Website Functions - What is the purpose of the site, and what does it need to do?
Websites that show clothing and accessories online can be broadly defined as either a Brochure websites or E-Commerce websites, as these website serve different functions.
Small, specialised business were customers need to visit in person to buy the product or use the service.
Bespoke jewellers, couturiers and hair/beauty salons most often use brochure websites.
Manufactures may have brochure websites to showcase their products and direct visitors to resellers or marketplace websites.
Booking and payment facilities may be incorporated into the website or, as often is the case with salons, a link to an external booking system is included in the site.
The business may have a physical shop or be solely available online.
Designers, manufactures and wholesalers are increasingly selling via their own websites.
For many new businesses this is their only way of selling.
An e-commerce site can be a supplementary to selling via marketplace website such as Wolf & Badger or FarFetch, as to gain visibility and brand awareness via search engines online, as a stand alone website, can be challenging, and a marketplace website can give you massive exposure advantage.
The Images Required
Although there are overlaps with brochure and e-commerce websites it is best to focus efforts on the pictures that communicate the most important message. For example a brochure site may include some images of the physical shop or studio as the in person experience is key part of the customers buying experience. An e-commerce websites needs clear product shots as the buyer is making the decision to purchase from these images.
Changing from a Brochure Website to an E-Commerce Website
It is possible to turn a brochure website into an e-commerce site with the addition of extension software referred to as apps or plugins. Some will be more suited to selling a few products and others, such as Woo Commerce for WordPress can handle large busy stores, but there are other considerations such as the capabilities of the hosting service that will need to be addressed.
Even though a specialist e-commerce platform such as Shopify can function as an brochure website, unless there is a special reason for it being set up in this way, it is not cost effective to have a brochure website on an e-commerce platform – WordPress or Squarespace are better suited.
Marketing - Building Relationships
Business models are evolving, subscriptions and memberships are increasingly used to keep customers returning. At the most basic level this could be signing up to an email newsletter – get a discount immediately on sign up, and be the first to know about special deals and exclusive subscriber offers.
Brochure website can use email sign ups to inform customers or clients of special offers, in store or exclusive events which customers can attend in person. Competitions and givaways are a popular way to capture email address or gain a following – be aware through, the quality of these leads may not be as valuable as many people sign up for ‘free stuff’ and will never become customers. Quality over quantity should be the driver.
Building relationships by using loyalty schemes and targeted marketing based on customer profiles are means of keeping ahead of the competition. Software tools that integrates with your website can be set up to help with these systems and tasks. Most have some basic automation, others can handle complex campaigns.
MailChimp will work with most platforms and is expanding to become a fully fledged CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, or if you use Shopify, Klaviyo is the tool that will handle your most complex marketing tasks and look after your customer profiles.
The website that you see is made from information stored in a database, this information includes the pages, text and images. The digital files and folders that make up your website need to live on a server, you can either pay a business to deal with this for you as part of the package as a service known as ‘hosted’, or you pay for the space on a server and upload the website files and folders to the server and manage them yourself, this is called ‘self-hosted’.
There are some great hosted website platforms out there such as Squarespace, Wix and Shopify. Each have their merits and strengths and are worthy of consideration. These (including WordPress.com) come under the category as Software as a Service (SaaS), which means your website lives on their servers.
Note: WordPress.com is the the commercial side of WordPress, this business will host and manage your WordPress website for you for a fee.
There are some great hosted website platforms out there such as Squarespace, Wix and Shopify. Each have their merits and strengths and are worthy of consideration.
Hosted websites come under the category known as Software as a Service (SaaS), which means your website lives on their servers.
WordPress.com is the the commercial side of WordPress, this business will host and manage your WordPress website for you for a fee.
Usually these are easy for the end user to administer and update.
Pros and Cons
The hosting fee may be cheaper than the annual fee for a hosted website, however you are responsible for the upkeep of the site and this required more technical knowledge.
Depending on the level and quality of hosting service the website may not respond well to a sudden increase in traffic.
Pros and Cons
Which platform you decide on depends on your current needs with some planning for the future as it is not always easy to change once the site it set up.
Personally I prefer a self hosted WordPress website for a brochure site as there is lots of control and options for design, this website is built using WordPress, using the highly recommended page builder, Elementor. However, as mentioned above, it is not as easy to use as a hosted platform such as Squarespace which is more suitable if you don’t want to deal with the technical side of setting up a site and the template designs look great.
Squarespace does offer e-commerce as an add-on, but I haven’t seen many site use it and Shopify is more powerful, and if business relies on it Shopify would certainly be my choice.