How to Start an Online Boutique

Attractive Laughing Blond Woman Present Shopping BagsDo you have a passion for fashion? Would you like to build a career selling your own clothing designs online? The e-commerce industry is evolving every day, and one of the latest business models to emerge is that of the independent online boutique. Thanks to readymade e-commerce platforms like Magento Go and Shopify, anyone can launch their own boutique store in minutes. In this guide, you’ll learn the best way to launch, stock and market your own online fashion boutique store. Don’t know how to start an online boutique? Learn the basics of e-commerce, from inventory management to encouraging your customers to leave reviews and ratings, to Become a successful eCommerce Startup.

Market research for fashion e-commerce storesBoutique display window with mannequins in fashionable dresses

Running your own online boutique is a combination of creativity, fun and serious hard work. Before you open your boutique, it’s important to study the market and identify your target audience, key competitors and marketing opportunities. Carrying out in-depth market research before you launch your e-commerce store is one of the most important parts of the process. Without detailed research, you could launch a store with the wrong pricing, product lineup or style for your audience. Doing market research for the online fashion industry is fairly simple. Search using Google for businesses similar to your own – for example, “women’s leather shoes” or “men’s tailored suits.” As a boutique e-commerce retailer, it’s best to research your market using specific, long tail search phrases. Generic search keywords like “women’s shoes” will bring up websites like Amazon.com and Zappos, which aren’t your key competitors. Have you found your competitors? Don’t be put off by competition – instead, think of each of your competitors as proof that your business concept works. Study your competitors websites to learn the average pricing for items in your industry. As well as studying the prices of products on your competitors’ websites, you can use tools like Alexa.com to work out how much traffic they’re generating. Look at the number of reviews and ratings products receive – these can be good indications of a specific product’s popularity with your target market. There’s a lot more to market research than just visiting your competitors’ websites, but it’s a good way to start. Learn how to carry out a fully market research analysis for your industry in our Market Research Fast Track course.

Sourcing, manufacturing or drop shipping your products

You can’t operate an online boutique without products to sell. There are three ways to source inventory for your online store – you can purchase products directly from a manufacturer, manufacturer them yourself, or sell them from a drop shipper. Drop shipping companies are middlemen that stock a wide variety of products in a warehouse or fulfillment center. Instead of marketing these products, they allow a network of resellers to manage retail sales in exchange for a profit margin. Some drop shippers are also manufacturers. Instead of marketing their products to wholesalers and retail chains, they manage the entire supply chain and allow online boutiques like yours to take care of marketing and retail sales. Drop shipping typically has a low profit margin, but it can be a successful business model if you understand how to market your boutique’s products effectively. Learn How to Master Drop Shipping quickly. More common business models for boutique e-commerce stores include reselling goods from another manufacturer. Most fashion boutiques sell clothes that were made in China, Taiwan and other major textile production centers. This business model can be hugely profitable, since items like t-shirts and jeans are often available at wholesale pricing that’s less than 10% of the retail price. It’s also quite risky, as many manufacturers are unreliable and difficult to work with. The key to succeeding as an import-based online boutique is understanding how to work with Chinese export manufacturers. Learn the basics of doing business with a Chinese company and avoiding scams in our course, Doing Business With China.

Building an e-commerce website for your online boutiquehow to start an online boutique

For most of the last decade, building an e-commerce website was an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. Now, thanks to platforms like Magento Go, Shopify and WordPress, you can launch your own customized store in just a few days. A wide variety of e-commerce platforms are available, each with their own benefits and disadvantages. The ideal platform for your boutique depends on your goals and needs. Do you want power and customizability or simplicity and rapid deployment? If you want to set up your online boutique quickly and don’t care much about having a heavily customized design or order process, a platform like Magento Go or Shopify is ideal. These two platforms are cloud hosted and built for e-commerce beginners. Both platforms allow you to customize the look and feel of your store using themes and templates to suit your boutique’s style. They also both include analytics to help you monitor your traffic sources, conversion rates and advertising campaigns. Can’t decide which cloud hosted e-commerce platform is best? Learn more about the difference between Shopify and Magento Go, including the main advantages of each platform, in our blog post on Shopify vs. Magento. Do you want to host your e-commerce boutique on your own server? If your store is going to receive large amounts of traffic, it’s best to host it on your own server using a platform that you can customize and optimize to meet your needs. WordPress is one of the most widely used content management systems (CMSes) on the Internet, and it’s ideal for hosting your online boutique. With the WooCommerce plugin, you can customize WordPress into a full-featured, powerful online store. Customizing WooCommerce to meet your needs is simple. A wide variety of free and paid themes are available, allowing you to easily change the look of your boutique to suit your style and product lineup. You can also easily integrate WooCommerce with Google Analytics and other online marketing tools to track activity on your store. Almost any plugin that’s compatible with WordPress is also compatible with the WooCommerce store framework. Would you like to use WooCommerce to build your online boutique? Learn how to install WooCommerce and customize it’s look and feel in our course, Building an E-Commerce Website with WordPress and WooCommerce.

Marketing your online boutique using Adwords and social mediahow to start an online boutique

While you’re researching your competitors, you may notice text ads above or beside the normal Google search results. These are Adwords ads, and they’re valuable tools for finding new customers for your online boutique. Adwords allows you to place ads on specific keywords that are relevant to the items you sell in your online boutique. For example, if you sell women’s shoes, you can bid for advertising space on keywords like “leather pumps” or “gladiator sandals.” Since the people that view your ads are already searching for the items you sell, the conversion rate (the percentage of people that click your ads who make a purchase) is significantly higher than any other advertising platform. This, combined with Adwords’ simple user interface, makes it a great place to start advertising your online boutique. Join over 1,600 other marketers and learn how to set up your first Adwords campaign in our course, Google Adwords for Beginners. Although Google Adwords is a great way to attract visitors to your online store, it’s far from the online marketing method. Social media is a great tool for spreading the word about your online boutique and find loyal customers. One of the best social media advertising platforms for driving traffic to your online boutique is Facebook Ads. Facebook’s advertising platform lets you target based on interests, letting you specifically target people with an interest in fashion. For example, you can set up an advertising campaign specifically targeted to women aged from 18 to 40 with an interest in Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Balenciaga, Versace and a variety of other brand names. This lets you laser target your campaign so that your ads only reach people that match your ideal customer profile. Would you like to reach millions of people on Facebook to market your online store and generate sales? Learn how to create Facebook advertising campaigns and target people based on their interests in our Learn Facebook Advertising course. Finally, it’s also possible to market your boutique on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram without spending a cent. With a Facebook Page for your boutique, you can reach fans and customers organically using status updates. This method of marketing is slower paced and more challenging than paid Facebook advertising, but it’s every bit as lucrative. Learn how to grow your online boutique’s sales using social media with Social Media Marketing for Startups.

Are you ready to launch your online boutique?

Launching an online boutique isn’t risk free, but it’s significantly less risky than the traditional path of opening a brick and mortar boutique. Using a sales platform like Shopify and Facebook Ads or Google Adwords, you can set up your online boutique and start generating sales in just a few days. Are you ready to get started? Before you open your e-commerce boutique and start finding customers, read our blog posts on developing an e-commerce store, setting up Magento and using WooCommerce to master the technical side of e-commerce.