Congratulations! You’ve come up with outstanding designs and started your clothing line, you want to sell your shirts online, but aren’t quite sure what’s next. We’ve worked with some phenomenal clothing lines, from fledglings in the industry to well established professionals so we have a lot of shared experience in the custom apparel for retail arena. We want to offer our expertise to help you reach your goals so here are your steps to create and manage your custom apparel retail website.
These are few recommendations to start with. Really think through every function you’re looking to provide to your customers and review if the solution can handle it. If one service does not offer it all, be prepared to seek custom alternatives, but be aware that web developers and programmers can be quite pricey.
Squarespace is relatively easy to use and offers an all-in-one solution to handle inventory, packing slips, coupons, order processing, and secure checkout. We’ve personally used this platform and think it’s pretty solid, plus they offer a slew of templates. Shopify is well-known and comes with 1st class support and is super easy to work with. WordPress (with ecommerce plugins) is a highly customizable option, but be ready for a higher learning curve and more maintenance requirements. Wix is a really affordable option and it’s easy to use but we’d say it’s probably the least sophisticated of the options here. If you offer custom apparel for organizations, Tilt is highly recommended for order detail documentation.
You want your website to be appealing, yet simple and easy to navigate. If you’re using a template, you may not be able to customize very much, and alternatively, customization may require some web developing skills. If you have too much going on such as images, text, and links, it can become overwhelming which may scare away a potential customer. Make your brand the focal point. Whether it’s your brand’s logo at the top of the page, or the brand name with a little background information on the company, make it the first thing your customers see when they land on your site.
Another great idea is to have some kind of intro page that pops up with an offer or a featured product. You can also create a short slideshow or video of people wearing certain products from the brand, including the brand name. This not only creates interest, it shows that the brand is legitimate, creative, organized, and professional. Your goal is to make your customers fall in love with your website before they are able to fall in love with what you have to offer them.
When it comes to the navigation on your website, don’t make it too complicated. It’s one thing to have unique ways of accessing links, such as a drop down box of options, but you don’t want the options to be completely hidden. When setting up your website, using direct links for categories will help keep your items organized and manageable. As a customer, having direct links at their convenience will allow them to shop easier and focus on the product by limiting the results. For example, if a visitor is looking to buy a tank top and the website has all the merchandise combined on a single page, it can make it hard to find a specific product. Creating links that list the specific types of apparel will solve this problem and make it easier on the customer to sort through what they wish to view.
A great way to draw your customer’s attention is to create some kind of urgency. Whether it’s a deal that will only last a certain amount of time, limited edition products, a popular products page, or a clearance section, incentives will attract customers and give them more of a reason to purchase from your company.
As the supplier, you know what types of apparel you are selling. You know the look, material, and feel to each of your products, however your customers do not. Giving specific details for each item will allow the customer to have a better understanding of what they are potentially going to buy. If you just list a picture of a t-shirt without any description of the material, they might move along to another source because it wasn’t clear what they would be getting.
Sometimes you will create a design that includes excessive verbiage. There are thousands of different fonts right at your fingertips and you can still be creative without your design becoming too busy. For example, the “Stay Weird” font above is fashionable and fun, without looking confusing. Using multiple font styles can add a visually appealing effect, but only if the words remain legible. The logo on the shirt on the right, consists of numerous words, all in separate fonts. Had the designer stuck with one or two fonts, the message of the artwork might not have turned unclear. The text in a design is usually an important detail, so you want to make sure people can read it clearly!
Apparel sizes differ wherever you go. Whether it be because of the fabric type, or the way a manufacturer designs their apparel, you will never be the same size in absolutely everything you buy and wear. With this being said, a helpful idea would be to add a size chart for each product as a guide for your customers. This way, your customers will know for sure that they have ordered the correct size and feel confident in what they purchased. Not only does adding a size chart help with the overall experience, it will avoid potential order exchanges and returns due to sizing issues.
No matter where you receive your blank product from, keeping track of your stock quantities and colors is imperative. Checking with the manufacturer of the apparel weekly and updating the quantities available per item on your site will eliminate the hassle of customers requesting refunds or exchanges because the product they purchased was not available. Managing this will keep you on top of things, while providing the best service and consideration for your online shoppers. Remember, from the second your customers place their order, they are excited to receive their goods. You don’t want anything to interfere with the happiness of your customers!
An important detail to remember is that your customers are expecting to receive exactly what the product looks like on your website. It is important to showcase your product colors appropriately. If someone orders what looks like a pink shirt and receives something closer to purple, chances are they won’t be happy. The best way to avoid color confusion is to post a picture of the actual garment, in addition to color swatches available to each product. However, colors swatches on a computer screen can be misleading and look different from the color of an actual garment so it’s important to add a disclaimer stating this.
A helpful addition to your website would be a way for your customers to filter through your products when they know exactly what they are looking for. For example, if they were looking for a 100% cotton material shirt, they could look for that link under the fabrication tab, and it will sort through all merchandise and only show options in that type of material. This eliminates having customers search through multiple pages to find what they’re wanting.
When a customer comes to your site and gets excited to make a purchase, the last thing you want is to scare them away with confusing prices. Two things to keep in mind are prices per size and the cost of shipping. Sometimes not all shirt sizes will be the same price. One example of this would be if a size has more fabric content, such as a plus size shirt, but that is not always the only case.
Product manufacturers will use supply and demand principles to generate pricing, and if a size such as a children’s extra small is not in high demand, they will reduce supply and/or charge a premium price for manufacturing in smaller batches. As long as you are up front with the price per size, your customers won’t feel blindsided. Additionally, shipping costs can sometimes deter a potential customer from completing their checkout. Make sure your shipping prices are fair and reasonable, and if possible, offer a flat-rate fee. Many retail operations offer a set price, such as $10, to ship any amount of product, and list that clearly on homepages or product pages. Some e-commerce platforms allow you to set up several tiers of pricing, including offering free shipping if a customer spends a certain amount on products.
It is important to have a clear representation of exactly what kind of embellishment is included on your products. Along with having a picture of the embellished garment on a real person, a great way to show it in detail would be to have a second picture of the design zoomed in so it is clear to see. This will give your customer a much better view of what their purchase will look like. Stating the dimensions of the design would also be helpful so the customer knows what to expect when they receive their products. The more detail, the better understanding your customers will have.
When your customer is finished ordering and is ready to proceed to the web cart, it is extremely important that their confirmation is accurate and easy to understand. Your customer will most likely look at the confirmation and sort through each and every detail to make sure they ordered the correct sizes, quantities, and colors. The payment is the final step of the order, you wouldn’t want anything to become confusing at the very last step of the shopping experience and they abandon the purchase. You want your customers to feel assured that their orders are complete, correct, and headed their way so providing the customer the ability to track their orders helpful. Everyone wants to know when to expect their order!
Even if you think you have mastered online retail and don’t believe any changes could be made to improve your website, viewing your online store frequently will help ensure that it is up and running properly. A beneficial tip as a site designer would be to go through each step of the order process as if you were a customer. By doing that, you can personally experience what your buyers go through while visiting your site. This will help to identify issues and spark new ideas to update and improve certain aspects of your store. Reviewing your competition is another great resource for inspiration and understanding what doesn’t work. Lastly, check your website on different browsers as well as on mobile devices like phones and tablets, to ensure customers have a good experience at all times.