Online Marketing is the greatest connector to future customers. Whether you are a fashion design student with a growing amount of wearable art, or a recent graduate ready to introduce yourself to the industry, a base knowledge of merchandising is needed to excel in the world of business. Marketing strategies can best be broken down into three parts: Content, the textual and visual elements displaying the apparel for sale; Communication, the way you reach out to and connect with potential customers; and Collaboration, the process of sharing resources with like-minded designers to increase awareness and influence. In short, the 3 Cs of online marketing.
PART A: CONTENT
The most important part of business is providing potential customers with a simple way to purchase your clothing. Even if you plan to use an existing e-commerce service to sell your merchandise, you should still have a good knowledge of how e-commerce works.
E-Commerce: There are many definitions to choose from. In the broader sense, e-commerce means doing business over the internet, and the list of online features should include at minimum the following key elements: product display, online ordering and payments processing.
Creating Your Own: When you plan to create your own e-commerce site, you need to be prepared to take orders, accept payments and fulfill shipments. Consider the ease of navigation to making a purchase, and expect to devote considerable time to the process.
Ready Made Service: There are quite a few e-commerce sites to sell your clothing items online, all varying in features and costs. Important points to consider are the visuals of your storefront and the ability to personalize your shop, integrated social networking tools to spread the word about your creations and last but no least the fees and commission policy. For fashion students with constricted budget and no production line options are more limited.
Web analytics are your tools to gauging the performance of your online business. It helps you understand where the business is strong, and where there are opportunities to progress and achieve a better response. There are many different web analytics tools to collect data from, one of the most useful to get you started is Google Analytics, it’s free and its dashboard-type interface will provide you with a high level analysis of your website’s traffic and traffic sources.
Search Engine Optimization
To get customers to visit and purchase from your site, you must ensure a good placing, or page rank, on search engines. SEO can be an in-depth business, but there are a few easy ways to include it in your site.
Descriptive HTML Pages: Search engines often base rankings on website’s page titles, so make sure yours describes what you sell and who you are in a brief. A straightforward manner is using keywords, relevance of your content to specific keywords will leverage search engine rankings for your pages and consequently Web traffic.
Site Map: Creating a site map for your site has a two-way benefit. Visitors can easily navigate, and search engines can crawl clearly through your pages, giving it a better chance of having a strong index ranking.
Continually Update: The more new, relevant and unique information you provide, the more often search engines will crawl through your site. Consider blogging and social media, which is appealing to search engines and entertaining and informative to potential customers.
Submit Your Website: Submission is optional (search engines will eventually find your pages anyway), but it’s a quick and easy step that will only benefit you. Most of the popular search engines, (Google, Bing and Yahoo) do this for free.
Converting Traffic into Sales
You have your e-commerce up and running, and now you need to make sure it’s effective in attracting business. Several tools help you identify how potential customers travel through your site, and pinpoint opportunities on how to maximize sales. A simple beginner’s formula to understanding online selling is by dividing the number of orders with the number of visitors, and multiplying by 100, the resulting number being the conversion rate percentage. The higher this number, the better the website is at promoting sales.
Web Analytics Services: Web analytics tools provide the “why” of a website’s conversion rate. Google Analytics is a great choice for fashion design students on a budget, Google Analytics Goals helps you analyze the entire flow of customers through your website and measure how well your site fulfills your business objectives.
Ease of Use: In addition to using web analytics tools, visit your own site as a “customer”. Be aware of your search filters and navigation menus, making sure your items for sale are easily searched and located. Also, check for ease of purchase. The fewer clicks it takes to purchase an item and navigate the site, the more user-friendly it is to potential customers. When the buying experience is simple and enjoyable, the chance of visitors returning is increased.
PART B: COMMUNICATION
There are both free and paid options to drive traffic to your website, but for this guide the focus is on how to gain customers at the lowest cost. Knowing your potential customers and expending you business exposure require time and dedication. Social networking, blogging, public relations and fashion publishing will bring relevant visitors to your website. Combine that with e-mail marketing and frequent content updates to keep visitors and customers coming back.
Your online business should be easy for customers to stay connected to and social engagement is a key factor. Consider which, and how many, social media outlets to be involved with. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube are all great places to start. Make sure you keep social networks updated frequently, and cross promote the various media you use. For instance, if you create a YouTube video to tell the story of your brand, post the link on Facebook and tweet about the video-making process. Pinterest gives followers the option of pinning your designs on an inspiration board, which means you gain exposure to that board’s visitors.
Consider different ways to get the message about your designs out there. Use LinkedIn to network with journalists. Connect to leading fashion and style blogs, then contribute your own articles and opinions to gain brand recognition. Submitting a press release online can also increase business exposure. Make sure you are targeting the right blogs and media outlets for your line so that your press release has relevance to the people it’s reaching.
Blogs and Fashion Publishing
One of the best ways to build your online marketing is through blogging and fashion publishing. This keeps your website current and updated, which is good for gaining traffic and enhancing conversation rate. Ensure that what is posted is always relevant to your target market, and remember that what you publish helps define the vibe and ambiance behind your designs.
Blogs: Blogging can be one of the strongest online marketing approaches to promote yourself and your fashion designs. Aim to add content weekly or monthly, and announce the content through e-mail lists and social media. Consider content that directly speaks to your designs, like writing about the inspiration behind a line or the design process for a certain item. Visual blogs can be just as effective, using interactive mood boards, video footage of the creation process and photos of your creations being styled or spotted on the street (even if the wearer is a close friend).
Fashion Publishing: Go outside the sphere of your own brand to write about related topics. Posting content on big name fashion blogs links your name to the industry, and increases your likeliness to network and connect with fashion bloggers and readers. If readers comment on your posts, don’t forget to answer back. Always include a link to your website with your name, to make sure you are easily visible to the world (and search engines – aka backlinks to your website).
Notifications: When your designs have had mention in the media, or you have posted a new blog to your website, send a notification to let your customers know. This gets followers involved and interested in your designs on a more personal level, making them feel included in the achievements of your business. If you have new items for sale or introduce a new type of accessories, like adding handbags or jewelry to your clothing line, let your e-mail list be the first to know.
Newsletters: Sending newsletters on a weekly or monthly basis can keep potential customers returning, reminding them to check back continually for new merchandise and feel connected to the fashion label. Providing easy access to customer service and soliciting and welcoming feedback through e-mailing not only gives essential information about what visitors think of your website, but also gives them confidence that their opinion matters.
PART C: COLLABORATION
Online marketing collaboration is the practice of sharing your resources with like-minded designers in order to accomplish better brand recognition and customer value, you would otherwise not be able to achieve on your own. The lack of brand awareness and limited budgets, often makes the task of reaching new audiences an impossibility for many upcoming fashion designers.
Brand Gathering: Establishing a strategic marketing collaboration with other fashion designers is a the most cost-efficient way to reach new audiences and grow your online business more profitable. Once you have a clear idea of what line of products can complement your brand, build strong relationship with your brand partners to provide customers with added value and a personalized unique service experience. There are a few websites out there to help you find brands to collaborate with and grow together more effectively and efficiently.