How to Set Up Your Online Store and Establish a Presence on Social Media for Your At Home Business
You got all your screen printing equipment and supplies set up at home. You've printed out some designs for your brand. You're ready to show the world what you can do. It's time to get online.
SETTING UP AN ONLINE STORE
Like most things, you got a ton of options. If you're tech-savvy, a design guru, and like a challenge, you can try to set up your own online store on platforms like Shopify, WordPress, Squarespace, etc. These platforms have much more flexibility for you to create your site and showcase your new business. You may go this route if you're a part of a band, especially if you already have your own website.
If you need a little help, consider selling your merchandise on Etsy. Etsy makes it extremely easy for you to upload your merchandise information and they also provide a ton of help articles (shipping, advertising, shop stats and analytics, etc.) to answer all your questions.
Another reason to use Etsy as your online shop is due to its notoriety. In 2019, there were 45.7 million buyers on the site, with more than 40% being repeat buyers. Customers are already there, waiting for you and your creative work to appear.
There is a catch though, lots of buyers means there are quite a few sellers (2.5 million to be exact). How do you stand out from the crowd?
Great question. I chatted with successful shop owner Arbor Fessler of shopMadrone to gain some insight. Arbor has been selling vintage clothing for a few years. For her day job, she's a marketing specialist, so she has the knowledge of how to optimize marketing strategies to get the most you can off of your Etsy store.
First things first, you need product imagery to show off your merch. Arbor suggests to pick a theme for your imagery. What theme you pick depends on what your brand is. She went with nature for her vintage clothing store. If you're creating shirts for the fishing community, your theme will revolve around lakes and rivers, boats, hatcheries, etc. If you're printing apparel for children, you'll be focused around kid stuff like playgrounds, arts and crafts, family events, etc. Once you decide what your theme is, it's time to take photos of your shirts within the theme.
For your shop to gain good traction and credibility, you need to take high-quality photos. Arbor could not stress this point enough. If your photos are grainy, set sloppily, or blurry, people will be less likely to take your brand seriously. If you have a DSLR and know how to use it, you're set to go. You don't necessarily need a fancy camera to take good photos. Arbor uses her iPhone, selecting portrait mode, to take her photos and upload them through photo editing apps like VSCO or Adobe Photoshop app to enhance the photos.
When you're taking photos, you want to show the buyer where they can wear the apparel and what they can wear it with. If they can imagine a scenario where that shirt or that hat will work, they'll want it even more. Some of your photos may be of someone wearing the item, other photos may be a flat-lay of the shirt with a pair of jeans, a cute hat, and stylish heels. Get creative, and have some fun.
Do whatever you can to save money in the beginning. If you need some models, ask your friends and family to help out. Arbor borrows her sister as a model and photographer, and offers her $5 per each item sold. You could do the same, or look to see if there are any budding models or photographers within the area looking to build their portfolio. They may be willing to do it for free, or at a cheaper rate.
Alright, you got all your images ready. Now it's time to write the product description. Some basic information you should include is the quality of garment, sizing, and models' heights (so they can see and understand how it fits).
The words you use to describe your clothing is extremely important. You want your apparel to appear when buyers search for it. First start by doing some research. Find successful stores that are similar to what you plan to sell and see what words are they using. Mimic their verbiage in your descriptions. It will be a trial-and-error process, so keep tabs on what works well, what doesn't, so you can publish SEO-rich descriptions and have your merch fly off the shelves.
Also, the more apparel you have online, the better. More apparel means you're casting a wider net to potential buyers. Don't stray too far off your brand though. Stick to what your niche is and continue to produce exceptional printed apparel that will bring in repeat customers.
You don't need me to tell you how important it is to have your brand on social media. If you're on the fence, here are a few statistics that'll help you decide:
- 76% of US consumers purchase a product they discovered on a brand's social media post (Business Wire)
- 59% of global consumers use social media for inspiration of product purchases (Hootsuite)
- Social media ads drives three-times more non-customers than existing customers to online stores (Adobe Analytics)
Mhmm, social media is the way to go. Now, which platforms should you focus on? Since your content will be heavy on the visuals, you should create accounts on Pinterest and Instagram.
This one is a biggie! According to the Digital Marketing Institute, more than 90% of users plan their purchases by using Pinterest. So yeah, you're going to want to have a Pinterest for your brand.
Once you set up your account, start uploading your product imagery. Use the production description in your Pinterest description since it should already be full of SEO words. With the title, be as straightforward as possible (i.e. "White Monstera Plant T-Shirt"). When you're looking for something online, do you type in flowery language? Nope, you start by using the words that get straight to the items you're looking for. Get in the head of your potential customers; what are they going to be searching? Use those words.
Follow other shops similar to yours. Look to see who's following them, and give those people a follow. Create boards that your audience would be interested in viewing. Try to create pins or pin other content every day. You want your name to appear in other people's feed. That's not going to happen unless you're active on the platform.
Another social media outlet that is fantastic to show off your new brand. Not only is it meant for photos, there is an audience. According to Sprout Social, 90% of users follow at least one business on Instagram, 83% discover new products on the site, and 80% use Instagram to decide what products or services they're going to buy. Yup, Instagram is what you need.
To bring up Arbor's point again, it is incredibly important to take high-quality photos. Great photos establish credibility, spark interest, and entice people to follow your page. The more people interested in your brand means the better likelihood they'll buy something.
Seems pointless to put in all the effort and have only few followers. Again, follow shops similar to yours and engage on their posts. Respond to what people are saying. Look to see who's following the shop and give those people a follow. Like and comment on their photos. Explore hashtags related to your theme and like and comment on the posts. The more you engage, the more followers you'll gain over time.
Encourage your followers to engage with you. Post polls on your stories, ask questions in your posts, motivate your audience to tag you when they post your apparel. Show that there's a human behind the brand. It's also a great way to do some market research to see what your audience wants to buy.
How often do you post? According to Impact, you should post 2-10 times a day. Now, that's quite a bit, especially when you're just starting. Try to post one image to your feed and one image or video to your story a day. At least half of Instagram users check their feed once a day, so you want your brand to appear in their feed as often as possible (mere-exposure effect people, use psychology to your advantage!)
To make your life a little easier and to keep up with an "aesthetic" to your page, come up with a schedule. For example, on Mondays you post your newest apparel offering, Tuesdays highlight a local business you love, Wednesdays are for user-generated imagery, Thursdays throwback to other merch you sell, Fridays focus on an aspect of your theme, Saturdays features something about you, and Sundays show off an aspect of your creative process. Then you already know what kind of content you need to create each week.
If you want to use other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, etc., research your audience some more to ensure that spending more time and energy on these platforms are worth it. For example, the average age of a Facebook user is 40.5 years old. If your audience is middle-age, then you should create a Facebook account for your brand.
Other marketing tactics exist like sales, coupon codes, ads, free shipping, and giveaways. That's something we can dive into in the future.
That's a lot of information. You got quite a few things to do. As always, please reach out to us if you have any questions about starting your business, how to screen print, or what products you need to be successful. Your success is our goal.