How To Start an Online Boutique (Beginner's Guide)

woman online shopping

Starting an online boutique can be a surprisingly affordable way to launch your own business selling specialty items that you curate for a select audience. Thanks to the internet and social media, it is relatively easy to reach your target group with your product line. But there’s a great deal of work involved to make your new business successful. Let’s take a look at ten essential steps for how to start an online boutique.

1. Define Your Product Niche

Before starting an online boutique, know what you want to sell! Define your product line as precisely and narrowly as you can. “Women’s fashion” is simply too broad. It doesn’t tell you, your potential investors, or your customers anything about what you do. But a boutique offering easy boho styles for women in their 20s and 30s, or vintage rock band tees you hand embellish, narrow down specific niches.

2. Choose an eCommerce Platform

Determine your eCommerce platform before you jump into figuring out how to make your own boutique website. Fortunately, building a sleek online boutique that displays your product line, converts sales, and processes payments doesn’t require a hefty investment or ninja programming skills. Various eCommerce platforms have done this heavy lifting for you. When you’re starting out, your best choices are:

  • Shopify - With Shopify, a beginner can build her website, upload products, and process transactions on the first day. This platform was designed to be easy to use, with no experience required. Pricing begins at $29 per month.
  • Big Commerce - Big Commerce is also easy to use, with a bit more of a learning curve. An important consideration is that Big Commerce has no transaction fees, while Shopify charges between 2% and .5%, depending upon your plan. Pricing begins at $29.95 per month.
  • WooCommerce - WooCommerce is an open-source plugin built for WordPress. This is a great choice if you have an established WordPress site. While there is no charge for the plugin, you’ll need to cover the costs for hosting, security certificates, and set up payment processing, which Shopify and Big Commerce cover. Costs vary widely, depending upon the choices you make.

3. Drop Shipping or Inventory?

The biggest decisions as you figure out how to start an online boutique are all about inventory. How to get inventory for an online boutique, how and where to store it, and how to handle shipping are the thorniest issues of your new venture. With drop shipping, you partner with wholesale boutique clothing vendors who ship directly to your customers; you avoid the hassle and expense of keeping inventory and shipping. If the expense of starting an online boutique is your major stumbling block, drop shipping is the answer. 

4. Develop a Business Plan

A business plan is your own, detailed guide to exactly what you need to do to start an online boutique and how you plan to execute. Determine your business model. Will you store inventory? If so, where will you buy it, and where and how will you keep it? How will you ship products, with which delivery services, and what supplies? Or, will you choose drop shipping? How will you market your online boutique? Determine which social media pages you need to set up and plan your marketing strategies. This stage requires lots of market research and involves financial planning.

5. Choose Your Brand Name, Logo and Domain

Now for the fun part of how to start an online boutique! With your niche in mind, choose a name, develop your logo, and decide the domain name for your online boutique. Your first several domain name ideas have likely been taken already, so be sure to check your domain name availability. There are many domain extensions in addition to the “.com” we’re all familiar with. Before you jump on to a different extension that gives you your favorite name, consider the value of the familiar.

6. Explore Wholesale Boutique Clothing Vendors

Now, it’s time to figure out how to get inventory for your online boutique. Research wholesale boutique clothing vendors that provide quality clothing for your niche. What are their sale and returns policies? Do they have steep minimum orders? Will they drop ship? Request samples and contact customer service to get a feel for how well they will communicate with you.

7. Create Your Boutique Website

If learning how to make your own boutique website feels daunting, congratulate yourself on your choice of the eCommerce platform earlier. Watch every video and read every guide to using the site builder, and you’ll find it relatively simple to create a clean, functioning online boutique.

8. Add Products and Descriptions

Treat your online boutique as you would one made of brick and mortar. Personalize it and make it your own with the photos and descriptions of the products you add. The wholesale vendor you purchase from will have pictures and text you can use. But your customers will want your input. What makes this blouse or skirt special so that you chose to offer it in your boutique?

9. Develop Branded Communication

Work with the communications tools of the eCommerce platform you’ve chosen to develop your boutique’s automated messaging. If it’s on brand for you, be playful and use engaging language. Use your branding, boutique name, and logo to create emails to:

  • welcome new subscribers
  • confirm new orders
  • remind visitors of their abandoned carts. 

10. Launch Your Online Boutique

Can you believe it? You learned how to start an online boutique, and you did it! It’s time to take the site live! Test every link and function of the site. Get the Google Analytics tracking pixel set up and working, so you can track visitors properly. Take a minute to congratulate yourself for a huge accomplishment and catch your breath! Now it’s time to launch the marketing strategies you developed in your business plan.

There’s never been a better time to learn how to start an online boutique and make it happen. Your future customers are online right now. Go get ‘em!

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