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Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Start an Online Clothing Store in 2024—7 Essential Steps

Beginner's handbook

How to Start an Online Clothing Store in 2024—7 Essential Steps

How to Start an Online Clothing Store in 2024—7 Essential Steps
Marta Muizniece

By Marta Muizniece

16 min read

Curious to find out how to start an online clothing store? Well, you’re in luck because, thanks to the rising popularity of ecommerce, easy-to-use tools make starting an online clothing business simpler than ever. Whether you’re looking to launch your own online clothing store or just want to explore ecommerce business options, the journey begins here.

Ecommerce platforms, online marketing tools, and dropshipping services like Printful can help you set up a clothing store with minimal resources, but you’ll also need the dedication to make your online store a success. That’s not just about selling clothes online; it’s about creating an online business that resonates with your target audience in the ever-evolving fashion industry.

Before you start selling online, you’ll need to decide on your business model. Not all entrepreneurs follow the same route to enter the fashion industry. Some sell clothing they make themselves, establishing their own clothing line online. Others buy apparel wholesale to start selling clothes online.

There are pros and cons to each approach, but in this blog, we’ll walk you through the process of starting a clothing brand with the print-on-demand dropshipping model. It’s a business model where you sell products on your ecommerce website without keeping inventory. Instead, your products are fulfilled and shipped by a print-on-demand company to customers on your behalf.

To help you turn your passion into a booming fashion business and effectively sell clothes online, we’ve broken down this process step by step.

How to start a successful online clothing store in 7 steps

Keep reading to learn how to start a clothing brand and embark on a rewarding journey in the dynamic world of fashion ecommerce. 

1. Find your niche

A clothing niche is a segment of a market that’s defined by its own unique needs, identity, and preferences, like gardening enthusiasts or Lord of the Rings fans. It may seem counterintuitive to focus on a small group of people. After all, won’t that result in fewer sales?

In reality, everyone has their own outlook, taste, and interests. It’s almost impossible to create a universally loved product or clothing brand. As the saying goes, “when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.” 

So, make sure to do your homework and pick a niche. If you know your niche market, you’ll know your customers, too. The better you know your customers and what they like, the better your chances of creating custom clothing they want.

niche hoodies

Source: Oodie

Equally important, you have to know why you’re doing this:

  • Is starting an online clothing business something you’ve always wanted to try?

  • Are you aching to put your talent to the test?

  • Do you feel like there’s a product you’d like to see on the market but haven’t found yet?

  • Are you looking to make a little extra money on the side?

The bottom line is, everything you do, from your products to your motivation, has to be you. If you won’t be able to explain your reason for starting a clothing company, who will?

A few words on authenticity 

Let’s take a brief philosophical pause and talk about what “authentic” means. In the words of movie director Jim Jarmusch, “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.” 

That doesn’t mean you can go ahead and put a Warhol on a t-shirt because that could raise some trouble with copyright law. What Jarmusch means is, be smart about getting inspired. After all, everything new is inspired by everything old. If you imitate wisely enough, you can end up with something far better than the original.

2. Pick your clothing store products

Choosing the right products is important for two reasons. 

Firstly, the quality of your final designs depends on the product and its characteristics. Secondly, you want to pick products that will be profitable. Here’s what to consider when deciding what products to add to your online clothing store.

Start small

The apparel market seems almost infinite, and it might be tempting to sell everything. But we’d advise you to start off small and slow. Adding too many products that don’t sell well, in the end, could result in extra work like writing product descriptions, organizing photo shoots, etc.

Instead, think of must-have products first and add more items when your current products start selling. This is what the accessory manufacturer Mrs Bow Tie did. In the beginning, they made a name for themselves by selling bow ties only. Their success with just one product was so big that within three years they added cufflinks, neckties, and suspenders to their product list.

a collage of different colored shirts

Source: Match Kicks

Pay attention to the fabric 

The fabric of your garments will determine what the final design will look like.

The three most common types of fabrics used in retail are cotton, polyester, and fabric blends. Each one has different properties, so it’s important to find out the durability, care, and printing suitability, as well as the feel and wear of the fabric. 

For example, with direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, the more cotton a garment has, the better. DTG printing uses water-based inks that stick to cotton better than compared to other materials. Make sure to also pay attention to the thickness of the fabric—if the garment is made from thick cotton (e.g., sweatshirts or hoodies), the fabric can absorb the ink and result in a more faded look.

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Think ahead

The clothing game is constantly shifting. There are two ways you can approach the changes in fashion trends as an ecommerce store owner.

On the one hand, you can pick products that will always be needed, like t-shirts or hoodies. But keep in mind that the competition with staples like these is also incredibly fierce. There are many entrepreneurs selling t-shirts or hoodies, so you’ll need to think how to stand out from the crowd.

Learn more:

On the other hand, you can plan for the changing styles by creating a store with a diverse range of products that constantly changes. Whenever a new trend comes along, you can easily create a new design.

In this case, using a print-on-demand dropshipping model like Printful would work out well. Since you won’t have to invest money in inventory, you’ll be able to add as many products as you like. If a product doesn’t sell, just remove it from the store. And when you get a new idea for a design, you can quickly add the design to your product line-up and see how it performs.

a screenshot of a shopping list

Source: Printful

 

3. Create designs for your products

Let’s get to the creative part—creating cool designs. There are different approaches, but we’ll cover the three main ways to go about creating designs.

Create a design from scratch

You can experiment with different online mockup generators for making designs. For example, when you have a store with Printful, you can use our free Design Maker, which is an incredibly versatile tool. The Design Maker has sample graphics, texts, fonts, emojis, illustrations, clipart, and 80+ million visuals from Getty Images that you can use to create your own designs



Printful design maker
Source: Printful’s Design Maker

Or, you can use the Design Maker to spice up your own artwork files. There are other design tools out there you can use—Photoshop is the most popular, but it’s also quite an investment. Luckily, there are budget-friendly design tools like Canva, Krita, and Photopea.

To be confident that your design will look great on a product, always follow the guidelines created by our in-house experts. You can find the Printful guidelines and print file templates in the File guidelines tab under each product in the catalog.

Use ready-made images and fonts

You can find stock images on websites such as Raw Pixel, Pexels, Unsplash, and a variety of fonts on sites like Fontspace, 1001 Fonts, Fontdesk, or Font Squirrel.

Always read the Terms and Conditions of these websites to see if there are any additional requirements. For instance, ready-made images and fonts often have to be modified before they can be printed on clothing for commercial use.

4. Work on branding

You’ve decided on your target audience, you’ve created beautiful designs—the next step is brand identity.

Branding is the image of your store you present to your customers. It’s the impression that pops into their minds when they hear the name of your business.

For the scope of this blog, we’ll cover the 4 main steps of branding your business. To learn more, read our blog post on creating a successful brand story

Choose a memorable store name

Your store name is the very first thing your potential customers see and interact with, even before they see you or your products.

Firstly, keep your business name short, simple, and easy to pronounce. We’d recommend leaving out words like “a” or “the” to make your name catchier. 

For inspiration, you can try business name generator tools like NameMash, Wordoid, Dot-o-mator, or Namelix.

Secondly, come up with a name that customers will associate with your store. Try to avoid overused or generic business names. For example, “Marta’s Vintage Clothing Store” would be too broad. Instead, pick a name that customers would associate with retro clothes, like Beyond Retro or Rusty Zipper. This way, it’ll be easier for your shoppers to remember your store.

Thirdly, do thorough online research to see if your store name is available. Google is a good start—and don’t forget to look beyond page 2 of search results.

When designing a logo, use simple colors—no more than three and make the text part of your logo clear and readable. Logos with many different colors or gradient colors won’t look the same in different situations. Your logo might appear on stickers or product packaging, just to name a few. That’s why you should stick with a design that’ll look the same across various applications.

You can create the design from scratch or use premade templates, e.g., from Canva.

logo templates

Source: Canva

 

Write a compelling About us page

Imagine meeting someone for the first time at a dinner party. After they introduce themselves and explain what they do for a living, they keep going on about the industry they work in. Then imagine someone who also explains why they do what they do and why they enjoy their work. 

If the second person sounds more interesting, there’s a reason why.

People are drawn to those who are passionate about what they do. An About us page is an opportunity to connect with customers by selling your story, your vision, your mission, and what makes you, you. After all, people make purchase decisions based on emotions—so use the opportunity to create those positive emotions.

There are different ways to create a persuasive About us page. For instance, you can include:

  • How and why you started your store

  • How you make your products

  • What are your core values and beliefs

  • Why customers should choose you

  • Who is the person behind the store

To find out more, read our blog article on writing a persuasive About us page.

preview play-button

5. Choose your ecommerce platform or marketplace

Choosing where to sell your products is one of the foundation stones in your seller journey. Let’s take a look at two options—ecommerce platforms and marketplaces.

An ecommerce platform is a single-seller website where the store owner sells only their products. A marketplace is a website where products from multiple vendors are compiled into one well-organized catalog. Think Etsy or Amazon, where you can pick products from various vendors.

integrations

Source: Printful

Consider these factors when choosing the tool for building your store:

  • Price. Some platforms charge a standard monthly fee, while others charge per transaction. When comparing pricing, pay attention to the hidden costs as well. For instance, payment processing charges often aren’t part of the monthly fee, so compare the payment providers each platform uses.
  • User interface. The platform you choose should be easy to use for you and your customers. If you feel confused while trying to find something on the website, so will your customers. Look for a website that makes it easy to find product information, checkout, and navigate.
  • Integrations and plugins. Look for apps that help set up shipping, deal with taxes, organize marketing activities, etc.
  • Mobile optimization. Around 79% of smartphone users have made at least one purchase on their mobile devices in the last 6 months. A mobile-friendly website makes the shopping experience faster and easier—and your customers will be able to buy your products no matter the device they use.
preview play-button

Learn more: Top 7 Platforms Where to Sell Print-on-Demand Products

6. Set up your clothing store

Now that you’ve picked your products and decided where you’ll sell them, you need to take care of the technical side. Here’s what you should focus on.

Buy a domain name

A domain name is like a digital address where people can find you online. A domain name will give your store a more professional look, and customers will trust you more.  

As a rule of thumb, pick a domain name that’s the same as your store name. You want potential shoppers to connect your business to your website and easily find you online.

Similarly with store names, the shorter your domain name, the better. But what if you have already thought of an amazing but also very long store name? Say your store name is The Great Garden Gnome Gang. In that case, remove all the unnecessary words like ‘’the’’, so you’ll end up with a domain like this: www.gardengang.com.

Once you’ve decided on your domain name, head to Google Domains, Namecheap, GoDaddy, or Hover to register it.

Choose a payment processor

A payment processor or gateway is software that handles the payment between the customer, the customer’s bank, the consumer’s card, and their bank. Think of them as the online equivalent of the hardware that consumers swipe their cards through at brick-and-mortar stores.

When you create your store, you need a payment processor to accept payments from your customers. Some examples of recognized payment gateways are Braintree, PayU, Stripe, PayPal, and Skrill. All of them have pros and cons, but generally, there are two aspects to pay attention to when choosing a payment processor.

Firstly, look for a payment processor that prioritizes information protection and security. Reliable payment processors will have automated tools that help combat credit card fraud and identify and stop suspicious transactions.

Secondly, choose a payment processor that accepts different credit cards, debit cards, and currencies based on different countries. The more ways people can pay you, the better.

Write shipping and return policies

Shipping and return policies create a sense of security in shoppers because they see that if something goes wrong, the store owner has already covered it. Well-designed shipping and return policies will improve your overall reputation and increase sales in the long term.

policy

Source: itsjusta6

 

Shoppers want to know shipping costs, delivery times, and shipping methods. To make sure you’ve covered everything, give your customers answers to the following questions:

  • If you’re US-based, do you ship only to the continental 48 states or also to Alaska and Hawaii? What about military and diplomatic addresses?

  • Are there any countries you don’t ship to? Are there items that can’t be shipped internationally?

  • What is your standard shipping method? Do you offer faster options?

  • If you offer free shipping, are there exclusions and conditions?

  • Do you provide tracking information for all shipments?

Your return policy will depend on the kind of products you sell online, but here are some basics you should think about either way:

  • What items can be returned

  • What items can be exchanged

  • What products are final sale—non-returnable, non-exchangeable

  • When things can be returned or exchanged—30, 60, or 90 days past purchase date

  • In what condition can items be returned—lightly worn, original packaging, not worn at all, etc.

  • What products can be returned for store credit, refund, a product of equal value, etc.

For inspiration on what to include in your shipping policy, read our blog article on how to write return and shipping policies.  

Make a test order

To prepare for a successful clothing store launch, run a test order before your website goes live. A test order allows you to go through the checkout process as your customer would, so you know what’s working and what’s not. It’s particularly important when using the print-on-demand business model—you need to test the product quality yourself before you send it to a customer.

By doing a test order, you can fix hiccups ahead of time and prevent your customers from encountering any issues with the ordering process that would discourage customers from buying from you again. You can even test different addresses, products, and shipping options to ensure everything works as it should.

7. Promote your clothing store

It’s time for some marketing magic. To get that first sale and keep them coming in, here’s what you need to focus on.

Set up social media accounts

It’s quite challenging to imagine selling online without a good social media marketing strategy. A strong social media presence will drive traffic to your store and increase sales, especially if you use paid advertising. 

Each platform has its nuances and strengths. However, some best practices apply to the main social media platforms and should be taken into account across the board.

Consistency. When you sign up with a social media platform, keep your posts and tone consistent. Customers will get used to your voice and schedule, so keep it predictable.

Engagement times. Figure out which times of day get the most likes and comments. You want to post at an optimal time that gets the most attention.

Insight tools. Some platforms have tools that help you understand how your profile and posts are performing. Use them to help optimize your content and timing.

Your profile page. Make sure your “about me” description is accurate and consistent across all platforms. Where possible, include a link to your store.

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Make it easy to leave product reviews

Studies have shown that 93% of online shoppers check what other customers say about a product before making their purchase. Product reviews from other online shoppers are proof to ensure customers that your website is a thriving store they can trust.

There are different ways how you can ask for product reviews. In general, you want to simplify this process, leaving links to product reviews on every relevant page. Displaying photos from other customers using your product is always helpful. Look at how Modcloth does it.


modcloth customer reviews section
Source: Modcloth

Study online marketing

Last but not least—never stop learning! The world of online marketing is constantly changing, and it’s a good idea to always be one step ahead. Read articles and books on marketing strategies and content marketing, or explore online resources. I recommend starting with Printful Lessons—video courses from industry experts who’ll teach you all about digital marketing strategies, creating designs, and so much more.

Incorporate SEO

A crucial component of marketing your online clothing store is leveraging SEO (search engine optimization). Effective SEO practices ensure your online clothing business ranks higher in search results, making it easier for potential customers to find your ecommerce website when they shop online. 

That involves optimizing your website’s content, from product descriptions to blog posts, using relevant keywords like fashion brand, clothing line, and apparel market. Consistently applying SEO strategies can drive more paying customers to your online store, significantly boosting your online business. 

Remember, good SEO can make the difference between a successful online clothing store and one that’s hard to find.

Final thoughts—take what you can

The fashion ecommerce market value in 2024 is forecast to reach around $850B. According to estimates, the industry is expected to reach a value of over $1.2 trillion by 2027. That’s a huge pie to get a piece of. And a great time to start an online clothing business.

Whether you want to create an online store or launch a fashion brand, hopefully, this article gave you that extra push to follow your dream and tap into the fashion business. 

Enjoy creating your online clothing store!

Read next:

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By Marta Muizniece on Jan 25, 2024

Marta Muizniece

Marta is a Content Marketing Specialist at Printful with a background in Social Anthropology. She's passionate about marketing, UX research, and the Oxford comma.

Marta is a Content Marketing Specialist at Printful with a background in Social Anthropology. She's passionate about marketing, UX research, and the Oxford comma.