Models, Mannequins or Mockups? Best Practices for Apparel Companies

For independent e-commerce retailers working within the fashion industry, 50% of your job is building a brand around your product(s) and business. This entails proper display of your products on all sales channels. Whether it’s your online store, social media page, or other marketing materials, your products need to represent your brand while appearing stylish and realistic. How should you display the apparel you sell? Many successful brands like Homage, Budweiser, and Rogue Fitness have cracked the code and found strategies that work for showcasing apparel online via an e-commerce store and social media channels. We guide you through several factors that can help you determine which method works for you.

Who are you marketing to?

First, you’ll need to identify your target audience. Depending on who your typical customer is, certain product shots will be more favorable than others. For example, take a look at the BMW commercial below.

Have you ever noticed that car commercials rarely show the driver in the car? BMW has a target audience, but since it is most likely segmented by socio-economic status, they do not portray any faces in this commercial. The reasoning behind this may be that they want the viewer to picture themselves in the vehicle.

If you sell unisex clothing, consider crafting a similar marketing strategy. You want customers to see themselves in your apparel, and mockups allow them to do just that. While remaining professional, they allow customers to use their own imagination to picture themselves wearing your apparel to an event, at the gym, or in their home.

What’s your budget?

Budget will play a pivotal role in deciding how you market your apparel online. As far as cost, Models can be the most expensive, with professional models costing around $150-$200 per hour. Additionally, a professional photographer would need to be hired, but taking pictures yourself is always an option if you know what you’re doing. A nice alternative to professional models is hiring friends or family to pose with your apparel. The cost will be much lower, but it may be difficult to get the exact shots you want.

Mannequins are much more cost effective with prices ranges of $100-$200 on average. Not only is this a one-time payment, but often times you have the ability to pick mannequins that fit the style or pose you’re looking for. Of course, once you have the mannequin there won’t be as many options as you would find with a real-life model.

Mockups are the most affordable of all options. Many different services are available online that offer free mockups of shirts, pants, hoodies, etc. This eliminates the hassle of a photoshoot or the sometimes awkwardness that comes with using mannequins. However, mockups are not ideal for every apparel company. Clothing like dresses or suits don’t work well as mockups. It’s best to use models or mannequins when presenting high-end fashion.

Social Media

When it comes to creating a brand on social media, there is only one option for apparel companies; models. Whether you hire them, ask friends, or use Photoshop, customers will want to see real people wearing your products. As you’ll see in the photo below, utilizing models on channels like Instagram and Pinterest help depict the style and swag your apparel brings to the table. Whether you market to teenagers or working adults, models are the way to go.

On your site

A similar approach is necessary for your online store. Landing pages and headers should depict models and backgrounds that both showcase your products and are aesthetically appealing. Take a look at the example below for inspiration on how to arrange product photos on your site.

There is no concrete answer for which style of product photography works best for you. The best thing to do is test out all options and look for feedback from customers. In the end, you will most likely use a combination of two or three photography styles throughout your store and marketing channels. Whichever style you choose, ensure it works into the brand image you are looking to create.