Have you ever dreamed about starting an online boutique store? If you are a person who is passionate about fashion and trend, then you must have come across the thought of starting a boutique business.
In traditional boutique business you need to spend lot of money to maintain inventory, and for building rent etc.
You also need to invest in hiring employees to maintain physical inventory and your boutique store.
But in case of an online boutique store, you no need to worry about finding a building to setup your boutique store.
The cost of maintaining physical inventory is much lower because you can maintain your boutique store inventory in your living apartment itself. How cute it is :)
So an online boutique store is one of the easiest ways to start, since it can be started without huge initial investment.
Your passion can fuel your online boutique store.
Believe me either online or tradition clothing business can be profitable and enjoyable if you have a taste for fashion and clothes, but like any other business it requires hard work, dedication and most importantly passion to be successful.
In this guide I will walk you through the process of starting an online boutique store.
I will try to cover all things/issues related to boutique business, which need to be addressed to successfully own an online boutique shop. Let’s dive in.
Online boutique business can be started very easily because it doesn’t require huge investments, but due to the same reason it’s highly competitive business to start with.
In traditional boutique business you can open a retail store in one of the busy corners in your city and expect few customers to walk-in and buy from your store.
But online boutique business requires a unique inventory so that your customers can get a feel of your taste towards fashion and trend.
Online boutique business demands you to have a passion to enjoy latest trends. You should be always passionate about new designs and have instinct for fashion and seasonal trends.
You should become a go-to for fashion forward girls in your town.
You need to identify your niche market, your vision and your love towards cloths comes handy in identifying your niche market.
If you are targeting teen customers then you need to be well verse in teen apparel and fashion changes.
If your customers are expected to be working women then you need to maintain different inventory for their needs.
Either way first you need to identify your niche market, if you try to sell everything to everyone; your chances of success will be very less.
So you need to find your niche market well before starting your own online boutique store.
Identifying and selecting proper niche market is crucial for any business, online boutique is no exception from this.
Be specific about whom you are trying to sell, if possible give a name to your ideal customer.
You can list the demographics of your ideal customer. I have a created a sample demographics list, you can download it from here.
You can use the below provided template to collect the data, you can use this data to identify your ideal customer
3) Income Level
5) Ethnic Background
6) Education Level
Also try to create a list of Psychographics of your ideal customers.
You may be wondering why you need to collect all this information to start a boutique business, but believe me knowing your customers will help you to target better.
You can easily provide a personalized inventory to your customers if you can identify them, so please do not skip this important step.
Hope you identified your ideal customer, now its time to setup your online boutique.
I will walk through important steps to create an online boutique, lets start with name of your boutique.
Once you identify your niche market, you can start working on your business name.
Your business name should be catchy, easy to remember and most importantly it should reflect your passion towards the business.
You no need to worry about finding a meaningful name, but it should be catchy.
Its ok if your business name doesn’t exactly reflect your business, but still it should be rememberable.
Do some research while choosing business name, later it may be difficult to rename/rebrand your boutique name.
You can read few tips on creating creative business name for your boutique here.
Once you identify your boutique name, please do check if there are any trademark issues associated with that name.
You can do online search for trademark and other legal issues associated with that name, this step you complete as soon as possible to avoid legal or trademark issues in future.
Once you finalize your business name, you need to check if you can register a domain name with same name.
In-case if you are not able to find same domain name, do not worry, from SEO point of view its not mandatory to have same name to get traffic from search engines.
However try to choose the domain name which represents your boutique online shop, so that customers can easily remember it.
You can use leandomainsearch to find out domain names.
After you registered your domain name, you need to create Facebook, twitter, Pinterest and Google plus pages, it become mandatory to create these pages.
These social media pages can greatly help you getting social traffic if you properly use them, so do not ignore this step.
Now you are armed with creative business name along with domain and social media pages, its time to find a right store builder for your boutique domain name.
You need software/script to create your own beautiful online boutique store, if you are a technical person then you can try to create your boutique using open source shopping cart software ‘s e.g. osCommerce etc.
Thanks to open source, now most of the boutique store software’s are available freely and can be downloaded easily.
But you need to be expert to create/manage your own online boutiques shop if you are planning to use open source software.
You also need to spend time/money to create boutique store using these open source software.
So unless you are technically strong please avoid creating own store using Open source software, because sooner or later you will find managing your boutique store is not as easy as expected.
I suggest during initial phase of business; even technical people should avoid creating own boutique store if they wanted to be successful in creating online boutique business.
It will help you in concentrating on core business.
Other option is to hire someone to create online boutique store for you.
This often requires some upfront investment, which may not be wise choice during initial phase of your business.
You can try to create a boutique store using e-commerce website builder service, where you no need spend lot of money to create you online boutique store.
Most of the website builder platforms allow you to create your own boutique store for free, so that you can try all features for free;
moreover, you no need to spend money on maintenance or on technical staff.
By using website builder software, you can save time, so that you can concentrate on your core business.
But for some reason you would like to host your own software (I don’t recommend it if you are just starting), then you need to find a web hosting space to host your software.
You need to do research while choosing web-hosting space for your boutique.
Proper web hosting is crucial for your online boutique store success.
You can start with low cost web hosting plan to avoid initial investments, but make sure web server performance, page response etc. is manageable.
You can read about web hosting here.
You need to find proper hosting provider once your boutique started receiving attention from your customers.
If you are finding difficulty in choosing right web hosting for your site, then you can opt for hosted solution from eCommerce website builder software. You can try it for free here.
Payment Gateways act as middleman between you and your customer.
You need to configure payment gateways to receive money from your customers.
You can provide option for cash on delivery or you can collect the cheque.
But still payment gateway solves most of the issues related to online transactions; you can read more about payment gateways here.
Believe me in today’s competitive world, marketing become one of the important game changer in any successful business venture.
So you need to be creative while doing marketing for your store.
In this information technology era people are getting bombarded with information. So you need to be very careful to choose right marketing strategy for your boutique business.
There are some proven marketing strategies available to start; you can plan to stick with one of the marketing strategy for some time,
You can start with email marketing (you heard right), blogging, AdSense or Facebook ads etc. Choose one of these strategies and test it for some time.
Later you can choose long term marketing strategy based on the outcome.
Unless you have a dedicated marketing team, do not try to attempt all these marketing strategies at once, instead start with one of the strategy, which you feel comfortable, then slowly add other strategy as you grow.
I suggest you to start with blogging or email marketing, because these marketing strategies usually require less investment to start with.
If properly done these can improve your site rankings and can bring organic traffic to your online boutique shop.
However, keep in mind that, customers are not much interested in reading/sharing un-helpful articles, so do research and then try to write articles, which are genuinely helpful.
Avoid investing money on advertisement unless you are very aggressive about marketing.
Try to promote in organic way as much as possible, this helps your site grow naturally and helps you minimizing cost in initial phases.
Most of online boutique owners give importance to website uniqueness, products and advertisement etc.
But they often ignore about after the sale customer service.
Believe me customer service is one of the most important strategy to keep your customers happy.
To be successful in boutique business you need to setup a proper customer service.
You can be your first customer service representative if you are tight on budget, but never neglect the importance of customer service.
Try to communicate as much as possible with the customer, most importantly try to be honest with your customer about the situation.
Proper customer service helps you gain trust, which can greatly help in improving your brand value.
One of the greatest advantages with customer service is, it brings you repeated customers.
Keep in mind it’s the quality of service you provide gets you repeated customers.
You can’t get repeated customers by using any other marketing/advertisement strategy if you ignore the customer service.
Be focused and never lose hope.
Let me be honest, starting online boutique doesn’t require much investment, thanks to open source software and ShopLid kind of services.
However, turning it into a successful venture require hard work and dedication.
Don't worry, by being unique and creative you can be successful, so it’s very important to be focused and be passionate about your boutique business irrespective of the result in initial days.
Always try to reduce investments in initial phase of the business, try to focus more customer acquisition wherever possible using organic marketing.
Most importantly try to experiment and find out best possible ways to be successful with your online boutique store.
Hope this guide was helpful for you to start an online boutique, do let me know if you have any questions so that I can assist you in starting your dream boutique business.