How to Start an Online Fashion Store
So you want to start an online fashion store but are at loose ends because you need to learn how to go about it. What if I told you that six months ago, my friend Renike was in the same situation but now has a thriving online fashion business that caters to professional women?
When Renike wanted to start, she didn't know what to do and had to ask for my marketing knowledge to create something for her. I got into my drawing board and crafted a feasibility report and a business plan to cater to her wants. She still thanks me today and doesn’t fail to let everyone know that I am the genius behind her brand starting and scaling—enough of Renike. Let’s look at how to start your online fashion business.
What Is An Online Fashion Store?
An online fashion store is like having an online boutique where you can exhibit and sell clothes and accessories. It's like having your virtual store, where you can showcase the latest trends and clothes not only to the people in Nigeria but to a global audience.
Instead of spending millions of Naira to open a physical store, you can be like Renike and start an online fashion store. You can sell all kinds of clothes, from traditional Nigerian outfits to trendy global styles. This way, you can connect with fashion lovers and shoppers and easily show off your style to people all over the world.
Why Should I Should Start An Online Fashion Store?
There are many benefits you enjoy when you start an online fashion store. It lets you tap into a vast and growing market, reaching customers beyond geographical boundaries. You can cater to diverse fashion tastes, whether it is professional women, Gen Zers, or any niche audience. Online fashion stores also have lower operational costs compared to physical stores, making it a cost-effective business.
Still on the fence about whether you should start an online fashion store? Here are 5 reasons why you should:
- Global Reach: Online fashion stores have the potential to reach a worldwide audience. You can connect with customers from different countries, expanding your customer base and revenue streams beyond geographical boundaries.
- Lower Overhead Costs: Operating an online fashion store involves lower overhead costs than brick-and-mortar retail stores. You can avoid expenses such as rent, utilities, and in-store staffing, which can significantly increase your profit margins.
- Convenience: Online shopping is highly convenient for customers. They can browse and purchase products 24/7, allowing you to generate sales even when you're not physically present. This convenience can lead to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Diverse Product Offerings: Online fashion stores can cater to various tastes and preferences. You can offer a variety of styles, sizes, and niche fashion items, appealing to a diverse customer base and meeting specific needs.
- Data-Driven Decision Making: Online businesses can collect and analyze data on customer behavior, preferences, and buying habits. This valuable information can be used to tailor your product offerings, marketing strategies, and customer engagement efforts, leading to more targeted and effective business decisions.
How To Start An Online Fashion Store
Now that we know what an online fashion store is and why it is a good business idea, let us move on to the next question: How do you start your online fashion store?
Step 1: Market Research and Niche Selection
Before you start your online fashion store, lay a solid foundation on which your efforts will be built. This can be done through comprehensive market research. Here are the key aspects to consider:
- Demographics and Consumer Behaviour: As a country, Nigeria is diverse, with its different people having different tastes and preferences. Age groups, genders, and income levels may have different fashion preferences. For instance, Gen Zs might lean towards contemporary, street-style fashion, while older demographics may prefer more traditional attire. Understanding this will guide your product sourcing and marketing strategies.
- Competitive Landscape: If you go on Instagram, you will see ads and profiles of those selling clothes before you scroll five times. Not only is the fashion market dynamic, but it is also very competitive. Take time to study existing online fashion stores. Consider the areas they are good at and the areas in which you think they are not so good. This analysis will be valuable as you shape your business strategy, allowing you to craft and offer unique value propositions that resonate with your target audience.
- Trends and Preferences: The fashion scene is ever-evolving, influenced by a blend of global fashion trends, distinct cultural expressions and even a few trends from the early 2000s (Y2K). Watch out for social media influencers, TikTok trends, fashion magazines, and local events. You should also consider the fabrics, colours, and styles that gain traction. This awareness will be necessary in curating a product range that appeals to your audience's evolving tastes.
- Online Shopping Behavior: Nigerians have unique preferences when it comes to online shopping. Preferred payment methods, delivery expectations, and customer service standards may vary. Some regions might have specific delivery challenges that you need to address. You'll provide a seamless and satisfactory shopping experience by tailoring your operations to suit these preferences.
- Cultural Sensitivity: Nigeria’s cultural diversity can be termed a “treasure trove of inspiration for fashion.” Each culture may have preferences regarding clothing styles, patterns, and colours. You can, as a matter of fact, tailor your fashion offerings to include and celebrate this diversity.
Step 2: Identify A Profitable Niche or Target Audience
To have a niche for yourself is to create a unique fashion industry identity. When I think of the Fila cap, the first person that comes to mind is Tunde OD of Chess in Slums, and when I think of Crotchet wears, my mind goes to Ore Akinde. To create a niche for yourself, here are steps to guide you through this process:
- Passion and Expertise: Consider your interests and expertise within the fashion industry. Starting a business in a niche you are passionate about will keep you motivated and enable you to provide valuable insights and curated selections to your customers.
- Gap in the Market: Identify areas within the Nigerian fashion market that are underserved. This could be a specific style, category, or demographic group not adequately catered to by existing online stores. A certain shop named Bawsty caters to women with big boobs who want to be fashionable. So you can conduct surveys or engage with potential customers to understand unmet needs and preferences.
- Scalability and Sustainability: While passion is vital, it's equally important to evaluate the long-term potential of your chosen niche. Consider whether the market is large enough to sustain your business and if there are opportunities for growth.
- Feedback and Validation: User research is a thing, and it is not limited to digital products alone. Engage with potential customers through surveys, focus groups, or social media platforms. Seek their opinions on your niche selection and product ideas. Their feedback will be valuable in refining your offerings and ensuring they align with actual customer preferences.
Step 3: Source Products and Manage Inventory Effectively
One of the crucial aspects of running a successful online fashion business is to source the right products and manage your inventory effectively. To source the right products, you need to find reliable suppliers. In getting reliable suppliers, you can explore:
- Local Wholesalers and Manufacturers: There are talented designers everywhere, and you can seek out some of them to provide you with unique and high-quality fashion items. You can also shop thrift from the market or make your own fashion pieces.
- International Suppliers: Explore opportunities to collaborate with international suppliers, especially for items that may not be readily available in Nigeria. Utilise platforms like Alibaba, AliExpress, and other reputable online marketplaces to connect with trusted global suppliers.
After getting suppliers sorted out, you need to curate your product range. You should curate product that caters to your audience. Quality products will build customer trust and enhance your brand's reputation. You should also have a diverse range of products to cater to different tastes and preferences. For example, if you decide to open an online fashion store that caters to corporate girlies, you can have a mixture of pants, dresses, tops, shirts and even corporate casuals.
Step 4: Set Up Your Online Fashion Store
You have identified your target audience and niche and gotten it down with suppliers. Now, we have to create an Instagram store.
- Create a Business Account: Before you begin, you should know that before setting up an Instagram business account, you need to either have an existing Instagram account or create a new one. A business account allows you to access various features to help businesses succeed on the platform. To do this, use the prompt below.
- Optimise Your Profile: Your profile is the first thing potential customers see, so making a good impression is important. Ensure you use a recognisable profile picture, which could be your brand logo or a professional image representing your business. Add your contact information so customers can reach out to you easily, and also write a compelling bio to describe what your online fashion store is about.
Using our example of the corporate fashion store, you could have something like
"Empowering professional women one outfit at a time. Discover our curated collection of corporate fashion for women.
Shop from the store 👇🏾
- Content Planning and Creation: Your Instagram feed is your virtual shopfront. Engaging, high-quality content is key. Here's what you should focus on:
- Use high-resolution images and videos to showcase your products in the best possible light.
- Maintain a consistent look and feel across all your posts. This includes using a consistent colour palette, filters, and editing style.
- Plan your posts to ensure a steady flow of content. This can include product showcases, behind-the-scenes looks, style tips, and more.
- Utilise IG stories to showcase content you may not want on your field, including behind-the-scenes and UGCs.
- Use reels to reach out to new audiences.
- Product Listings and Descriptions: When you're selling fashion, how you present your products is crucial. Provide detailed descriptions for each item, including information about size, material, care instructions, and any other relevant details. Use clear and attractive imagery, including shots of the product being worn.
Include prices and availability to make it easy for customers to know what's in stock and how much it costs. A survey I conducted some time ago shows that customers do not like "DM for price" and want to know what the product costs as they see it. So it’s important to include the price.
- Use Hashtags and Keywords: Instagram uses hashtags and keywords to categorise content. Research and use relevant ones that potential customers might be searching for. This can increase the discoverability of your posts.
- Engage with Your Audience: Building a community around your brand is vital for long-term success. Respond to comments and messages, run discount sales, contests, and giveaways to boost engagement and attract new followers.
- Track Your Performance: Instagram provides valuable insights through its Insights tool. Use these metrics to understand what's working and what needs adjustment. Pay attention to metrics like engagement rate, reach, and follower growth.
Step 5: Build Your Brand Identity
As a Nigerian, when you see yellow, possibly the first thing that comes to your mind is MTN. And when you see the check mark ✔️, you do not need to think twice before you know it's Nike. A strong brand identity helps ensure your business is easily recognisable and recollected when someone needs a recommendation.
To create a unique brand identity, you need to have:
- A Logo: Your logo on Instagram needs to be easily recognisable, even in a small profile picture. Opt for a clean, simple design with clear lines and distinctive elements.
- Colours: Instagram is a visual platform, so your colour palette should be vivid and attention-grabbing. Choose colours that align with your brand and stand out in a crowded feed.
- Fonts: On days when you'd need to use graphics on your field, your fonts should be easily readable on smaller screens. Clean, sans-serif fonts are often a safe bet.
- Brand Voice: Tailor your brand voice to resonate with Instagram's community. It's a platform that values authenticity and relatability, so aim for a friendly, approachable tone in your captions and communications.
How To Market and Promote An Online Fashion Store
When people hear marketing or promotion, the first thing that comes to mind is paid advertising. Far from it, marketing your store encompasses everything you do, from your content strategy to engagement strategy and even paid advertising.
One of the most effective ways to promote your store on Instagram is by creating visually appealing content. This includes high-quality images, videos, and graphics that showcase your fashion products uniquely and creatively. You can also use Instagram's various features, such as Instagram Stories and Reels, to showcase your products and engage with your audience.
Collaborating with influencers and other brands is another important aspect of marketing and promoting your online fashion store. Influencer marketing has become increasingly popular on Instagram, and by partnering with popular influencers, you can reach a wider audience and increase brand visibility. Collaborating with other brands can help you tap into their audience and gain new followers.
Running paid ads on Instagram is an effective way to reach a targeted audience. Instagram offers different ad formats, such as photo, video, carousel, and story ads. Set specific goals for your campaigns, whether generating website traffic, increasing conversions, or building brand awareness. Use demographic, interest, and behavioural targeting to reach the right audience.
Lastly, don't forget to engage with your audience by responding to comments and direct messages. Building a strong relationship with your followers can lead to brand loyalty and increased sales in the long run. This can also help you get user-generated content, which can help build trust in your business.
Make Great Customer Service The Heart Of Your Online Fashion Store
Customer service is an important aspect of building your online store. It can either make or mar the business you’re trying to build and must be taken seriously. To build stellar customer service, you should invest in the following:
- Prompt and Personalized Response: Responding promptly to customer inquiries and comments demonstrates your commitment to their satisfaction. Address them by name and tailor your responses to their questions or concerns. Personalisation fosters a sense of valued interaction.
- Clear Communication: Ensure your responses are easy to understand, jargon-free, and provide actionable information. Avoid any ambiguity that might lead to misunderstandings.
- Managing Expectations: Set clear expectations regarding response times, shipping times, and return policies. Make this information readily available in your bio or as a highlight. Transparent communication builds trust.
- Handling Complaints and Issues: You should stay calm and professional when handling issues and avoid being confrontational or defensive. And instead of giving excuses, you should offer solutions. If it's something you feel an Instagram DM cannot resolve, you can offer to call the customer.
- Post-Purchase Follow-Up: After a customer makes a purchase, follow up to ensure they are satisfied with their order. This simple gesture shows that you value their business and care about their experience.
- Feedback and Reviews: Encourage customers to leave reviews or provide feedback on their purchases. Positive reviews can serve as social proof for your brand, while constructive criticism can help you identify areas for improvement.
- Show Appreciation: Regularly express gratitude to your customers for their support. This can be done through personalised thank-you messages, exclusive discounts, or special offers for loyal customers.
How To Choose a Delivery Partner For Your Online Fashion Store
Choosing the right delivery partner for your online fashion store is a critical decision to make or break your business. A reliable delivery partner ensures that your customers receive their purchases on time and in good condition, increasing customer satisfaction and repeat business. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a delivery partner for your online fashion store.
First and foremost, reliability should be your top priority. You need a partner that you can trust to deliver your products on time and in the same condition as they left your store. Look for a partner with a proven track record of reliable delivery and a commitment to customer satisfaction.
Another important factor to consider is cost. You want to find a delivery partner that offers competitive rates without sacrificing quality. Consider the size and weight of your products and the distance they will need to travel when comparing delivery costs.
Finally, consider the level of service your delivery partner offers. Do they provide real-time tracking and delivery updates? How do they handle customer service inquiries or issues with deliveries? A delivery partner that offers excellent customer service can help ensure a positive experience for your customers and keep them coming back to your online fashion store.
Partnering With Heroshe for Hassle-free Shipping
Shipping and logistics play a crucial role in the success of your online fashion store. And if you are sourcing products from stores in the UK and USA (which you should), you’d need the help of a reliable company to bring your items home. Hersoshe stands out in this domain as we specialise in facilitating the smooth and cost-effective shipping of items from the UK and US to Nigeria, making it an excellent choice for your business.
Here are some key benefits of using Heroshe for your shipping needs:
- Affordable Rates: Heroshe offers a competitive pricing structure, charging only $8 per pound for shipping from the UK and US to Nigeria. This transparent pricing ensures you can accurately calculate shipping costs and factor them into your product pricing strategy.
- Reliable Service: With Heroshe, you can trust that your items will be handled with care and delivered to Nigeria in a timely manner. Our track record of reliable service makes us a trusted partner for businesses looking to establish a seamless shipping process.
- Hassle-free Shipping: When you think of international shipping, you think of customs and all the procedures for clearing your items. Here’s the tea: Hersohe handles this aspect of shipping, ensuring your items get to you without delays. We take pride in our delivery time between 10 - 14 working days so you can fulfil customer orders on time.
- Customer Support: You are our priority, and if you have any inquiries or concerns, our customer support team is readily available to assist you, enhancing your overall shipping experience.
By partnering with Heroshe, you can confidently expand your sourcing options to the UK and US, gaining access to a wider range of high-quality fashion products for your online store. Our reliable and cost-effective shipping solutions make us a valuable asset in building a successful online fashion business in Nigeria.
To experience the love and swift delivery provided by Heroshe, create an account with us today and start shopping away.
Starting an online fashion store can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. With the right mindset, tools, and resources, you can create a successful business that brings in a steady income stream and provides you with the creative outlet you desire. Remember to focus on your niche, set clear goals, and stay consistent with your branding and marketing efforts. Don't be afraid to take risks and try new things; be prepared to learn from your mistakes and make adjustments. With dedication, hard work, and Heroshe, you can turn your fashion passion into a thriving online business.