How to Start an Online Boutique in 2021: The Ultimate Guide, Step-by-Step

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In the digital age, online boutiques are a popular alternative to checking your local store for an item that they may not even have in stock. So, if you’re interested in learning more about how to start an online boutique, there really is never a better time.

In the past, boutique owners have faced many challenges, such as finding retail space and obtaining the necessary business licenses. However, the internet has made starting a boutique easier than ever.

Of course, it still takes hard work and a little bit of know-how to successfully set up, fund, and run an online boutique. Whether you have previously dealt with the world of online business or are new to entrepreneurship, this post is for you.

In this article, we will help you understand how to start an online boutique, walk you through each #, and what important things to keep in mind.

While starting an online boutique can be intimidating, if you take it step by step and have your online boutique up and running in no time, the process can be made much more accessible.

What is an Online Boutique?

An online boutique is an e-commerce company that sells a curated line of products aimed at a well-defined audience. A boutique can sell products that are created by the business owner or obtained from a supplier.

Most online boutiques focus on fashion-related product lines and in many cases have a predominantly female target audience.

In the US alone, there are expected to be over 300 million online shoppers by 2023. So now is the perfect time to get your online boutique up and running. However, this could prove difficult if you don’t know where to start.

Why you should open an Online Boutique?

Style – some people have it and some don’t. Fortunately, for those in need, there is one source of style always available – online boutiques!

A creative person with a flair for fashion can capitalize on their talent by sharing their style with others. By applying your unique sensibility to product selection and the composition of outfits, you can give your website visitors access to a new style that they can design themselves.

Then of course there is the money. Your boutique can be a steady source of income. It takes continuous effort to retain your target audience and attract new customers, but when you do, wonderful things can happen.

For example, you can acquire a customer base that is loyal and active enough to make your sales predictable and sustainable.

Social media can help you reach just the right audience at the right moment and watch your business explode. The viral exposure to your business can mean a massive increase in sales.

Once you are open to business, diligent and non-stop focusing on customer loyalty, you can take your boutique to the highest levels of success.

How to start an Online Boutique

Let’s explain how to start an online boutique step by step and get you started.

#1: Decide What to Sell

In order for your online boutique to be successful, you need to make sales. Obviously. Before you can raise any money, however, you need to first decide exactly what your boutique will sell. In other words, you have to find your niche.

It can be tempting to go overboard and have something for everyone. However, especially in the early stages of starting an online boutique, it is advisable to start small and focus on a specific area.

If you are focusing on designer clothing, plan on wearing only women’s or only children’s clothing. Or maybe you would like your boutique to offer bespoke jewellery and accessories. In this case, you shouldn’t cloud the water with random sweaters and leggings.

Once you have a broad view of the customers you want to attract, it is time to narrow down your niche further.

#2: Choose Your Company Name and Entity Type

Part of starting an online boutique is determining the name and business structure you want. This means deciding whether to go alone or have a business partner and a lot more.

Out of all the companies that you can choose from, some might make more sense to your online boutique.

If you are unsure which company to choose, this is a good time to seek advice from a business lawyer or tax advisor who specializes in small business finances. They can steer you in the right direction for your business.

Before choosing a name, make sure it’s easy to say and spell. They searched it on every social media platform and made sure it doesn’t exist yet.

With your online boutique name set, you can purchase your domain name, which should be yourboutiquename.com.

Using an alternative domain extension such as .biz or .shop is an option. Look at your brand image to decide if this is the right move for your business.

Create an Instagram account with the name of your boutique, also for Twitter, Facebook and any social media channels you want to use for marketing purposes.

You could be on the hook if you breach someone else’s brand name if you don’t check ahead of time. Once you’ve gotten into your business, consider adding your own name so that someone else doesn’t take yours.

#4: Create A Business Plan

If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Creating a business plan is like creating a blueprint for a construction project.

It will help you plan the journey ahead and should tell you from the start whether or not your business idea is going to be successful.

Whether you want to sell t-shirts or tuxedos, your business plan should include details of your financial plan, marketing campaign ideas and the overall business model, as well as various other strategies planned.

#5: Decide What to Sell and Find Suppliers

Next, you want to answer a very important question: what do you want to sell? While most business owners looking to start an online boutique plan to sell some type of clothing, there are a variety of products that they might want to sell.

You can open a simple online clothing boutique or, conversely, an online boutique selling custom dog collars. In order to decide what type of products to sell, you should take the time to think about it and do the necessary research.

#6: Choose the Right ECommerce Platform

Now that you have decided what to sell and where to get your products, the next # is to learn how to open an online clothing boutique (or any type of online boutique), choose an eCommerce platform.

With all of the eCommerce platforms available in the market, you should take your time researching and comparing the options in order to find the most suitable for your boutique.

Again, the platform you choose will determine part of your business costs. So, you should decide on one early on and know what costs to expect and what features they offer you in order to build a user-friendly shopping experience for your customers.

What to Look for When Choosing an ECommerce Platform:

  • Is it a dedicated eCommerce platform or a website builder with eCommerce capabilities – and which ones will best serve your business?
  • How much are you willing to pay for a subscription?
  • How user-friendly is the platform? Do you need coding skills or is it mostly drag-and-drop editing?
  • Are the templates mobile responsive so customers can shop from their phones and does the platform offer a mobile app that allows you to monitor your online boutique from any device?
  • What degree of customization does it offer?
  • How many products can you list on the platform (this may be limited depending on the plan) and does it handle variations such as size, color, etc.?
  • How secure is the platform? After all, you want to make sure that your information – and that of your future customers – is protected.

Shopify is one of the most popular eCommerce websites, with prices starting at $30 a month. Similar to Shopify, you can also consider BigCommerce, which is known for its ease of use and is a top Shopify competitor.

However, if all you need is a website with eCommerce capabilities, consider using Wix or Squarespace instead. You can also use websites like Alibaba to find reputable suppliers at cheaper prices.

#7: Set Up Your Online Boutique and Set Business Guidelines

After you’ve chosen an eCommerce software or alternative platform to launch your online boutique, it’s time to actually set up your business.

Since your eCommerce website is a customer’s first introduction to your brand and business, there are a variety of components you should consider when building your business.

#8: Take photos of items and write engaging descriptions

People will buy items from your boutique based solely on the photos. Your product descriptions fill in the gaps and help seal the deal. However, it is the images that arouse and pique a visitor’s interest.

Use photos that look like they were professionally taken, even if you have to hire a professional to do so.

When selling clothing and jewellery, pictures of a product lying flat are fine, but most of your pictures should show the product on a mock-up. Customers need to see what the product looks like on a person’s body.

#9: Register Your Boutique and Get an EIN

By this point, you have learned many of the most important #s in starting an online boutique. However, after you’ve created your online store and set your policies, there are a few additional tasks you need to take care of before you can officially start your eCommerce business.

If you didn’t officially register your online boutique when you selected your entity type, now is the time to do so.

Of course, not all companies are required to register with their state or local government. So check with your Secretary of State’s website, business office, or other local government organization to determine what to fill out for your online boutique based on your location.

In addition, this is also a good time to apply for an employer identification number, also known as an EIN or business tax ID number.

While your online boutique may not be required to get an EIN, getting an EIN offers benefits that can be beneficial to any business.

#10: Get Business Licenses or Permits

The next # in starting an online boutique is to get any licenses or permits required for your business. Depending on the type of online boutique you start, there are federal and state licenses and permits that you may need for your business.

As with the registration process, your specific requirements will vary depending on where you are starting your business. This state-by-state guide can help you determine how to get a business license for your online boutique.

#11: Open a business bank account and get a business credit card

When starting an online fashion boutique or business, it is important to keep your personal and business expenses separate. From receiving payments from customers to paying your suppliers, you’ll want to open both a business bank account and a business credit card to process these exchanges.

Opening and responsibly using these accounts can also help improve your business’s creditworthiness. This can be helpful when looking for funding later.

When choosing a commercial bank account, you want to decide which features are most important to your business. Since your online boutique doesn’t handle cash, you can decide that physical banking location isn’t important and explore your online banking options instead.

#12: Get Funding

Although the overhead costs of an online boutique are lower than those of a business with a physical location, you still need to cover some costs up front, likely before you can start making money.

#13: Set Up a Payment Processor

In order for your online boutique to grow, you need to be paid. By setting up a payment processor, you can make payments online by connecting your website to a point-of-sale system.

The most popular payment processors include Stripe, Square, and PayPal. You can connect with these providers using any of the three mentioned e-commerce platforms.

#14: Determine how you would like to ship your Products

Having a plan for shipping your products is vital. If your shipping costs are too high or your shipping time is too slow, you are likely to lose customers.

More resources on shipping products from your online boutique:

#15: Test, Then Launch

Take care of the final tasks that need to be done before you start. In particular, have all of the packaging and shipping materials on hand, including a promo business card to add to any package.

Test your website and when everything is ready, make an opening announcement that your audience can’t miss. Use the email reach and all of your social media channels to do this.

#16: Market Your Online Boutique

Your online boutique is now signed, sealed and almost delivered. Now you need to market your boutique and build a loyal customer base. The following are the main marketing methods that you should use:

  1. Email Marketing
  2. Social Media Marketing
  3. Brand ambassadors
  4. Measure

Examples of Online Boutiques

If you need some examples of great online Boutiques, check out these Big Commerce customers.

Elka Collective

Elka Collective stationary boutiques are specially designed for high-end simplicity with layered textures and natural hues to complement their clothing collections.

And you can see how they seamlessly carried this aesthetic over to their eCommerce store for online shoppers.

They also use images and descriptions that resonate with their ideal client who is “looking for high quality, fashionable and relaxed clothing that fits their lifestyle”.

Pop threads

Pop Threads takes advantage of the fact that BigCommerce works great with large catalogs and multiple options so they can offer their customers a wide variety of styles and sizes – from baby bodysuits to 6-ply bodysuits for men.

Valfre

This L.A.-based online boutique has everything you need to give your wardrobe a new look, especially if you love whimsical and rebellious feminist designs. Valfre offers artistic and badass clothing that shows off your strong, independent woman energy.

Valfre is known for a cheeky, feminine girl as a motif. Each of their products is characterized by art and is the symbol of Valfre.

Lirika Matoshi

Lirika Matoshi is a New York-based boutique that started on the Etsy platform known for small business. The handcrafted garments were all originally made from scratch.

Since gaining popularity in New York and on social media platforms, Lirika Matoshi has grown into an acclaimed brand around the world, offering unique, glittery, and ruffled pieces like no other.

This inspiring designer has everything you have ever dreamed of. From sparkling strawberries to soft cotton clouds, this online boutique is where all your money will be spent on stunning designs (if those aren’t sold out yet).

Lucy In The Sky

Looking for minimal but flattering cocktail dresses and luxurious outfits? Lucy In The Sky has the night out kits you need.

This LA boutique has matching skirts and tops, dresses, bodysuits and accessories to spice up your evening.

The formal and matching attire is characterized by unique details. All of her pieces feature fresh design features like ruffles, ruffles and lace to add a touch of glamor to your next formal dress.

Combine your figure-hugging clothes with some shine from the sparkling accessories section and you will be unstoppable.

Lulus

If you have never shopped at this popular online boutique, you are seriously missing out.

In this store you will find all kinds of dresses and heels as well as cute, slightly boho-colored tops, tanks and matching sets.

Lulus is a college girl’s best friend, and we can’t live without her.

All of the parts you see on their website are affordable and extremely high quality. The best part is that they showcase each piece on real women so you can see what the pieces look like in real life before you buy!

How much does it cost to open an online boutique?

One of the most important elements of your business plan is your financial projects. So, you should think about the start-up cost. So, you may be wondering what the cost of starting an online boutique is.

Fortunately, the cost of starting an online boutique is much more manageable compared to brick-and-mortar boutiques or other types of businesses – and you have reasonable control over where and how you spend your money.

With that in mind, it is very likely that with a few hundred dollars you can open an online boutique. Although it will be difficult to start an online boutique with no money, you can make it very affordable.

With that in mind, here are some of the top costs to consider:

  • Website Cost: This may include web hosting, a custom domain name, an eCommerce platform subscription, a merchant service provider, and anything else you need to get your online boutique website up and running.
  • Inventory Cost: Inventory is probably the most important price to consider. After all, you can’t have an online boutique with no products to sell. Ultimately, these costs will vary based on the products you sell and the suppliers you work with. However, you should carefully consider how much inventory you will need.
  • Shipping Costs: As an eCommerce company, shipping is critical to your process. Hence, at the beginning of the process, you should think about various shipping options, providers, and potential costs.

  • Marketing and Promotion Costs: While there are a number of ways you can get started promoting your business for free, at the very least you should consider what the marketing and promotion costs for your boutique will be when you get up and running.

Conclusion

Owning an online boutique that perfectly reflects their style is the dream of many fashionable, enterprising people. If you are one of these people you should know that the dream is within your grasp.

While learning to start an online boutique can be time consuming, there is no doubt that getting started selling online is often easier and faster than opening a brick-and-mortar store.

References

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