If you’re a fashion store owner looking to set your sales soaring in 2017, opening an online store might just be the best way to do it. Online sales of clothing, shoes and accessories are booming, with 43% of Australians aged sixteen and over now shopping online for these products, a 14% increase from the previous year.

Online shopping is connecting retailers with more customers than ever before. It’s one of the most cost-effective ways to expand the reach of your fashion brand, opening up a new market without having to pay for additional retail leases or shop assistants. And with the right setup, you can go from local to global overnight.

Even if you want to keep your focus on your bricks-and-mortar store, ecommerce is a great way to do it. Why? Because visiting online stores has become an important part of the modern shopper’s buying process, with 33% of customers regularly checking prices on their phones before or during store visits. That means someone in your competitor’s shop could be looking up your prices right now—if you have an online store.

If you’re in the 50% that hasn’t yet set up your online store, now’s the time. Here’s our easy approach to opening your first online fashion shop.

1. Choose a platform for your online shop

Getting this step right will make the rest of your online shop set-up much easier. There really is no universal best platform—you’re aiming to find the one that best suits your needs. Think about which features are essential for your business, which are nice to have, and which are an unnecessary expense. Consider:

  • Do you have the expertise to host your site and manage bandwidth, storage, security and backups, or do you want your hosting managed for you?
  • How much control do you need over design elements and navigation? Do you want your team to style it from the ground up, or just choose from preset themes?
  • Do you need your online shop to integrate with any systems you’re currently using, like a certain payment gateway, accounting package, or inventory management system?
  • As your business grows, will your shop make it easy for you to sell more clothes online, or will it become difficult and expensive?
  • Is training included as part of the package? How about phone or email support?

Once you’ve selected a platform, it’s best to test it thoroughly. Neto offers managed solutions with training and support, add-on integrations, and ready-to-use themes to help every shop owner take their store online, no matter how tech-savvy you are. We also offer a no-obligation free trial, so you can be confident in your choice.

2. Design your customer experience

This is where the fun starts! Your online store will be the first impression of your brand for many visitors. They’re more likely to become customers if you give them a great experience, so your design needs to help them find what they’re looking for.

You’ll want a responsive design that looks good and loads quickly on all devices. Keep it clean and clutter-free with high-quality, professional photos, easy-to-read fonts and plenty of white space. Group your apparel into categories that will make sense to your customers, by type of garment (pants, skirts), dress code (corporate, sports), or even a special theme (summer nights, snow holiday). And don’t forget to test out your shop on a mobile phone, because 70% of online transactions occur on a mobile device.

With Neto, you can choose from free, editable, and fully-responsive web store themes or customise every aspect of your website and shopping cart with full access to your store’s HTML, CSS, and JS. Need more help? We even offer bespoke design services.

3. Build your product listings

Each product listing is an opportunity to entice your customers to make a purchase. Start with product headline that tells your customers what they’re looking at in a glance: it’s not just a “dress” but a “slinky ankle-length evening dress”. You’ll want to make the most of the search features in your platform, which might mean adding tags like “evening wear” and “strapless”, and allowing customers to filter by size, colour, or style on the category page.

Give customers a three-dimensional understanding of your clothing, shoes or accessories by using photos that show them in a variety of angles both on-display and in-use. Draw attention to the most important information (designers, features, materials) in a few bullet points or a short description, and then write a more detailed explanation that will answer all your customers’ questions before they need to ask. Does the garment fit true to size? Is it machine washable? Where was it made?

Include links to the relevant sizing guides, shipping rates, refund policies and FAQ pages to encourage customers to complete their purchases online. Customer reviews can draw more visitors to your site, establish loyalty and trust, and even answer customer questions for you. And if your platform includes inventory management, like Neto, showing how much stock you have available can become a powerful call to action for the hesitant customer.

4. Select your shipping options

Customers want their orders delivered as soon and as cheaply as possible, and with the Australian population spread over such a vast distance, it’s important for online store owners to consider the timing and cost of your shipping options. Research how easy it is for you to send an order and how your costs will vary with destination and package size or weight. If you’re looking at gobal operations, you may choose different carriers for different regions. And don’t forget click-and-collect, a cheap and speedy option for clients to pick up their orders from your physical shop front as soon as they’re ready.

Neto offers click-and-collect, and also integrates with a variety of popular Australian and New Zealand shipping carriers, including Australia Post eParcel, CourierPost (NZ), Startrack, Couriers Please, Toll Priority, Fastway Couriers and Sendle, taking the hassle out of your order fulfilment.

5. Set up several payment options

There wouldn’t be much point to opening up an online store if you couldn’t get paid. Most online shoppers prefer to pay by credit card, so you’ll need a payment gateway to process your customer’s credit or debit cards and securely transfer financial information to complete the transaction. These providers all have different setup, service and per-transaction charges, so read the fine-print before you choose one.

Third-party processors can be quicker and cheaper (or free) to set up but often charge retailers a higher fee per transaction. You might be willing to take on this cost for the benefit of offering your customers another payment option that they’re already familiar with.

Neto integrates with Australia’s most popular payment gateways and third-party providers, like eWay, SecurePay and PayPal.

6. Add on automation

This is an optional step, and one that varies from platform to platform, but it will really help you get the most out of your online store. Neto integrates with a wide variety of add-ons to help you with automation tasks, such as

  • Emailing individual customers to offer discounts on items in their wishlists or abandoned shopping carts—over half of all online shoppers take up these offers
  • Tracking visitor clicks and running analytics to understand your customers, what brings them to your site, and what they’re searching for
  • Social media monitoring to post to channels automatically and track interactions
  • Targeting specific customers and demographics through email list segmentation
  • A/B testing variations of your home page, product listings and custom landing pages to see how you can increase conversion.

Start here

If you follow the six steps we’ve listed above, your online fashion store should be up and selling in no time. Are you ready to kickstart your year? Start your Neto free trial today.