How to run a small e-commerce business successfully: Case Study – Downcast Apparel
Mixing business with those you love is said to be a bit of a no-no, but for partners, Darcy and Nixx, the founders of Downcast Apparel, their business has been nothing but a success! As supporters of small e-commerce enterprises, we were intrigued to see how this environmentally friendly clothing brand managed a small e-commerce business so efficiently. We spoke to Darcy to find out his tips and tricks for running an online enterprise so smoothly.
Tell us about the business
I have always been very creative and into print designs, so in 2017 I started up my own unisex clothing business with my wife. Born from our love of traditional tattooing, skate culture and alternative music, we started Downcast Apparel so that these influences can be worn on your back, as well as being part of who you are. I believe that every business should be proactive in its approach to environmental responsibility, so all of our garments are purchased from suppliers who are known for using sustainable practices and our in-house designs use eco-friendly inks.
What are your tips for creating a great experience for your e-commerce customers?
Customer journey is incredibly important; we refined ours quite a bit so the number of steps to complete a purchase was as little as possible. Remember, your customers don’t want to feel like buying a product/service from you is a chore! We found having an express PayPal checkout was effective in reducing the risk of losing customers as it made the buying process very quick.
What are your tips for managing deliveries efficiently?
Being organised is essential and I owe a big thank you to my wife for this! We do everything in-house and make sure everything on the website is in stock, and we don’t accept pre-orders; this way, when a purchase is made, we know we can print the design right away. We also make sure our stock is organised and easy to find so when an order comes through it’s a quick process to find it and get it packed.
What are your tips for reducing admin time in your business?
My wife does the admin and finds using spreadsheets are a great way to keep on top of everything; checklists also work very well for me. Additionally, we use Shopify, which is a platform which allows you to bring your store online; it has great tools for keeping track of stock.
What are your tips for reducing costs in your business?
We looked into a number of suppliers before committing to one which meant we were able to go with someone who gave the best price as well as offering excellent quality. However due to covid-19 and Brexit, prices have gone up, so we had to adjust our prices accordingly.
What are your tips for managing making your e-commerce business efficiently?
Making sure you have a good CMS platform is key; we are with Shopify, which I would recommend to everyone! It offers a lot of different tools which are very helpful in making sure everything is running smoothly. Sometimes making a larger investment on a CMS platform is worth the cost as you are able to manage your ecommerce business way more efficiently and will have fewer problems!
How do you stop your e-commerce business from taking over your home?
We didn’t, but we are working on it! We started the business from home, converting our garage into a workshop and using a spare room in our house as a stock room. We recently moved into a larger unit as our workload increased; this allows us to upscale efficiently and keep work life and home life separate. Sometimes I would be working until 11 o’clock at night just because I was at home and could!
What are the products/software/digital platforms you couldn’t do without in your e-commerce business?
Shopify is the main platform we use on a daily basis, and it is mobile and laptop friendly, which is really handy. Instagram is the channel that has supported us the most in our growth; it is where we obtain the majority of our engagement and income.
What are your tips for reducing e-commerce returns?
Fortunately, we do not receive many returns, but I believe this is because we are very transparent about what we do. We provide as much information on the product as possible, including the product’s measurements. We include the returns details on the invoice so if the customer has a problem with the order they can send it back straight away without any hassle.
We enjoyed hearing Darcy’s top tips and tricks for running a successful online clothing business; hopefully, this has given you some insights into ways to grow your online enterprise and maybe even motivated you to go green. Visit Downcast Apparel’s website to see their entire collection of printed garments!