You’ve decided to go the route of online stores for your t-shirt business and are looking for the best platform to do it on. You’ve got a vision for the company: branding, marketing, and growing a base of customers to eventually sell to.
There are so many options when it comes to retail store platforms that it can be tricky to know where to start. From Shopify to Bigcommerce, you’ll find many platforms that handle all of the dirty work so that you can just focus on creating stunning designs and engaging with customers.
Shopify vs Bigcommerce
If you’re new to this space, you might be wondering which one to go for; Shopify or Bigcommerce?
Well, it really depends on your needs. Do you want a simple eCommerce store where you sell products directly from your manufacturer or distributor? Or do you want to create a fully custom experience where you’re taking care of every aspect of the design and marketing?
If you’re looking to build a brand new eCommerce store from the ground up, you’ll want to go with Shopify. Its robust featureset and simple interface make it a no-brainer for anyone trying to get into eCommerce. Plus, you can use their entire community of developers to help you build the site to fit your needs.
If, however, you’ve got an existing brand that you want to bring to the eCommerce space and are looking for a basic store platform, Bigcommerce is what you need. Bigcommerce was originally built for big brands and companies who need to take care of all the back-end operations; shipping, payments, tax calculations, etc. So if you’ve got a very specific need and don’t want to go the whole nine yards with Shopify, Bigcommerce is the way to go. Also, if you’re looking for something very basic, but don’t want to deal with the whole operation yourself, Bigcommerce is the clear choice.
Squarespace vs Woocommerce vs WordPress)
Another decision you’ll need to make is whether to go with a CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress or a store platform like Shopify or Bigcommerce. The major difference between a CMS and a store platform is that with a CMS, you can add content (such as products) using a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, whereas with a store platform, all the content is curated by the platform, and you have little to no control over the layout, design, or content of the site.
If you’re looking for a simple eCommerce store where you’re not doing any customizing, go with Shopify or Bigcommerce. If, however, you’re looking to create a more complex site with multiple pages and products, a CMS like WordPress is what you need. There are many WooCommerce themes and plugins available that make it easy to add product pages and sell your wares using a CMS.
Single Or Multi-Location
One of the first things you’ll need to decide is whether you want a single location for your store, or did you want to create hubs for each of your stores?
If you decide that you want to keep your products to yourself, and don’t want to share them with other stores, setting up a single location is the way to go. If, however, you want to open up your products to the public, and don’t mind displaying your work in other places, setting up multiple locations is the way to go.
Choosing to set up separate locations for your products gives you the freedom to experiment with the layout and design of the stores, as well as the content (products) without worrying about anything else. For example, if you decide to use a CMS like WordPress, you can easily upload new content (products) into each store, without having to worry about whether your product will match up with the design of the site or not. (WordPress automatically keeps track of the content and updates as you add new products.)
Prices & Delivery
The next thing to decide is whether you want to offer discounts to certain customers or not, and what pricing policies you want to use.
If you decide that you want to offer discounts to certain customers (such as those who make more than $75,000/year), you’ll need to set up the store using a coupon code or discount offer. (Some platforms, like Shopify, allow you to set up special deals for existing customers, as well as new customers.)
The issue with discount codes is that you’ll most likely want to put restrictions on when and where the discount is applicable, as well as how long the discount is valid for. Otherwise, it’s a nightmare trying to keep track of all of those codes, and making sure that they’re still valid when customers are doing their shopping.
For non-discounted items (such as t-shirts and sweatshirts), decide whether you want to use fixed or variable pricing, and whether you want to offer free shipping or not.
If you decide that you want to use fixed pricing, you’ll need to find a good average price for your products. This way, customers know what to expect, and you don’t have to worry about fluctuating prices as much. (When determining what your average price should be, look at similar products that you’ve listed, as well as other trusted sources such as Kelly Blue Book or NADAGuides.)
For items that you want to be variable priced, you’ll need to decide whether you want to use fixed price breaks or look at current market prices and adjust accordingly.
If you decide that you want to use fixed price breaks, you’ll need to set a minimum price (most eCommerce stores use a $0.01/per-item minimum, although some companies like Shopify require a $5 minimum). When a customer searches for your product, and that product is below the set minimum price, the system will automatically show them a message about the minimum price, as well as offer them some other similar products that they might like. (You might also want to consider using affiliate marketing, where you’ll earn a commission when a customer makes a purchase after being shown products that are similar to what they saw on your site.)
You’ll then need to set a maximum price for your variable priced products, as well as the minimum price. Having a floor and ceiling on your prices will help keep your customers and stop them from being tempted to buy products that are on sale elsewhere for cheaper. (This is why many online stores use some form of eCommerce insurance, as a safeguard against selling a customer a cheaper product that’s on the same platform. A customer service rep will walk them through the steps to make the purchase, and in the rare case that something goes wrong, the insurance provides assistance.)
Payment & Security
The final thing to decide is how you’ll handle the payments and ensure security for your customers.
If you decide that you want to use a credit card processing company like Authorize.net or Braintree for your online store, you’ll need to set up a merchant account with them to ensure security of your transactions. (You might also want to look into some type of eCommerce security insurance policy, which many credit card processing companies provide as a part of their services.)
If you decide that you want to handle all of the payments yourself, using a platform like Shopify or Bigcommerce, you’ll need to decide whether you want to use a credit card processing service or create your own gateway for handling cash transactions.
Designing Your T-shirt Store
Now that you’ve got your basic platform and pricing structure decided, it’s time to get to work on designing your t-shirt store. When it comes to eCommerce stores, the overall look and feel are very important, so take some time to find a design that’s easy to use, easy to navigate, and fits your brand.
There are many tools available online, such as Shopify, that can help you with the design process. With so much competition, it’s essential that you stand out from the crowd. If you’re looking for some inspiration, take a look at some of the amazing stores online that are currently selling t-shirts. You can then use that inspiration to create your own unique selling proposition (USP) and stand out from the rest.