Are you an eager T-shirt designer? Do you love creating cool customised shirts? If it’s been awhile since you started making your own and people don’t stop telling you how cool they look and asking where they can get them, then it’s time to move your hips and take your brand to the next level!
Congratulations mate, you’re ready to open your own online store! Holy guacamole! But before I start, I want to say something, and I want you to take it very seriously: Do not panic.
We know some people might find this task almost impossible, are you going to build a website? You don’t know how to do that, you’re crazy, that’s too expensive, they’ll say. Lies, lies and more lies. Trust me, I know how tough it is to build a site from scratch. No matter how many times you’ve done it before, you’ll get to a point where you only want to burn your computer, shout at whoever’s next to you and never listen about servers or domains ever again. Yep, it’s that frustrating. However, there’s a secret that will help you carry on and succeed: Never give up! That simple.
That and this guide, obviously. What apparently could seem like a hard process, can become quite lighter and way nicer with this post. That being said, let’s get on with it!
How to build the best online T-shirt shop
1.- Your brand:
This is more of a general marketing advice than a specific one for the online side of your business, but still crucial. Your brand must mean everything to you, anything you do must be aligned to it. It is the personality of a company, after all.
“The world we live in is so crowded of brands that nowadays if you want to stand out you need to be remarkable, and that comes with brands that have clear personalities”.
When you build your website (the physical store, an ad, or whatever…), try to transmit your brand’s identity through it, so if it’s a rebel brand sort of thing, then create a rogue site and use that kind of language. Don’t forget to work on these little details that help your brand tell its true story, for example, make sure you use the right fonts and colours. I know this is very basic advice on marketing, but trust me, not everyone is experienced. First create a unique brand, then stick to it.
Lectures I recommend about how to build a remarkable brand:
- Purple Cow, by Seth Godin
- All Marketers Are Liars, by Seth Godin
- Guerrilla Marketing, by Jay Conrad Levinson
2.- Your website:
Now that you know that you have to keep your story “alive” in everything you do (apologise again if this was already clear), let’s talk about how to build your site.
There are plenty of options for building websites, from making it completely on your own to hiring a professional. But if you don’t have the programming skills and don’t have the budget to hire a professional, I think the best option for you would be to go to WordPress (the most used and famous CMS on Earth), and then buy a customisable template to work around. Square Space is another website builder that’s easy to use and it comes with an integrate online store. It might not be as expensive as you think.
Before you keep on reading, I want to clarify that this is not a “how to build a website from scratch” post. There are plenty of those out there with expertise way better than mine, like this one or this one, for example. Yet, if you have no idea about websites, servers and plugins, I think it’s better if you read this first and then, once you’re convinced you really want to create your own, jump to one of those great resources and use it to guide you through the entire process.
What I really want to talk about now is how you should build the structure of your website, which ones of the different pages you could create and some tips to improve the user experience and the effectivity of the online store itself.
Let’s go over how I think the structure should be:
a) Homepage: The homepage of your website is for your online store what the hall would be for a physical store. It’s what most people will see when they first land on your site. Being a new brand, I’d recommend building a simple home page with a few key sections:
- Hero Image: Made of a few sliders or just a static image. Use a damn good picture that reflects what your brand is about. Many companies use this on their websites to highlight certain points of their businesses or point out some products or offers, we also do that at Printsome, have a look at printsome.com in case you need some inspiration!
- Strongest features: This is not mandatory, but I must admit that I’m a big fan of pointing out the most important features right below the hero image or somewhere else on the home page. If you’re very good at something, I don’t see the point of not saying it out loud! If you have the best turnaround services in the UK, have an exceptional return policy or use a special unique material to design your garments… let us know, mate!
- Featured on: Same thing as the highlighted features. I think you should let us know where you’ve been featured, in case you’ve been. We trust reputable businesses more than unknown ones. Did someone write about you or mentioned you on a wicked blog? Again, say it out loud!
- Top designs: Apart from images and stuffing, you need to show what you’re really good at, and that’s your clothing line. For the homepage, I’d use your best designs, the most shared or sold, maybe the latest you’ve designed or perhaps just your favourite ones or those you think showcase your brand’s personality the best.
- Social Media: We’ll talk about this more thoroughly later, but for now it’s important for you to know that Social Media is crucial for your business. As a clothing line, Instagram and Pinterest are a must, and then the rest. Make sure you have an active presence in at least the first two and also links to them somewhere on the home page (somewhere not hidden), drive traffic from your site to the Social communities!
- Subscription form: We haven’t talked about your newsletter yet, but it will also be decisive for the growth of your brand. It’s necessary that you understand the importance of getting people’s email (people who are obviously interested in what you do). They are the ones who spread the word and will help you grow. Doesn’t it sound important to you? Trust me, reserve a section of your home page for a subscription box. Don’t forget to add call-to-actions (for example, “Get 10% off your next purchase if you subscribe”) in order to increase the effectivity of it.
b) Catalogue: This is the part where most people fail. Why? Simply put, most of the times they are a complete mess They aren’t well organised and the most important features aren’t highlighted, but this won’t happen to you. Because you’ll realise that this section is also critical. Think about it, here’s where people actually see and interact with your garments, check them out and eventually, decide to buy them. We all know that the possibilities of an online store are, obviously, more limited than what you can do in the real world, yet there are a few things I always recommend and not everyone does:
- The structure of the catalogue: Before starting with this, do not panic, this is easier than you think since most plugins for e-commerce on the market are really user-friendly. Make sure you sort your garments in a way that it’s easy to search and find whatever people want. Think deeply about the tags you’re going to use to classify them, you can always have a look at how people search for those products on the internet using tools such as Adwords’ Keyword Planner or some similar ones. Here are some great guides on how to use the most famous e-commerce plugins:
- Product page: Or what’s the same, the page that showcases a single garment. Make sure you allow people to see the different options available (colour, sizes, whether it’s in stock or not), the price, perhaps sharing buttons and so on. You don’t have to tell us everything about it, but at least remind us the main features. Also, ensure that the “add to basket” button can be clearly seen by anybody who visits the page.
c) About you: Even knowing that not many people have this section on their sites, I’d highly recommend you to do it. People love brands that aren’t afraid of showing everything about them, you have nothing to hide. Tell the world your story, how you quit University to become the best t-shirt designer on Earth or how you fought against those who didn’t believe in you… We want to know! Be open my friend!
d) About your brand: How did it start? Has it changed with time? Where do you want to take it? What’s the story of your logo? Any milestone accomplished? Again, we want to know.
e) Blog: You also need a blog. But we’ll talk about that in detail in a minute.
3.- Making your website better:
Once you have the basic stuff done, then it’s time to take your online t-shirt store to the next level. How? With great content. Let’s go over some tips that will help you stand out in the crowded market:
a) Models/Selection of pictures: Since it’s not that easy to provide physical samples when it comes to the online world, most of the time people will get your garments mainly based on two facts: What they think about your brand and the information you give about the garment itself on the site, despite reviews and opinions from other customers. It’s key that you offer high-quality images of the different garments being worn by good looking folks (it is what it is), it’s absolutely necessary to have a great selection of pictures (perhaps in different scenarios), not only of the models but also of the designs. I know most of the people just tend to call that beauty we all have as a friend and tell her whether she wants to be your model. Well, that sometimes work, but is she really what you need? Think deeply about this as it’s proven that the model directly affects sales in the online world. Now you do whatever you want. You’ve been warned.
b) Reviews: If your online community says kind things about you, don’t be shy to add them to your site (could be on the home page, or perhaps on the “about the brand” page or maybe on the “product page”, with specific reviews about that garment). We trust people more than ads, never forget that.
c) High-Quality Content: We all know the easiest content to create is text but, is it the best one possible? Not even close. Why don’t you just shoot a video instead? I know it’s harder and it takes more resources, but it ends up working way better. For example, it’d be awesome if the pages about you and your brand were accompanied by a video (here is a post we wrote a while ago with tips for making great t-shirt videos). Dare to try different stuff, why don’t you explore the world of infographics? Maybe a weekly podcast?
d) Payment Methods: There’s not much to say here. Any e-commerce plugin comes with enough options but just wanted to clarify that the typical rule “as many methods as possible” doesn’t apply here. Paypal and card are more than enough, aren’t they?
e) Landing pages: A landing page is a page where people land on your site, it could be any page, but I recommend you create some for specific campaigns or offers you might have running. I know this is a bit more advanced and no way you’ll need this at the very beginning, yet have a look at these resources that explain how you can create and take advantage of them:
4.- The Blog:
Take this seriously because I’m not joking: The blog is as important to your online business as the garments or the designs themselves. Especially at the very beginning. Here you tell the story of your brand and talk about other relevant stuff for your audience. Use it cleverly. I recommend you have a look at some of the most famous T-shirt blogs so you can get inspired. See how they engage with their audience and try to imitate what they do, but with your own unique style.
Make sure you create great useful content for your readers and you’ll be halfway done! Try different formats, don’t stick to text. Here are some great resources that will help you develop a simple content plan that will make your blog grow faster:
- How to build an unbeatable content marketing plan
- How to make a content strategy for your small business website
Think about that, you need to build a community around your brand and your blog. Your brand desperately needs a blog.
The newsletter is what takes your community to the next level of engagement, use it to communicate news, send offers or just your latest content BUT, make sure you don’t spam your audience. Again, there are plenty of blogs that explain how to effectively build your newsletter, here you can find a few:
6.- Social Media:
You probably know already how important Social Media is for your brand, it’s one of the most effective ways to get traction and spread your message online. For a business like yours, I’d recommend starting with Instagram and Pinterest. These visual networks are perfect for what you need. Don’t hesitate to have a look at some of the best t-shirt brands on Social Media, what they do is just amazing!
7.- Extra, Be risky:
I must admit that the best thing you can do for your brand is to dare and be different. Try new stuff. Who knows, let’s say nobody lets people order samples before they get their t-shirts, why don’t you come up with a new system that makes it possible? Or for example, have you thought about crowdfunding campaigns to kickstart your business idea?
Being risky is the only way we have nowadays to catch people’s attention. Be different, my friend.
Print on Demand
Here at Printsome, we’ve always supported creative endeavours which is why we’re proud to announce our brand new ‘print on demand’ service.
Thanks to our five years of experience in the apparel-printing industry, we were able to design a platform catered towards the needs of artists and designers who want to start their own T-shirt line. Printsome’s ‘Print on demand’ service has no minimum orders and can print any design with no colour limitations.
From the moment you connect your online shop (like Shopify) with our platform, anyone can buy one of your designs. We deliver all over the UK and Europe. Drop shipping has never been this easy.
Why worry about inventory or logistics when we can take care of that? We deal with the boring stuff so you have more time to do what you love. To find out more, simply visit our brand new website by clicking on the banner below.