Feeling inspired to start a clothing line? Well, you are in luck. As eCommerce platforms and easy-to-use virtual selling tools continue to grow in reach and effectiveness, so do your chances at chasing down your apparel design dreams.
Ecommerce platforms and marketing tools like Shopify and Printful allow you to effortlessly set up a clothing store with a few remote clicks. While not all designers and entrepreneurs take the same route into the fashion industry, developing a print-on-demand drop-shipping business model with partners like Drive Fulfillment and Printful has never been more promising and easy.
If you’re unfamiliar with Dropshipping, the process refers to the selling of products on a virtual storefront, without keeping inventory. Instead, your products are fulfilled and shipped by a print-on-demand company like Drive Fulfillment to customers on your behalf. As a result, we wanted to highlight some of the most significant design and developmental steps that will help get your ideas off the ground.
Understanding your niche
A niche is a segment of a market, defined by a set of specific needs, identity preferences, and desires. Like a group of garden enthusiasts or cycling fanatics, do your homework to define your niche, including their outlook, taste, and interests in your product. As the saying goes, “when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one”.
The better you know your customers, the better your chances are of creating a product they will enjoy. Understanding and pleasing your niche is all about balancing your creative motivation and inspiration with the customers’ desire to buy something new and meaningful they’ve never seen before.
Pick your clothing store products
While the apparel industry can appear endless and infinite, there are essential steps in the creative process that merchants and entrepreneurs often fail to maintain. Start small and steady, creating quality products that make you a profit. There is always time to branch out product and accessory lines in the future.
Part of deciding what you will launch your site with is sourcing materials and printing solid sample products. In most cases, the fabric of your garments will determine the final design quality and look. The three most common types of materials used in retail are cotton, polyester, and fabric blends. Since these fabrics possess different properties, investigate the durability, care, printing suitability, feel, and wear of each.
Namely, when using Drive Fulfillment direct-to-garment (DTG) printing capacities, the more cotton a garment has, the better. DTG printing uses water-based inks that stick to cotton better than to other materials. Make sure to verify the thickness of the fabric—if the garment is made from thick cotton (e.g sweatshirts or hoodies), the fabric can absorb the ink and result in a more faded look. Undoubtedly, this process takes time and involves some meaningful decisions. While some industries are more predictable than others, entering the clothing industry often requires you to monitor forecasting and pivot with emerging trends.
Create designs for your products
Now, let’s dive into the creative process. While there are endless ways to create designs, we wanted to cover a few general approaches that work best with on-demand and DTG-printing capabilities.
Given the excess of available design tools on the current market, finding what works best for you has never been easier. Use whatever experience you have, whether with Adobe Illustrator, Sketch, or Canva. For simple ready-made images and fonts, the Printful design maker tool and websites like Raw Pixel allow you to use free stock images and pre-made elements in creating your designs.
Work on branding
Once you have researched your target market and decided on a few stand-out designs, next comes branding. The branding process involves a mix of visual and written elements that translate how your business is publicly perceived. First, decide on a short and simple store name.
Avoid overused or generic business names, rather focus on unique selling points that differentiate your products and designs from others. Once you’ve decided on a name and searched the internet to confirm its domain availability, start creating a logo and compelling “about” story that touches on ‘the why’ you do what you do.
One of the most important aspects of branding falls on your ability to tell your story. Customers want to attach themselves to something more than a beautifully designed product. They want to understand the steps and inspiration behind the product. Convey your passion and vision. After all, people make purchase decisions based on emotions—so use the opportunity to create those positive emotions through addressing a few the following questions:
- How and why you started your store
- How you make your products
- What are your core values and beliefs
- Why customers should choose you
- Who is the person behind the store
Choose your eCommerce platform and fulfillment partner
In this day and age, choosing where to sell your products should be a no-brainer. While online marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon continue to grow in popularity, eCommerce platforms like Shopify simplify each step of the selling process through centralized control of your online store, easy-to-navigate integrations, and logistical transparency across all steps of the process. A professional Shopify store serves multiple purposes. First, it’s a way to sell directly to your potential customers. It also works as a living, breathing, creative lookbook to share your vision with buyers and media.
Given the amount of evolving consumer and tech trends, there’s never a shortage of updates required to optimize the online shopping experience for customers. That said, once orders start flowing in, relying on a competent distribution partner like Drive Fulfillment allows you to focus on your essential marketing tasks rather than logistical complexities. Drive offers discounted shipping rates with major carriers, including UPS, USPS, and DHL, on top of the speed and service you require to grow your business and keep customers happy.
Set up your clothing store
Once your 3PL partnership and eCommerce selling platform are solidified, next comes purchasing your domain name and monthly website hosting plan. As a rule of thumb, pick a domain name that is the same as your store name. You want potential shoppers to connect your business to your website and easily find you online. Once you have linked your domain with Shopify, collaborate with a digital agency or work independently to create product imagery, upload, and optimize the website for SEO and user experience.
Work with your 3PL or fulfillment provider to draft shipping and return policies that create a sense of security in shoppers. It never hurts to set up and execute a few test orders to ensure the process runs smoothly at launch.
Promote your clothing store
Once your website is built, next comes the marketing magic. To get that first sale and keep them coming in, concentrate your efforts on the following categories.
Social media: A solid social media presence is one of the main drivers of store traffic and sales. Emphasize your presence on social platforms where your customers spend their time. Tap into the nuances and strengths of each platform. Keep your posts and tone consistent so that customers know what to expect. Using an all-in-one platform for planning, organizing, and executing all things content marketing is never a bad idea. Coschedule helps to ensure a consistent voice, optimal engagement posting times, tools that provide vital user insights, and testing to measure the effectiveness of each post.
Advertising: Like deciding where and how to post on social media, effective advertising requires going where your customers spend their time. Whether you advertise on billboards, public transit, specialty magazines, or online, take the time to get to know your customer base to create campaigns and ads they will engage with them. At Drive Digital, we take the time to research and understand your customers to promise a higher return using techniques such as Paid Search, Display Ads, Sponsored Shopping, YouTube Advertising, and Remarketing Strategies.
SEO health: Search Engine Optimization works to increase website visibility, drives authentic leads, and reduces acquisition costs across the board. As a foundation of your online selling platform, SEO increases your visibility and helps capitalize on emerging trends. Having the highest possible ranking site means drawing the most organic traffic, which, lowers overall acquisition costs through traditional advertising methods.
Product reviews: Studies show that 93% of online shoppers verify what other customers had to say about a product before purchasing. Product reviews from other shoppers are proof that your website is a thriving store that they can trust. Among the different ways you can go about asking for product reviews, generally, you want to make this process as simple and easy as possible. Leaving links to product reviews on relevant pages and displaying photos from other customers using your products on the site is always helpful.
While this is in no way a complete breakdown of every necessary step required to start a clothing or merch brand, hopefully, the framework we reviewed gets you started on the right foot. When the time comes for expert fulfillment and digital marketing services, get in touch for a tour of Drive Fulfillment facilities and a customized digital marketing plan that works for you.