In March 2015, Google India forecasted that India’s fashion e-tail would reach USD 35 billion by 2020. That is 35% – more than 1/3rd – of the revenue generation predicted from all the sectors across e-commerce in totality! Clothing is one of the fastest moving FMCG’s in the world today, and apparel online retailing opens up an entirely new dimension of possibilities for your business with its wider reach and increasingly convenient accessibility to fashion. It may seem intimidating at first, but here is our 10-step guide that can be your stairway to making your brand a roaring success.

Apparel Online Business
Apparel Photo from Shutterstock.

Start Selling Apparel Online

1. Identify Your Clientele And Research Your Market

Targeting everyone in the initial stages can lead to lack of a targeted inventory and confused marketing. KYC – know your customer – is far from simply a banking norm. It is the foundation of a well thought and painstakingly planned business. Thus, identify your target customers, i.e. whether you wish to begin with catering to men, women or children, or any combination of these. Look into niche verticals as well, such as clothing for curvy or ‘plus sized’ women, maternity wear for office goers, traditional apparel that is handmade/ hand woven by Indian artisans and the like. Remember to start with a narrower clientele. Know that you can expand with time, so don’t try to do it all at once.

When researching your market you need to target your competition, your product and the future market for your offering.

  • Another KYC, Know Your Competition is the key. Know what they’re selling, who is buying from them, what is their marketing strategy. Understand what they are doing and how they are doing it, so you can do it better.
  • Get feedback on your clothing from your network of friends and family to have an intimate and honest survey. Ask them what they liked and what they didn’t, and what they would feel happy buying. Make notes.
  • Be sure to take into account market research conducted by third parties, such as this one:

Women wear report

Image Source: Wazir Management Consultants

2. Business Plan and Start up Capital

A business plan is a charter of the various aspects of a business, how they coalesce and a prediction of what the expected outcome is. The variables of your business plan (manpower, storage/ warehousing, marketing, sales, costing and corresponding fund requirement, delivery logistics) will depend on the model which you choose- whether you manufacture apparel and wish to further sell it in wholesale, or if you wish to only retail, or if your business structure is to procure from a wholesaler and then retail, or simply to drop ship. Decide what, how much and when will you be sourcing the fabrics and the material.

Your business plan and requirement of capital will be formulated in tune with the model (or combination of models) you want to premise your business upon. Now get your startup capital ready, it could be your savings or loans from friends/family or bank or could be raised capital from third party.

3. Flaunt your USP and Decide on the Brand Name

Define your USP, it sets you apart from your competition. It can be the fact that your fabric is sourced from fair trade shops or is organic, or that you offer custom tailoring at home or that you donate one piece of clothing to a child in need for every online purchase etc. Remember, every apparel online store sells cloth but what makes it different from another is their USP. So, flaunt your USP and let your clientele know that you offer the ‘x’ factor, which your competitors do not.

Next is to give a name to your unique offering. The name of your brand is what people will identify you with. It must define your products, must resonate with your USP and should be short and catchy! Make sure it is available for Business Name Registration and domain names.

Delve into different languages and try to come up with a name, which would give the consumer a glimpse into the experience he/ she will have with your products. Do not shy away from using help from professionals and online tools such as GoSpaces and Wordoid.

4. Decide what ecommerce platform you will take in selling online

Now when you have decided on your target and offering, time to decide how you how you wish to be seen online, there are many possibilities vis-à-vis how to make your brand go live. Gauge the pros and cons of each. Check out other e-tailers’ websites- how are they showcasing themselves online? See bigger brands, as well as niche brands. Assess what characteristics you like, what is a must have and what you despise.You can,

(i) Create your own web store from scratch,

(ii) Offer your products on online marketplaces such as Amazon, Mytra and Jabong; or

(iii) You may opt for a SaaS (Software as a Service) e-commerce solution

Creating a web store from scratch will need you to hire a team of professionals (programmers, designers). Though this option will give the exact store which you visualised but it could be a time and money intensive process as you need to pay for each aspect be it buying a domain name, hosting, website designing, security, coding and everything. This is a good option only if you have a successful existing online business and are looking to scale due to huge demand.

An online marketplace is a reasonable option, as it allows you to list your products/ catalogue on its website at a low initial cost and might give you volume sales. But for that you either need to be old player or have good company reviews and cheaper prices. Online marketplaces also have a commission on the sale of your products and brand building would be negligible.

SaaS platforms such as Purple Stores, do not need a techie to manage your apparel online webstore. It is easier than self-hosting because you can have a website set up in 30 minutes and in a monthly price as low as INR 1000 / month. For creating your own brand, it is better than marketplaces. Moreover some service providers offer DIY option, so you get your shop, the way you envisioned it.  Be sure to execute non-disclosure and confidentiality contracts with your host.

Ecommerce platforms

ZDNet Survey : Reasons why businesses are opting for SaaS

Image Source: ZDNet

5. Get Your Domain Name

You can buy a domain name from hosts like godaddy or bigrock. Get it registered for trademark, so you deal with no legal issues in the future. But when you opt for SaaS platform like, Purple Stores, you get it here only. The latter would gather all your tech work under one umbrella, ensuring responsibility and accountability, and reducing the number of verticals you would have to deal with.

It makes good business sense to purchase the additional domain endings like .com, .net, .in and other such available and applicable TLDs. This would ensure that consumers reach your website even if they remember the domain name incorrectly.

Ensure that you get SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certification from your host. This ensures that sensitive information such as credit card numbers and login information are encrypted while being transmitted. This is important to instil confidence in your clientele while they purchase products from your website.

6. Get, Set and Load Your Website with Information

(i) Few must have pages – Know Us Better, Stunning Collection Categories, FAQs, Sizing (International Size Chart), Shipping, Returns, Feedback or Contact Us, The Weave (a blog of sorts, with creative and relevant information regarding cloth/ textile in general and your apparel in particular).

(ii) Upload high definitions photographs – This is critical, as you must ensure a visually enthralling experience for your consumers. Especially for apparel online demo, multiple view and  zoomed in photograph are must, so the viewer can have a closer view of the fabric. Better hire professional and go for model shoot as it gives an idea to the viewer how the apparel will look like when wore. Consult a lawyer – apply for copyright for the photographs of your ensembles, they are your online business assets and need protection.

(ii) The Size Chart – Upload the sizes available along with the size chart guide. This is very critical when targeting women section for the fashion apparels.

(iii) The Descriptions – Upload detailed descriptions of your ensembles. Integrate your content with Google keywords on Google Adword, and ensure you have professional help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques and tools – it increases your online visibility exponentially.

(iv) Finalise the prices of your ensembles–  Keep it relative-  know how your competitors have priced their products. Take into account shipping costs, and do not charge a bomb for delivery.

(iv) Cataloging –  User friendly catalogs makes the shopping quick, fun and easy for your customers. Showcase your unique and new arrivals in your front page. Segregate the products under different collections like formal, casuals, night wear etc. Keep the color variants along with the size for the selection. Also, don’t forget to set up cross sell and up sell opportunities. They generally increase the bag value.

7. How Will You Deliver?

Fulfilling your customers’ orders on time and safely is key to success. In fact, this needs to be decided before your finalise your prices as how you ship will determine the cost of shipping, which you have to integrate into your products’ pricing.

Consider whether you want to have your own team which carries out delivery of orders, or an independent delivery / logistics team. Do you wish to have a huge inventory and warehouse all of it, or would you try drop shipping? You could have a slab based costing for shipping, for instance for orders up to INR ‘X’, you could charge your basic shipping cost. For orders from INR ‘X’ to ‘5X’, you could charge a tad less and for orders above INR ‘5X’, shipping could be free. In case you offer free shipping (which is very attractive to online consumers), ensure that you absorb the cost of shipping in the cost of your product as much as possible.

Some companies have become a one stop shop for online businesses, such as Purple Stores. Not only will they set up your apparel online business, but offline as well, i.e. they provide you with logistics support for order fulfilment as well.

8. Rake in the ‘Cha-ching’!

Online payment can be done through credit and debit cards, internet banking etc. Be sure to integrate PayPal/ PayTM and CC Avenue/ Citrus Pay (choose the payment gateway you wish, but keep multiple options – just in case one fails there should be another one available for consumers). Payment gateways have their own commissions and set up costs, so be sure to investigate properly before deciding which one to use for your website. Purple stores ties in the popular payment gateways into your website (with the sole exception of their starter plan) for free.

9. Go Live, and Shout Out to the World!

Launch your website for apparel online business; plan a party with page 3 regulars or persons from the textile/ clothing industry; start a blog regarding your business in particular, and about textiles/ silhouettes in general; try and get news coverage.

10. Promote your Online Business, Online!

Social Media is everywhere – there is nowhere it cannot or has not reached. Use it to promote your business, be it Facebook for businesses, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Youtube, Tumblr or any other social platform. Come up with interesting hashtags, slogans and taglines. Make sure you apply for copyright of taglines that qualify for copyright protection.

Selling apparel online is a different ball game from creating and cultivating your own brand of apparel online. Although the latter involves a good deal of initiative, planning, coordination and implementation, just a few loyal consumers will make all the work worth it! With professional help readily available for your technical, creative, logistical and legal concerns – sometimes all under one roof, there exists no reason to deny the world exposure to your fabulous creations! Go online, Sell big!

Authored by:

Amit Jain, Founder of purplestores.in, a DIY eCommerce platform designed specifically for the Indian Merchants. It allows them to run their own eCommerce platform with ease even while selling on multiple channels including apparel online webstore. Apart from on demand technical support, Purple Stores gives an access to services like catalog development, logistics support and internet marketing. 

Amit is an engineer from IIT Delhi, MBA from SP Jain Mumbai and worked with Fortune 5 company for 8 years in operations, finance, and risk before taking the entrepreneurial plunge. He is a certified 6 sigma black belt and LEAN expert. Amit is also an active speaker and contributor in the  e-commerce space in India.

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