How to open an online clothing store: instructions for entrepreneurs

Clothing sales is one of the most promising e-commerce areas, providing stable sales and a wide range of regular customers. You can sell goods through the marketplace or social networks, a safer and more cost-effective option is your own online store. Reliable suppliers, good quality products, and pricing flexibility will be needed to provide timely discounts and other benefits to customers. We tell you how to open an online clothing store – from finding a narrow niche to advertising communications.

1. Niche selection and assortment formation

Clothing is a broad product category, which is recommended to be segmented according to different criteria:

  • gender: men and women;
  • age: children, teenagers, adults;
  • season: winter, summer, off-season. It is necessary to take into account the seasonality of client interest: jackets are bought mainly in the cold season, underwear and jeans – without reference to the calendar;
  • type: classic models, clothes for a basic wardrobe, trendy solutions, outfits for special occasions (evening dresses or masquerade costumes);
  • purpose: office, evening, home, school, overalls, other;
  • sizes: small, standard, large.

It is possible to sell all options, but it will require large investments in maintaining a spacious warehouse, marketing initiatives for each subcategory, personnel and other tasks. At first, it is better to focus on a narrow assortment that can be expanded as the business develops and requests from customers are received.

It is worth paying attention to the niches that have remained unfilled – these are clothes of non-standard sizes, fashionable plus size models and others, depending on the region of sales and the specifics of the target audience. A prerequisite is the choice of products that will help stimulate additional sales and increase the average bill. The assortment of the online store can be diversified with hosiery, accessories (belts, gloves, etc.) and hats.

2. Define the audience

An online store can cooperate with two main client groups:

  • B2B (“business to business”). We are talking about interaction with business representatives who buy goods in bulk: suppliers, beauty salons, manufacturing enterprises, and others. Working with a B2B audience is characterized by a long deal cycle, as well as the participation of a large number of people who do not make decisions, but only collect information;
  • B2C (“business to consumer”). These are retail customers who buy clothing for personal use or as a gift. The transaction cycle is short, rarely exceeding 1-2 days.

Business customers need detailed price lists, presentation materials, lengthy consultations and substantial benefits. Retail buyers are less demanding, they actively respond to small discounts and other programs that help save money. The portrait of B2B customers is individualized, B2C consumers are divided according to the following criteria:

  • demographic: gender and age, marital status, presence/absence of children;
  • social: income level, place of work and specialty;
  • geographic: settlement, climatic and regional features;
  • psychological: interests, pains, needs, lifestyle.

The final stage is segmentation, which consists in dividing customers into narrow groups. For example, in the first – male bachelors under the age of 35 who buy clothes for themselves, in the second – teenage girls who appreciate fashionable things and need approval from their parents, in the third – mothers of 2-3 children who are interested in inexpensive products from natural materials. Each segment requires separate advertising communications, assortment, prices, and approach: work with the audience becomes more targeted, which has a positive effect on sales dynamics and the volume of repeated requests.

3. Drawing up a business plan

A business plan is a detailed description of an e-commerce project that takes into account development aspects with a perspective for the next 2-3 years. The main task of a business plan is to convince partners (banks or private investors) that the idea is viable and can pay for itself. The document includes the following items:

  • summary, which is a summary of the contents of the plan;
  • description of the product with an analysis of the potential, characteristics and value for customers;
  • market analysis taking into account competitors. For example, for an online store, competitors are not only similar sites, but also garment factories with the sale of finished products, private sellers, ground outlets, and others;
  • characteristics of potential customers (a previously compiled and segmented portrait will come to the rescue);
  • production plan with cost calculation, if you plan to sell your own products;
  • a marketing plan that includes all channels and stages of business promotion, both offline and online;
  • analysis of risks, profitability, payback rate and costs that will be required to implement the project;
  • organizational issues: personnel, warehouses, points of issue, others.

A business plan can be drawn up independently according to a template, taking into account the results of the analytics that was carried out as part of the project launch. If an entrepreneur wants to use the plan to attract investors or get a loan, then it is better to contact a professional who will prevent any kind of mistakes.

4. Registration as an entrepreneur

In the status of self-employed, you can sell goods on some marketplaces, to open an online store you will need a more serious organizational and legal form:

  • individual entrepreneur. A good solution for entrepreneurs who open an online store and other types of business without involving partners. The entrepreneur will risk all his property in the event of bankruptcy (with the exception of the only housing or things necessary for life). Among the advantages, it is worth highlighting the simple closure of a business and the free disposal of funds, tax incentives, the availability of loans and accounting for internal operations, as well as the ability to hire staff. For some types of business, this form is not suitable, for example, for manufacturers of alcohol;
  • limited liability company. This form is focused on large projects related to attracting investment funds and business partners. Registration will require a large package of documents (unlike individual entrepreneurship), there are strict requirements for accounting and statistical accounting, taxation and disposal of revenue. The owners of limited liability companies risk their authorized capital, there are no closed activities.

The owner of an online store, seeking to avoid complex bureaucratic procedures, is better off choosing a sole proprietorship. You can contact a multifunctional center or a notary, use the mail service – there are many ways to submit documents to the registration authority. The easiest option is online on the website of the Federal Tax Service of Russia, the procedure takes up to 3 days.

5. Search for supplier companies

When looking for a company to provide an online store with goods, it is important to consider the priority format of cooperation:

  • direct purchase. The entrepreneur purchases goods from a supplier, his representative or a wholesaler engaged in resale. The latter option allows you to purchase products without special minimum order requirements, and manufacturers are interested in large sales. Some companies are willing to make concessions, for example, provide installments (similar to a loan);
  • dropshipping. The owner of the online store does not interact with the goods that he sells, his tasks are the presentation in the online store, attracting customers and receiving money. The profit is brought by the established margin, the amount of which depends on the conditions of the manufacturing company and the type of goods. Of the pluses, one can single out the absence of the need to purchase goods and rent a warehouse, of the minuses – reputational losses in case of failure to meet delivery deadlines or poor product quality (they are controlled by the manufacturer, but customers do not know that they place orders through an intermediary).

You can work with Russian, as well as Asian and other foreign companies, but in this case you need to take care of logistics and customs clearance issues (on your own or through intermediaries). The search should start with open databases: Yopt.org, Retail.ru, Qoovee.com (international companies), others. It is important to take into account the conditions of each respondent, compare prices and additional conditions.

6. Online store website

The future site should be fast, have an adaptive design and friendly usability. Entrepreneurs have several options:

  • purchase of a ready-made site with a preliminary check of all parameters, commercial indicators, domain age and possible blocking. Plus – no need to engage in development, minus – you can buy a low-quality product;
  • order in the web studio. You will need a solid budget: the price depends on the complexity of the terms of reference, the number of pages and additional elements. The development period exceeds 4-5 weeks, this option is suitable for entrepreneurs who want to create an online store with unique features, having time and money. An alternative to save money is private programmers who oversee the project on their own and charge at least 30% less than studios;
  • platforms for online stores. Optimal in terms of price, quality, and speed of creation (no more than 1 day), hosting is often included in the tariffs (no need to pay separately). Responsive templates are available, segmented by product categories, ready-made integrations, and prospects for entering additional distribution channels, such as marketplaces.

When choosing a creation method, you need to consider your budget, the need for customization, and the desired development timeline. If there is no opportunity to engage in the creation, then web studios or programmers will be the best solution. If you need to rationally spend your budget and get a functional, but affordable product in a short time – CMS.

7. Organization of the work of an online clothing store

At this stage, the entrepreneur needs to solve organizational issues that ensure stable sales and comfort for customers:

  • selection and connection of online acquiring (YuKassa, RoboKassa, others), which will help customers pay for orders remotely. It is necessary to provide additional methods: cash upon receipt, cash on delivery (with inspection of the parcel at the carrier’s office), on credit or payment in installments (it is necessary to conclude agreements with banks);
  • determination of delivery methods, as well as the choice of transport companies. The most popular ways are self-pickup, courier, post-amates or carrier’s branch. It is necessary to conclude an agreement with companies, having previously discussed the terms of cooperation and bonuses available to the entrepreneur.

You will have to take care of finding premises for warehouses and an office, rent or buy cars for your own delivery service, and also hire staff yourself or through a specialized agency. With a shortage of funds, delivery duties can be delegated to a courier service that provides guarantees, has staff and a fleet, and also has the capacity to conduct financial transactions.

8. Online store promotion

Promotion can be paid or free, for the latter, the following are involved:

  • development of an internal blog (you can additionally promote through Yandex.Zen), which allows you to attract free organic traffic for information requests and advertise products;
  • creation of a group in social networks, ensuring the free holding of contests, drawings. You can publish links to the main website of the online store, share news and communicate with customers directly;
  • adding a company to Yandex.Maps in order to successfully advance in local search;
  • creation and maintenance of a Telegram channel for posting news, redirecting traffic to an online store, conducting surveys and collecting feedback, complaints, and wishes.

Paid channels include opinion leaders, marketing involving radio and television, native publications in online publications, targeted (VK, OK.ru, other social platforms) and contextual advertising. Additionally, it is necessary to introduce loyalty programs, regular closed sales, the potential of email newsletters and messenger marketing for repeat sales.

Finally

When creating an online clothing store, it is important to pay attention to the assortment, seasonal fluctuations and client interests. It’s better not to try to sell everything at once: you need to test the demand for goods, adjusting offers as purchasing activity increases and analyzing the positive experience of competitors in dynamics. It is recommended to establish agreements with 4-5 suppliers that will provide a varied and stable assortment, insuring the entrepreneur against supply failures. It is necessary to create favorable conditions for concluding transactions so that customers want to come back for new purchases: a fast website, a variety of payment and delivery methods, exchange and return guarantees, and stable bonus programs.

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