Making the most of your online fashion presence

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I’ve worked with lots of fashion companies over the past 10 years, and the type of clients I have dealt with are varied. Today for example, RedStar is doing work with two students who are just starting out, a traditional retailer building a multi-channel strategy, a traditional retailer who has closed two shops to focus on online only and one of Europe’s largest retailers (a PLC) – among others.

There are huge differences for all of these companies in terms of structure, company organisation and the key outcomes the business has. However, when it comes to the digital strategy they share a fairly level playing field in many respects – and this gives anybody (in particular the start-ups) a great opportunity when it comes to building an online business.

Key to this is the development company you work with. Anybody (even you) could build their own website and we’ve all got friends or family members who are hobbyists – but my advice would be to pick wisely and make sure you work with a company who can understand selling fashion items online… it’s not as simple as the Google advert for ‘The Cambridge Satchel Company’ makes it sound and some of the things I am going to briefly cover in this blog will give you a good checklist!

When you speak to website development companies, make sure they are going to suggest the right platform for YOU and not to just put you on Open Cart or WordPress (for example) just because that’s what they do, though these could be best for you too. The platform you invest your money in needs to work for you and have the ability to scale with your business and this means that the right solution is vital!

I don’t think a single of our fashion Ecommerce clients have not turned around at some point and said “I can’t believe how many orders I am getting from Australia and Europe – I didn’t expect that”. Why not? Britain is renowned for steering fashion trends throughout the world and quite rightly people in other countries want to buy British. More so in countries such as Australia where a lot of fashion items are imported and they are used to buying from overseas.

So, make sure from day one you are geared up for multinational shipping at least into the EU and Australia – don’t be surprised that sales come from outside of this country. More so, look at where you can get sales away from your website too! With the right platform you can very easily sell on Amazon and ebay without a great degree off fuss – and the latter has an excellent fashion section that they invest heavily in advertising for. There are other marketplaces too – from ASOS to Etsy and Rakuten here in the UK – but just over the Channel in France is La Redoute – a huge marketplace to consider. Researching your audience is the key to finding tapped and untapped market places for business.

One thing you need to make sure is that your stock is visible to potential customers and when you are competing with Boohoo, ASOS, Misguided, AX Paris and Topshop you have your work cut out because of the HUGE budgets they have for digital marketing. Some search engine optimisation is a must to help drive traffic to your site – but social media is something that you can do yourself and do it for free… and because nobody will be as passionate about the garment you have designed or handpicked, you can sell it far better than any PR company! Though getting some help building the perfect social media strategy is advised – a social media policy can help build your brand in no time.

Once customers are on your site, make sure you give them the chance to promote you via social media. From liking products on Facebook, tweeting products and pinning their favourite items on Pinterest it all helps build up awareness of your brand. One thing I would advise you don’t do is pay per click on Google Adwords – it’s expensive and can be tough to give you a good ROI. Instead look at things like Facebook adverts – you can target your audience by age, gender and interests – so if you’re looking for 18-24 year old skater chicks for your baseball cap range… You can be really specific and the cost of advertising can be reasonable.

When you get your customers, be kind to them and keep in touch with them – and this starts before the purchase. A good returns policy and free shipping is a good starting place as these are things that your customers like to see and are used to from your bigger competitors! Look at smart tools such as things like plugins that will email your clients if they abandon a sale before completion – it will give them a gentle reminder that they really did want to buy something from you and something just got in the way of that!

Early on in the development of your business, consider customer relationship management (CRM). One thing that you won’t be able to do on day one (usually) is email marketing – which we always explain very early on to our new eCommerce clients and it usually takes them by surprise… but if you are starting with 0 customers, who are you going to advertise to? Nobody!

Collect data until you build up a database of 100+ contacts, there’s going to be no point in doing any email marketing unless you have a really niche range and ideally 500+ is where you’ll start to see the potential for return on investment. When you do it, use the seasons as the basis for your marketing calendar and look at key events in the year in which you can do a campaign such as Back to School, Easter and Eid (this is massively missed as an opportunity).

Each of these areas does warrant a blog post of it’s own – and I wish you luck in building your business! Just remember to keep it simple, consider overseas territories, utilise other marketplaces and make sure your customers don’t forget about you and you will be on the right track!

Darren Ratcliffe RedStar Creative

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