Selling clothes online can be an incredibly successful venture. Whether it’s to rid your house of all that useless junk lying around or because you’re thinking of breaking free of the rat race, success is just around the corner. However, getting started on any eCommerce gig is a formidable task.
Selling clothes is an excellent, comparatively simple start to the world of online sales, and it’s easy to be successful with a little research and some marketing savvy. You know as a buyer when quality you look for, so as a seller you know how to list your items. Sales is just the inverse of shopping, after all.
Be that as it may, even if selling clothes online turns out to be a piece of cake, turning it into a profitable side hustle (or a full-time business) requires a few steps and skills beyond listing your old gym shorts on eBay and taking the first bid that comes your way.
#1: Find, Know, and Market to Your Customer Base
“Know your market” is a cliche, blanket term for what may seem to be an obvious idea, but the fact remains that it’s the foundation of any business. Knowledge of your market determines, albeit indirectly, how your major business decisions are made and implemented. You’re going to have a hard time getting rid of your death metal t-shirts if you’re marketing them to grandma’s knitting circle. You’re going to have an even harder time if your second-hand thrift store claims everything is “new out of the box” (especially if it isn’t).
However, just as you shouldn’t uptalk products beyond their value, you also shouldn’t talk them down unnecessarily. The only way to be successful selling clothes online is if you actually…you know, sell clothes. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re in this to make a profit, while your customers are in this to save money (and shop in their underwear). Find the sweet spot that allows you to build a thriving business without breaking anyone’s bank.
Advertising Your Wares
Knowing where and what to advertise is important. There are several websites that allow you to sell items, some clothing-specific, such as Poshmark, eBay, TheRealReal, Craigslist, and Facebook marketplace. Each of these sites can target a specific marketplace in specific locations. Are you selling clothes online nationally, or are you starting locally only? Does your stock comprise primarily workout clothes or dress items – or both? Take these things into consideration when choosing both a website and your marketing strategy.
The descriptions you write for your products are important, as they are how you directly market to your audience. For some customers, these descriptions are the first contact they have with your company. You want to make sure each description has enough details, such as size and brand, while being honest about the condition. Don’t make it a doomsday pronouncement, but don’t lie either; just ask yourself what condition your clothes are reaaally in.
Are you like my mother, who buys so many clothes that she sells half of them unworn for a third the price?
Did you wear that shirt twice and decide it wasn’t the right fit after all?
Have you had those gym shorts for three months and you’re finally a size down, but buyers be warned that these otherwise-perfect booty boppers have a small hole courtesy of that one thorn bush on your jogging route?
Presenting an accurate, honest description of the clothes for sale may be might send some buyers away, but your reputation will be preserved in the long run.
#2: Clever, Honest Photography
Photography is an excellent addition to any advertisement for its power to demonstrate your product to potential customers. In order to be successful selling clothes online, you need to market your product. The easiest way to accomplish this via the Internet is to show your customers what the product looks like.
As such, each picture should be carefully curated – you don’t have to hire a professional, but the photos should be well-done. The images come together to compose an overall portrait of the selling points for any item you post. Chief among these features are:
- Full views of the front and back
- Any “fancy” details such as lace, prints, embroidered patterns, etc
- Flaws, such as tears, holes, and stains
- Use an easily recognizable object such as a quarter or dollar to show the size/length
Honesty in your photography, even if you think it will affect your bottom line, is important. The last thing you want is for a customer to leave a negative review on three different websites because you forgot to take a picture of a coffee stain or missing stitches. Most successful online clothing kiosks and vendors will have a minimum of 3-4 images per item to cover all the bases.
Just because you are honest doesn’t mean you shouldn’t display your items appealingly. Wash and iron the items that can be to make sure they’re in their best possible condition. Next, hang them up, put them on, or lay them out – whichever you choose, do it in the best possible lighting and take pictures at flattering angles (especially if you’re the one wearing them!). If you want to expand your online clothing sales into a full-time gig, it might be worth investing in a mannequin or dress form.
Be sure in your displays that there are no bright spots or shadows that may affect the images. It’s a good idea to have an easily-moved lamp on hand to optimize every shot.
Furthermore, your backdrop should be a solid, flattering color. Black, white, and blue are good choices for many items, but stay away from potentially abrasive or clashing colors such as hot pink or pea soup green.
As mentioned above, descriptions are very important. One thing to consider is how aligned your photos are to your descriptions. If you paint a picture of high-end Levis with no wear or flaws, but your picture is more reminiscent of a Walmart knockoff with half the stitches hanging out, you’ve done something wrong. Whether you write the description looking at the picture or the item itself, make sure your words and images line up – or explain in your description why they don’t.
#3: Price Your Clothes to Sell – and Profit Too
Online shoppers are looking for two things: convenience (read: not wearing pants while they shop) and a hot deal. As an online vendor, you’re looking for something in return: a solid profit margin. While the latter of these may seem to be at odds, there is a sweet spot for every item that should be fairly easy to determine.
First and foremost, search for your specific or similar items on your online competitors’ websites and gauge a reasonable price range for that item in its current condition. Pick a price point somewhere between the off-the-rack and secondhand rates if your item truly is new out of the box, or go a little lower if there is some wear and tear. Keep in mind that if your items don’t move at their initial value, you can always drop the price.
Shipping fees should also be considered in the cost of your item. Do consumers pay for their own shipping? If so, that should be a factor in how much you charge per item. If you pay for the shipping, you’ll need to factor that directly into your bottom line as a cost of doing business.
Keeping all of these things in mind…
It’s time to price your item. Once you’ve done the math and determined a reasonable value, consider an original list price of 15-25% higher than that. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a buyer who snaps the item up, no questions asked or haggling attempted, right out the gate. If the item stays in your closet for more than three or four weeks, you can drop the price by a few bucks without “losing” any money.
Alternatively, if you think the item is worth the original listing, you can hold a new photoshoot with different lighting and/or spice up the description. A few misplaced words or weird shadows can make the difference between dusty and dough when it comes to being successful selling clothes online.
On the other hand, if you notice that every item is flying off the metaphorical shelves within minutes or hours of posting from day one, you might be pricing far too low. That’s an excellent deal for your customers; not so much for the profitability and longevity of your business.
#4: Postage, Packaging, and Profits, Oh My!
While it may not seem important at first, the way you package your items says a lot about your company. Remember: for first-time customers, this is the first hands-on experience they are going to have with your business. While you don’t need to pay extra for special-order boxes or wrap each item in a bow, keeping your items safe, neat, and presentable from your house to theirs is too often an overlooked aspect of the online vending process.
Start by considering what you’re shipping. Selling clothes online comes with the inherent hazard of mixing and matching – and I don’t mean your patterns. Throwing the wrong items together, such as high heeled shoes with flimsy fabrics, can lead to damaged products, which will negatively affect your seller’s rating. To mitigate potential issues, research which items ship best in boxes, bags, or other alternatives.
For instance, you can wrap clothes in tissue paper or tuck them in a plastic bag to separate pieces in orders with multiple purchases. Alternatively, fold and tightly pack your items into a small box or shipping bag for a no-frills approach. Pack items such as shoes and purses in something more protective such as bubble wrap or padded packaging. Components such as buckles, soles, and stiletto heels can scuff or even tear other, comparatively more fragile, items.
Another idea to consider is to add a little note to every order. Be it handwritten on colorful stationary or a pre-ordered business card with your signature on it, this is a physical reminder to your customers that there is a real person on the other side of every transaction.
#5: Build Your Brand
The quality (or price) of your clothing should speak for itself. However, it’s always a good idea to back up every item with a brand that can speak even louder. In order to be successful selling clothes online, you’ll need a brand that just screams “QUALITY.”
Pick a Name, Any Name
This can be based off your name, a fun pun, or directly related to your merchandise. Whatever you choose, try to make it original and fitting for what you want your store to be.
Pick a Niche, Just Not Any Niche
This goes back to knowing your customer base, but it’s worth rehashing here. You’re marketing to the people who want to buy your products, so stick to one or a limited few selections of products you can keep up with. These can be divided into niches such as plus sized, vintage styles, thrift or retail only, or a seasonal marketplace – know who you are going in, or learn it fast.
Whether you’re selling on eBay, a clothing-only marketplace, or from your own website, including a professional-looking chart can work to your advantage. These will give your customers a better idea of what they are looking at and reduce your return rate, and it will add a visual to accompany the “Size” section of your description. There are several websites that generate free size charts.
Two kinds of size charts to consider are visual, which compare sizes of an item to itself, or single template, which are used for selling individual items. These templates are quick to generate and even quicker to fill in, and they can provide a sense of informative professionalism your store would have been missing otherwise.
To Be Successful Selling Clothes Online, Sell Yourself
Let your customers know you care. Just because you’re selling clothes online doesn’t mean that you aren’t a living person on the other side of the screen. Use social media to promote your items and interact with your adoring consumer base. Respond quickly to questions both on your sites and affiliate promotions, and consider updating your website’s home page or individual listing with the information/responses you give for other customers who may have similar questions.
It’s also important to keep in communication with your customers throughout the selling process. When you grow and get busy, you may not have time to write a personal letter with every shipment, but do be sure to let customers know when their items have shipped and when you have received payment. Be sure also to thank them for their business (preferably without using the cliche sentence “Thank you for your business”).
Other Ways to Make Money Online
If you’ve gotten this far and decided that selling your clothes online doesn’t strike your fancy, try out one of our other articles on how to be successful selling your objects and talents online and off. Whether you’ve always dreamed of being a writer, driving for a living, or building your own business from the ground up, we have an option here for you!