Darren Spurling is managing director of the women’s designer footwear brand Terry de Havilland. Here, he shares his top tips for running a successful fashion eCommerce business.

Setting up your own business is never easy, but if it’s something you’ve been considering for some time, it’s well worth giving it a go — especially if you choose to enter into an industry you’re genuinely passionate about. Although it comes with some challenges, including tough competition and an ever-expanding market, fashion eCommerce is a great way to access a wider audience and gain higher profits than those who don’t sell online. And, with recent figures from the Office of National Statistics showing that clothing, textile, and footwear stores have seen the greatest year-on-year growth in the e-commerce market, there’s no better time to break into the industry.

Here, I’ll be sharing my top tips for running a successful fashion eCommerce business.

Identify your customers

When you’re setting up any business, it’s important to establish who your customers are going to be before you start designing and selling. We found that it was best to break down this information into several categories, including aspects like age, sex, location, and disposable income to truly understand who to target. Not only was this helpful in the product development process, but it also helped to steer us in the right direction in terms of advertising.

To work out who your customers are, you might find it useful to watch what your competitors are doing and determining what kind of groups are talking about their products, as it’s likely to be similar for you. You could also benefit from using analytical software to see where the people visiting are from, or even distributing free surveys online to reveal which groups would be interested in your product to establish your initial clientele.

It’s also worth noting that your target audience is always susceptible to change. And, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it means you can reach out to many different groups — you just need to be able to respond to inevitable changes by thinking up innovative strategies that’ll ensure you have a loyal band of customers.

Market your brand smartly

At Terry de Havilland, we rely heavily on social media for driving traffic to our website, so we spend a lot of time observing the trends our audience is engaging with. Instagram plays a large role in our marketing strategy, as it allows us to quickly share eye-catching images of our latest designs, as well as pictures of celebrities who are wearing them. If you’re venturing into the fashion eCommerce industry, I would highly recommend using social media in this way to market your brand.

Platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook give you the opportunity to get creative and show your target audience what your brand is like. Making a content calendar to plan what will be shown across what platform will be a big help when you’re in the busy initial stages of setting up. Plus, if you make your content creative and exciting enough, it can be shared around to gain you visibility across the internet.

We’ve also found success in print advertising. It might seem difficult to analyse the traffic from these advertising efforts but, if you offer the likes of magazines unique discount codes their readers can use online, the conversions are pretty easy to track. So, don’t get hung up on one type of advertising. It’s all a process of trial and error, and sometimes it might be best to use a combination of marketing techniques to access a wider target audience.

Create a great user experience

When you’re creating your website, it’s often best to opt for a simple and user-friendly design, as complicated or spammy-looking sites can deter people from making a purchase.

We focus on imagery and let our products do the talking. I truly believe that, if your website is good enough, you won’t need many words to explain your brand’s vision, so think carefully about the layout and images. I would also recommend limiting clashing colours and using clunky paragraphs across your website, as these are likely to look chaotic and may put your customers off from delving any deeper. The checkout process should also be easy to navigate having a fast and seamless checkout process with a trusted payment platform could help you to secure a much higher conversion rate.

Prepare for economic changes

As an eCommerce business, you’ll always need to be aware of the changing economy, as this could impact your sales, as well as any trade agreements you have in place. For example, as we ship overseas, the uncertainty of Brexit has made it difficult for us to predict what will happen in the future. In particular, there may be a rise in shipping costs to the EU, as well as a fall in the value of the pound — both of which can deter our European shoppers from buying.

The economic environment can take many unexpected twists and turns, so you need to be able to remain level-headed and respond to these accordingly. For us, that might mean offering the opportunity to pay in Euros to retain our European customers but, for others, it might mean assessing where the most business is and prioritising those areas.

Running a fashion eCommerce business can be difficult, but with hard work, continual assessments of the market and strategies to stay ahead of your competition, you can succeed.

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