Taking your business online: the first step

A large proportion of garment decorators are traditionalists by nature, relying on word of mouth and repeat orders for success with little regard for their online success. But with the growth of online businesses, customers have more options than ever before and are not afraid to shop around.

It’s time to take the leap into online.

There are numerous options out there to help you take your business online, but it’s all about picking the right option for your business, your target customer base and, of course, your budget.
Your online business should be a reflection of you and an extension of your in-store business. It sounds daunting, but it is manageable if you simplify it.

Start off small. Your website needs to look professional, smart and modern, not something that looks like it was put together in a hurry on a shoestring. Your customers will want a high quality user experience, a site that is easy to use and one that communicates your business’s key selling points and promotes your core products and services.

You can either go for a brochure site (one that doesn’t offer online sales) or an ecommerce site. What you choose to do boils down to what you want. Brochure sites are a low cost way of getting an entry level site for your business online. You can create these yourself using various software such as WordPress, Wix, MoonFruit and so on. Creating these can be time-consuming, but are often a money-saver, although they can sometimes look homemade.

For an ecommerce site or for added functionality, you will usually have to pay more. Shopify, Magento and others allow you to build your own ecommerce site, if you have the time and confidence to do this. There are also businesses out there that offer online web solutions specific to the garment decoration industry (ourselves included), whether you’re looking for a brochure or ecommerce site. Some companies will also manage the site for you while you carry on taking care of the orders.

Whatever you choose, your site should be something you’re comfortable using. You need to be able to understand your site and what it offers. Ecommerce in particular needs a lot of thought to establish how it will work behind the scenes, and is something I’ll be covering in a future column in more detail.

Andrew Langridge is from eTrader, one of the industry’s leading suppliers of websites to garment decorators across the UK.