LAUNCH YOUR FASHION BRAND ON-LINE

Have A Plan

This may seem obvious but it’s important to keep the big picture in perspective. When launching online, have specific goals and targets in mind. And review these goals and targets regularly to learn what’s working and what’s not.
You’ll also need to consider inventory, payment, and shipping processes before planning any kind of sales channel.
Is your goal to grow your social media followers in preparation of your future launch? Then you’ll need to have a marketing plan and clear vision of your brand’s voice.
Is your goal to gain the attention of certain editors or buyers? Rather than blindly spending the money to build a website and build a social media presence, plan and set objectives.
Visualize Your Brand
A picture is worth a thousand words… for a reason. Having unique, high-resolution images of your product is key in the competitive online fashion market. Spend the time and resources on creating high quality visuals of your product.
In the digital space you will be competing with brands from all over the world and it’s imperative to allow customers, editors, and buyers to be able to see your product at its very best.
Humans are visual creatures and, particularly in the fashion realm, visual information is easily absorbed and easily share-able.
Quality Over Quantity
If you’re unable to use a PR agency to create online buzz, the easiest way to do this on your own is through social media channels. There are now more than just a handful of social networks and it seems a new one is popping up every other day. It’s critical to carefully select which social media networks fit your brand and which ones you should, and are able to focus on.
Rather than signing your company up for every single social media network, especially ones you are not familiar with, spend the time to research which tools will reach your target audience and which ones you can feasibly spend quality time on.
It’s better to select a few networks that you can focus and build an audience on, rather than spending sporadic time on wide number of networks.
Interact  With Your  Audience
Once your brand is on social media, reciprocation is key. The beauty of social media is that a two-way exchange is possible between the brand and the audience. Conversations happen, outreach is possible, content is share-able and relationships are built.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity by not responding to comments and tweets.  Let your followers know you acknowledge and appreciate their support through timely responsiveness. Ask questions, comment back, retweet, share and treat your followers like a customer that would walk into your store – with respect.
Be Patient
There are many challenges that come with launching online and overnight success is rare. Your online audience won’t be able to touch and feel the product face to face so it will take hard work and continued effort to effectively communicate the quality and feel of your product online.
Within your strategy and marketing plan, set aside an adequate amount of time and resources to develop a strong online presence and to build rapport with your target audience and customers.

1) First things first - do the travel and relationship building you'll need to get a manufacturer on board. Not all manufacturers will work with startups, many will have an MOQ (minimum order quantity) which will be a tough sell when you're getting started. Instead work with a manufacturer that can do smaller quantities and is used to working with startups. This usually also means getting on a plane and going to China, Turkey, or Thailand to get started.

2) Start with one garment type - one mistake I've seen people make in the past is trying to start with an entire line of clothing. You'll get there but starting small is critical, especially when you're dealing with physical merchandise like clothing. Determine who your target market is and what particular garment would be the most interesting to them. Here's an example - let's say you're targeting lawyers, you know they wear dress shirts frequently so you start there. 

3) Make samples and test on more than just friends and family - you might feel the need to launch your website as quickly as possible. Skipping the "testing" phase is a huge mistake as there will most likely be issues to sort-out with the first garments that you make. Start with friends and family and then reach-out a bit further and try to get clothes into the hands of people who might not know you very well and are thus more likely to give you their honest opinion. This is where you'll find out if people will generally be happy with what you're making or if there are some tweaks you'll have to make on your side to really get your garments ready for primetime.

4) Pick an eCommerce platform - once you feel confident that you will make garments that people will buy, keep, and be genuinely happy with it's time to start on the website. There are a few eCommerce platforms out there that make it easy for anyone to get started selling online, the top three are:

- Shopify
- BigCommerce
- Volusion

5) Take great photos - one of the too often overlooked parts of an apparel eCommerce store is the quality of the photography. Remember, this is where you're really going to get the shopper's attention and since they can't touch or feel the clothing, a good picture really is worth everything. Taking great photos means using a high quality camera (i.e. not your smartphone) and nailing the lighting (i.e. not the regular lights in your home). If you really want to hit it out of the park you can hire a photographer for a few hundred dollars that will really make your photos pop.

6) Bring your new website live - you now know who will make your clothes, you know you can make clothes people like, you've picked an eCommerce platform, and you have some great photos. Putting this all together means you can now have a website where people can buy your clothes. Just remember, after getting to this step you haven't done all the work you have to, instead you've just paid the price to be in the game.

7) Now the hardest part - getting your name out there. To be completely brutally honest, this is where most new brands fail. They spend a ton of time and money on steps 1-6 and then expect that the sales will just start coming in after that. 99% of the time your beautiful website will just sit there with very little traffic and no orders. It can be depressing because you think you did everything you had to do...you just forgot about the most important thing, getting people to your site. This means marketing, and in the beginning this usually means paying money to get people to your site.

8) Develop relationships with influencers - one of the best ways to super-charge your marketing efforts early-on is to try to get influential people to try your clothes. All it takes is one influencer to post a photo with a mention of your brand on Instagram and you could get a flood of traffic. While you'll want to follow all the traditional website marketing techniques, as someone that sells clothes influencer marketing will give you the biggest head-start.

9) Start building your brand - selling clothes online is more than just selling clothes, it also means building a brand. That means you'll want to get in as many publications as you can. Reach-out to writers, tell them what you are doing, see if you can peak their interest and get a story out of it. Keep hustling, if you have the budget for it, hire an independent PR person to help with the push. For most brands this process takes years so don't expect it to happen overnight.

10) Don't give up - last but not least don't give up, but do set realistic expectations. Starting a clothing brand is incredibly hard, heck, getting your manufacturer to consistently make the clothes properly is also hard. This isn't an easy business to break-into but if you can stick with it and focus on small wins, over time your business will grow. Just know that if you want to really make it happen you'll need to be prepared to either invest your own money, get investors, or get a bank loan. Sure, you can push to do as much as you can on nights and weekends while keeping your day job, but anything you want to really take-off you'll need to commit your full time attention to.