Starting an Online Boutique in 2021: It's EASIER than you think
Updated: Jun 11, 2021
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Do you think you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur and start selling products online?
Starting an Online Boutique is a difficult task, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. However, it's NOT as difficult as most people imagine and probably requires way less investment than you think.
This article will walk you through the step-by-step process for setting up an online Boutique and you will have many different options to choose from based on your interests and capacity.
1. Planning and Research
Although this is a continuous process, initially this can be more time-consuming as you will be making decisions about your business which can be difficult to change later on; like your brand name. You will have to think hard about various aspects and at least have a rough idea about them before you move ahead.
Typically, you will have to consider the following:
Your Niche: What are you going to sell and who are your target customers?
Demand: You need to know if there is enough demand for the products your planning to sell and ideally the demand should be expected to increase in the future.
Competition: If there are well-established businesses already selling the same products as yours, you will have to think of a way to make your products unique in some way.
eCommerce website: Are you going to sell your products using an eCommerce platform or are you going to build a website on your own? Shopify, BigCommerce, and Wix eCommerce are the top 3 eCommerce platforms that I would recommend for an Online Boutique. But more on this later (Step 4).
Funding: How much capital can you bring into your business? Are you going to fund it yourself or do you have a strong business plan that can attract investors?
How to get inventory: Are you going to make the products yourself? Or are you going to source it from a third party? Dropshipping is also a great option. Choose based on your desired business model. This has been explained in more detail in step 6.
Marketing Strategy: Although there are many ways to market your Online Boutique, you still need to develop a plan. Asking your friends and family to share the word on social media is often a good place to start, but you will have to use other means of advertising as well.
Your brand name: You need to think of a brand name that is easily marketable and appealing to your niche. The name should be available and shouldn't be taken by an existing business. You also need to ensure that a domain name is available with your brand name because ideally, they should be the same. A domain name is nothing but your website address, for example, 'www.boohoo.com' is a domain name. Shopify's business name generator and Domain name generator will help you check the availability, it will let you know if the name has already been taken.
Once you have given a thought about the above points you can move to the next step.
2. Choose Your Niche
Now that you have a general idea about what kind of a Boutique you want to start, it's time to decide your niche. The main thing you need to understand is that; unless you have a huge capital to invest, it is wise to target a sub-category of customers; as there is too much competition for any product that interests everyone. What I mean is, instead of selling all types of clothes, you can specialize in children's clothes or ethnic wear. Or instead of selling jewelry, you can sell gemstones.
Do realize that once you choose your niche, if you want to expand your product base; you will have to add something that interests the same category of customers. For example, if you choose to sell gemstones, you can; in the future start to sell books that explain the different types of gemstones and how to use them.
Here is an example of an extremely successful Online Boutique with a specialized niche - babiators.
3. Choose Your Brand name
The brand name plays a crucial role in determining the overall outcome of a business. You need to get creative here and choose wisely. But don't spend too much time on this and don't fall into the trap of thinking that a good brand name alone can make your business successful.
There are different ways to come up with a brand name for your business:
You can use your name combined with words that describe your business, like 'Jessica High Heels'
You can make up a word. Example: Google.
You can make up a word in such a way that people get an idea of what your business is about. Example: Shopify.
If you're still finding it hard to come up with a name; here's what you can do, quickly make a list of keywords related to your niche, search each of them in the business name generator and pick one of the names it throws out.
Don't forget to confirm the domain name availability for the chosen brand name.
4. Choose an eCommerce Platform
An eCommerce platform is a complete package of eCommerce solutions that comes with all the tools necessary to start and manage an Online Boutique. These services provide website building tools to help you set up a beautiful Online Boutique easily and with no coding skills as they come with many impressive templates which you can drag and drop to design your shop. They also take care of web security and comes with Inventory management, accounting, customer service, digital marketing, and SEO optimization tools. Since you are buying their integrated service; you can get access to their service at a much lower price than if you were to pay for each service individually.
If you still choose to set up a website by yourself without relying on eCommerce solutions; you can do that. This method will be way more expensive and you will probably need to hire a professional to get your Online Boutique up and running. However, this method can be recommended for those who have much higher investment capital and need more flexibility and customization in the long run. If you choose this method; you can explore the Creating your Own Website section of our website.
Do note that eCommerce platforms and websites are SaaS tools, which means you will have to pay monthly or annual subscription fees to maintain your online store.
Shopify is a Canadian company founded in 2004; which now in 2021 powers about 1.6 million stores in more than 175 countries. According to Shopify, businesses using their platform have generated total sales revenue of over $200 Billion.
The statistics are quite impressive no doubt!
The basic plan starts at $29/month and comes with enough features to help you conveniently Start an Online Boutique. You can explore other plans and compare the list of features available for each plan to decide which plan is most suitable for you. For large businesses, Shopify offers a customizable plan starting at $2000 a month. In addition to the subscription fees, you will have to buy a domain that starts from about $12/year.
Shopify offers a 14-day free trial.
Click here to start your free trial.
Founded in 2009, BigCommerce is one of the fastest-growing eCommerce platforms with over 60,000 merchants across 150+ countries.
Like Shopify, BigCommerce is also a popular and trusted eCommerce platform. The standard plan starts at $29.95/month. The product features are very similar to Shopify. BigCommerce also has a customizable enterprise plan for large businesses.
Even with BigCommerce, you will have to buy a separate domain at an annual fee.
BigCommerce offers a one-month free trial which is twice as long as its rival Shopify.
Click here to start your free trial.
Wix is an extremely popular web builder and has surpassed over 200 million users in 2021.
With Wix, you can build a free website within minutes! However, you will have to subscribe to an eCommerce plan to be able to sell online. It also comes with useful eCommerce tools to manage and scale your Online Boutique. It also offers a free custom domain for the first year with its subscription.
Wix premium plan pricing varies in different countries. However, no matter which country you're in, Wix will probably be the most cost-effective way to build an Online Boutique.
Wix offers a 14-day money-back guarantee. Click here to check the pricing.
5. Set up your Online Boutique
Once you have subscribed to an eCommerce platform, you can design your store with the professional templates these platforms provide.
You would need to have an FAQ section along with store policies like return/refund policies. Also, set up the payment options.
Your Boutique is now virtually ready!
6. Source products
Determining the products to sell, sourcing them, and setting up a delivery system may be the most challenging part of Starting an Online Boutique. But there are some easy ways to get started.
Typically, you have the following options:
This is a method in which you don't own or manufacture the products, instead, you agree with a supplier to sell their products; and once the order is received; they take care of packaging and shipping. This takes the whole burden away from you because you don't have to worry about inventory management or delivery. All you need to do is focus on advertising and marketing!
The downside is that most products offer a very small profit margin and there is too much competition as many stores could be dropshipping the same products. This method may be a great choice if you are selling digital products as the profit margins can be very high.
For many beginners who do not have a lot of capital to invest, dropshipping may be the only option to sell physical products online. And there is no reason why you can't make big bucks using this method, many do! Nevertheless, dropshipping is not a way to get rich quickly and like any business model; requires time, effort, and persistence to succeed.
You can make use of a dropshipping supplier like SaleHoo to get started!
Working with a supplier
You can find a supplier who sells the kind of products you want to sell and partner with them. You need to ensure they have a good reputation and check if such a partnership fits your business model. For example, if you do not have the resources to manage inventory and take care of deliveries; then you would need a supplier who will do that for you. But this method works well if you can have a warehouse to maintain inventory and partner with a shipping company like DHL or FedEx.
Do it yourself
Handmade goods can be a great way to gain initial customers as you can make the products unique in many ways! You can get creative and you may even enjoy doing them, but you also need to have a plan for when the demand increases to a point where it's hard for you to manufacture all the products yourself.
Even with this method, you need to develop a shipping strategy.
7. Go live!
Now that you have your Online Boutique set up and have products to sell, all you need to do is upload pictures of your products and add product descriptions. Now you can go live and make your Boutique visible to potential customers! You also need to work on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to get found on google. The eCommerce platforms mentioned earlier already have SEO tools to make your work a lot easier.
Now is the fun part; tell your friends about your Online Boutique and ask them to share it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else you can think of! It is also advisable to create a business page for your Boutique on social media and start marketing yourself. Paid Google and Facebook ads are also great options.
I wish you all the best with your Online Boutique!
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