What does it take to build a web store that resonates with your audience, sends a strong message and stands out in the buzz of apparel stores cropping up every day? This short guide will give you answers. By the time you are reading this article, you probably already have ideas for building an apparel brand, although they may or may not be crystal-clear to you yet. You may choose to resell clothing from around the world, use price as a differentiator, or let creativity speak for itself.
Using your first instinct as a starting point, here’s how to build an fashion brand that stands out, makes a statement and gets you good sales.
Define Your Target Market
Once you have a broad idea of the kind of clothing you want to sell, there is still the actual process of evaluating your market. In the very first step, ask the tough questions. Is your concept going to sell? Are there people who see intrinsic value in your offering? It is ideal that you ask other people these questions- the answers may surprise you.
That said, people often view clothing as a creative outlet and a personal statement, so you have a lot of freedom regarding what you can and cannot make a sale out of. Don’t be overtly restrictive of yourself, but use answers from your market survey as a starting point for decision-making.
If you find that there isn’t a significant market for your offering, you can still tweak it to better suit market needs. After all, palazzos, bohemian dresses and cold-shoulders all made a fashion comeback! A successful retail apparel business is a tightrope walk between balancing your ideas and your potential customer’s needs.
Ways To Define Your Target Market
- Make a wishlist of what your ideal customer pool looks like. Get granular with the details. Define attributes such as their age, job, where they live, what they eat. If your target group is the working class, you need to tailor your color and cut choices to what is trending locally.
- Next, make a list of who your customers really are. This can be achieved by asking as many people as possible whether they’d buy your ideas. Use this data and sort people into three groups based on their defining attributes. Known as personas, creating these groups helps you design your brand for them and bring in some much-needed focus into the business.
- Define your niche. A good niche confirms to your vision, offers what customers want, and has scope for evolving into something else in the future. For example, handloom is a niche, and so is resort wear.
- Once you have narrowed down your niche, evaluate if you are ready for the challenge. Are you prepared to market in unconventional ways? Are you willing to travel to source local cloth from different places, or use influencers to market your products?
- Start small. Known as prototyping, start with a small collection of apparel in your chosen niche. Offer it through a pop-up. Post your products on Instagram and evaluate how many buying inquiries you get. Remember that at this point, your products do not yet have a brand or a price tag attached to them.
Make A Note Of Your Competitors
Sometimes, when you are just starting out, it is good to make a note of all your competitors and choose those that you want to emulate. Use the focusing technique from above to only choose competitors in the same niche as you.
- Observe your competitor’s website and other digital markers. What makes them click?
- If you were to emulate them, would you come across as classy and new, or is their voice so entrenched in people’s minds that replication makes you a copy? For example, in the sports niche, every major brand has a powerful voice. To stand out, you need to stick to your guns and do what you believe in. However, competition in the t-shirt segment might not be so intense. Being even a tad bit different can help you stand out.
- How are your competitors pricing similar products? What do their sales and discounts look like? If need be, order products from them and observe the shipping times and packaging. Observe when sales seasons are important for your apparel niche and follow suit.
- Remember, you don’t always have to replicate a competitor, but taking relevant points from them and incorporating them into your business helps.
Choose Your Market Position
Positioning yourself in the market directly determines your revenues over time. Brands that position themselves as elite, aspirational and elegant often have a hard time making more sales, but the per sale profit often makes up for it. Think Burberry or Louis Vuitton. Brands that are perceived as everyday, no-nonsense, fast fashion can target many more customers much like H&M but have trouble standing out in saturated markets. Naturally, there is a whole spectrum of brands that fall between these two extremes. Choose where you stand.
How you position yourself in the market sets the tone for everything from site design to packaging, language, and expectations.
Ways To Define Your Position
- How are you different? If there was to be a single point of difference between your brand and others in a similar niche, what would it be? Ask and answer this question honestly. Once you emulate your competitors, how do you intend to also stand out?
- Make a note of your apparel store’s attributes that would appeal to your customers. Do they want to see products shot and displayed in a unique manner? Do they value detail? Are they looking to make a quick purchase and move out?
- Is there one attribute that sets you apart in your customer’s eye- something they cannot readily get from another retailer? Perhaps you are the only retailer stocking clothing before it becomes a market trend. Maybe, you specialize in selling dresses for all occasions. This is obviously different from being different in your own perception of business as seen in point 1. Here, you decide how best to showcase yourself to your customers.
Choose Your Suppliers
Now that you have your choice of clothing and your consumers in mind, it is time to close the loop on the other end of the supply chain. Your suppliers or your manufacturing process determines how well you keep up your sales promises. In turn, this is a determinant of your brand’s trust factor.
- If you make your clothing from scratch, set realistic expectations for yourself on how many units of a certain item you can make. Have a contingency plan in place for when the orders come in bulk. Set up your supply timelines for the raw material well in advance.
- If you are building an apparel brand by sourcing it from a manufacturer, give due time and consideration to where, when and how your brand will be represented. You need time to add a brand label to every product in the inventory.
- If you curate apparel from several designers in one place, consider understanding each of their delivery timelines and promising your shipping times accordingly. This will help you set the right expectations and avoid overstocking.
Build Your Web Presence
Now comes the big bit. You now have a strategy in place for how your brand should look and behave like. You also know your customers or have a very good sense of who they are going to be. Now comes the website. For an online apparel store, a website is the first, most impactful point of contact with your brand. Then comes social media. For apparel brands, Instagram and Facebook are often considered the two ‘must-be-present’ channels.
Tips For Building Your Web Presence
- Start by choosing the design you want to incorporate. Clean, minimal websites give off a sense of elegance and help showcase clothing products very well. Some brands also choose more quirky, modern elements to help comply with their brand voice.
- Make sure that everything from the language used to the tone and palette reflects what your brand stands for.
- Keep your backend database clean and up-to-date. No redundant entries, or repeat data for the same customer. Speak to your web designer about the need you will surely have for a clean database.
- Ensure that all products have high-quality images, detailed product descriptions, and bullet points about attributes such as colour and fit. If possible, include a video displaying the product.
- For social media, wait until you have a site and logo. This helps you use the same banners, logo designs and image themes as those found on the site.
- Make the most of social media tools that help you plan a calendar, as well as automatically send out posts across multiple platforms.
Design Your Product Catalog
While your site is being built, you need to build the product catalog. It involves everything from clicking good pictures of clothes from various angles to gathering all of their attribute data at one place, as well as uploading them as a unique SKU for each size and much more.
Having a catalog also helps you be efficient with what you add to, and take out of, your inventory. For example, if a certain clothing item is discontinued permanently, you can make a note of this in the caltalog. It helps everyone on your team stay up to date and know what is happening with the business.
Control Inventory and Logistics smartly
Many retail businesses struggle with the logistics of inventory handling, order processing, shipping and delivery. Apparel sellers online are no exception. With apparel, the expectation is usually that the product will be delivered within three to four days, at most. If you intend to deliver later than this, you need to justify your timelines- perhaps you have a custom product that needs time to make.
Also, your packaging stands out to your customer. So instead of making it a standard brown bag, you have a chance to showcase and reinforce your brand once again with visual elements in the package.
Sort out your shipping partners and your accounting before you begin operations. By calculating shipping rates for different service providers beforehand, you won’t be in for a surprise when you have to ship out a particularly large package. Read our complete shipping guide here.
Also, take stock of how you take stock! Managing inventory well can be a huge pressure point for your business, especially since you’ll be stocking the same product in many different sizes. Keeping inventory levels within control can help you free up working capital. Since fashion trends change very fast, lose any extra stock with a sale so that you can save on inventory storing costs. Use a reliable inventory management software like Primaseller.
What other aspects of building an apparel brand would you like help with? Tell us in the comments below.