don't want to deal with the hassle of designing their products but still want more freedom with the creative process and branding.
Dropshipping Business Model
Dropshipping is a business model where you partner with a third-party supplier who will fulfill your orders when a customer buys something from your online clothing store. These suppliers will then package and ship the products for you. This option is excellent for entrepreneurs who don't want to deal with the fulfillment process.
In addition, dropshipping allows you to test out different products without investing a lot of money upfront since you'll only pay the suppliers when a customer makes a purchase. You can also start your store quickly and efficiently since you don't need to wait for products to be manufactured.
However, dropshipping does have some downsides. You'll have less control over the quality of the products and the shipping times since you're relying on a third-party supplier. You'll also have fewer chances to build a brand identity since your business will depend on the supplier you choose.
If you want more information about this process, make sure to check out my article on what dropshipping means.
Step 4: Your Online Clothing Store Business Plan
Now that you’ve chosen a niche, researched what products to sell, and understand the different types of clothing store business models, it's time to create an in-depth business plan for your store.
A business plan is a comprehensive document that includes information about your target market, your products, your marketing strategy, and your budget. This document should address the following questions:
You'll also need to include your budget in your business plan to have an idea of how you can succeed financially. When making the budget for your online clothing store, you can take the following costs into account:
Creating a business plan is an essential step for any venture, and it's imperative when starting a new business. By taking the time to develop a detailed plan, you'll be able to make informed decisions and stay on track as your online clothing business grows. You can also show this document to potential investors and partners to provide a solid idea about your company's mission.
So, before you launch your online clothing store, take the time to create a business plan that outlines your goals, strategies, and finances. This roadmap to success will help you stay organized and ensure that your business is booming in the long run.
Step 5: Choose An Online Store Builder
Now that you’ve written a business plan, it's time to choose an online store builder. There are plenty of eCommerce platforms you can use to build your store, and the one you choose will depend on your budget, technical skills, and aesthetic preferences.
Having a user-friendly and well-designed site should be of top priority—after all, the first impression of your store can determine whether potential customers stay on your site. Luckily, you won’t need to have much (or any!) coding experience to design a beautiful, accessible digital clothing store using these sites.
Not sure where to start your search? Here are some of the most popular online store builders:
Most of these platforms offer a free trial, so don’t hesitate to play around with the different options to determine which is best for your business goals. For a more detailed comparison of these plans (plus a few more suggestions) check out my article on the 10 best eCommerce sites for online stores.
Step 6: Develop A Marketing Strategy
Now that you've chosen your niche, picked a business model, developed a plan, and selected a hosting site, it's time to brainstorm how you will market your store.
Having an effective marketing strategy in place is critical when starting an online clothing store. Knowing where and how to advertise is crucial if you want to stand apart from the competition.
You'll need to develop a plan that includes social media advertising and email marketing. In the following sections, I'll walk you through how to use these channels for your online clothing business.
Social Media Advertising
Before your store goes live, you'll want to ensure that you have social media accounts set up and ready to go. You should create profiles for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other social media platforms you plan on using. Being active on these accounts will help you promote your store and drive traffic to your site.
Make sure to populate your social media accounts with fresh content regularly and use hashtags to reach a wider audience. You'll be able to use these accounts for posts about new products, show off your inventory in photos and videos, advertise new deals and promotions, and develop your brand identity.
Being active on social media will help you stay in touch with loyal customers and promote your store to a broader audience. If you need additional help running your social presence, you can hire a social media team of photographers, marketing experts, and copywriters.
Partnering with social media influencers is another fantastic way to drive traffic to your page. You can reach out to brands and influencers whose values may align with your brand and offer them free products or even monetary compensation to make social media posts about your products.
You can also crowdsource user-generated content and repost your customers wearing your clothing on your social media sites. This tactic will motivate them to tag you in their posts, leading to more followers and a loyal customer base.
Email marketing is a significant part of online retail, and you'll want to have a plan in place before your store launches. By setting up automated emails, you can ensure that your customers are regularly updated on new products, deals, and promotions.
A strong email marketing plan will help you boost sales and keep your customers informed about your store and their orders. In the first few months, you can gather customer email addresses and build your contacts list. You should also create a welcome email series for new subscribers and other automated emails like abandoned cart emails, order confirmation emails, and shipping update emails.
Each of these marketing channels has its benefits, and using a variety of them will help you reach a wider audience. You should also make sure that your strategies are constantly evolving, as your customers' needs will change over time. By planning ahead and using the right tools, you can ensure the success of your online clothing store.
Step 7: Drive Traffic To Your Online Clothing Store
The next step is to drive traffic to your store and monitor analytics, which you can do in a few ways. This part of your online business plan is essential since more store views will increase sales.
In this section, I’ll walk you through the process of getting more traffic to your website, from setting up search engine optimization to using Google ads.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The first step is to make sure your website is set up for search engine optimization or SEO. This process includes making sure your website's design and content effectively draw in organic traffic from Google and other search engines.
There are numerous things you can do to optimize your website for SEO:
If this all seems a bit technical, don’t worry. Many online store builders have built-in SEO and can facilitate the process for you. If you want to learn more about optimizing your store using SEO, you can also refer to my guide on SEO for websites.
Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is a form of online advertising where you pay for each click on your ad. This method is a great way to reach people who are already interested in what you’re selling.Many different platforms offer PPC advertising, including Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads. Another fantastic option is Google Ads, which allows you to advertise products on many sites (and in the Google search engine result pages). Advertising on these platforms does come at a price, but it’s worth the cost if you want to reach a larger audience and target new customers.
Set Up Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a tool that you can use to track the performance of your website. It’s important to have this set up before your store launches so that you can monitor your progress and see what’s working well and what needs improvement on your site.
Google Analytics allows you to track incoming traffic to your website and related metrics, like how long a user stays on your site, what device/browser they used, what pages they viewed, and if they added anything to their cart. All of this data is extremely useful to see if you’re reaching your target market, how they got to your page, and if they are making purchases on your site.
Knowing these conversion rates can help you improve your website’s design and implement new marketing strategies. You can then track the efficiency of new advertising campaigns and see if your changes are working to boost sales. As your business grows, you can use Google Analytics to track your progress and make necessary changes to your business.
FAQ: How To Start An Online Clothing Store
You can break down the process of starting an online clothing business into seven practical steps:
Depending on what business model you use, the costs for opening an online clothing business vary. You’ll have to take many costs into account, including the following:
Generally speaking, launching your store can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $100,000, depending on if you’re planning on running a small business or a full-fledged enterprise.
Profits will range widely depending on the size and success of your online clothing business. The typical first-month revenue of a new eCommerce store is $63,000 but this doesn’t account for upfront costs and other financial factors, like the cost of advertising and how much one pays for products.
Starting an online clothing store can be a very lucrative enterprise, but it takes careful planning and skilled execution to succeed and turn a profit. Make sure you have a solid business plan, quality products, and an effective marketing strategy to help you reach your target audience.
With the right tools and strategies in place, you can build a profitable online clothing store. Though there is a lot of competition in the eCommerce space, with the tips and tricks from this guide, you should be well on your way to launching a successful online store.
So what are you waiting for? Start taking the necessary steps to start an online clothing store today!