What better way to unleash your fashion passion than by launching your very own online boutique? Immerse yourself in upcoming trends and fashion must-haves to unleash your inner vogue. The percentage of consumers purchasing their clothes online is skyrocketing, so there has never been a better time to set up your own fashion boutique. Opening your own online store couldn’t be simpler – all you need is a little know-how and a lot of determination. Here is how to get started.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Jumping straight into the launch of your online boutique sounds like a great idea until you realize that you don’t have a strategy. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of opening your boutique, you first need to come up with a measurable business plan.
When it comes to making a solid business plan, the simpler the better. Don't get put off by the thought of spending hours on end sweating over a lengthy business model. Instead, try to come up with a short business plan in under an hour. Think about your budget, market value, target market, milestones and funding needs to get your business running smoothly. If a business plan seems too formal for you, why not opt for a business pitch to capture your business ideas in a less formal way? Find out the different kinds of business plans and how to get started.
The great thing about selling clothes and accessories online is that you don’t need a huge amount of capital to get you started. Keep startup costs low and create a simple yet measurable business strategy for your store.
Build a Brand
Once you have established a solid business plan, you will need to come up with a good name and brand for your site. What will your boutique represent? What kind of merchandise will you sell and who is your target audience? Get creative and try to capture what your brand is all about.
Choose Your Platform
You have your business plan, name and branding. What next? Now you need to think about the how of selling your products online. Some people are put off by the idea of building an online store from scratch, assuming it will cost lots of money and that they will need some knowledge of code and web design. While hiring a web designer is great if you have the funds, those that are just starting out want save as much money as possible.
A great way for a beginner to start an online boutique is by using an online store creator like Shopify. With this useful tool, you can design your perfect store easily using a customizable template, while still holding onto your own personal branding and style. You can also embrace multi-channel selling through Amazon, eBay and Etsy, to take advantage of their huge audiences.
Show Them What You’ve Got
Now comes the really fun part. Source or create stock for your fashion boutique and fill your product catalog with beautiful, high quality photos. Try to offer fashion items that are unique and stand out from the crowd. If you don’t like the sound of making your own products, why not consider buying wholesale items to stock your store?
Photos must be clear, bright and appealing, as well as aligned with the desired lifestyle of your audience. Get in touch with willing friends and models, hire a professional photographer and a studio to take incredible product images. If you need to cut costs, there are some great hacks that allow you to take product images on a shoestring budget – check out these tips.
Aesthetic cohesion will draw customers to your site time and again. What textures, fabrics and colors do your customers fall for? Product photos need to tell a story and appeal to your customers. Avoid too many other distractions on the page so that the eye naturally goes to the image, description and call to action.
Ship Your Products
Next to consider for your online boutique is order fulfillment. How are you going to distribute products to customers that order through your website? If you have the means to hold stock yourself, like a warehouse, garage or storage, you can use your own resources and contact a reputable shipping company. But if you do not have the space, there are other options.
Drop shipping is another popular way to fulfill orders in the online world. Drop shippers fulfill stock orders fast, without you having to package and post a single item.
Tip: if you are first starting out, it is better to consider drop shipping so you don’t have to distribute any of your stock yourself. It also gives you an advantage if your store doesn’t work out the way you thought it would – you don’t want to be left out of pocket with lots of stock you can’t shift.
Marketing Your Store
Finally, get your store off the ground with a solid marketing strategy. Create a buzz through social media to promote your stock and spark customer interest. Boutiques are visual sites, so it’s important to make the most of image-based social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, along with other platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Incorporate giveaways into your social media and marketing strategies to increase interest and grow your reach. Find out how to use gift cards for your boutique.
There are many ways to market your store like a pro – all you need is a little research. Launch a blog, begin guest blogging, post behind the scenes photos and write about your journey. Get the word out there and soon your online boutique will flourish.
Opening an online store doesn’t need to be complicated. There are many successful entrepreneurs who have launched their own online boutiques as side-hustles, which have gone on to do very well. All you need is a little time and imagination to make your dream come to life. What will you sell in your online boutique?
Patrick Foster, ecommerce entrepreneur, coach & writer. I’m currently writing on EcommerceTips.org where I share engaging ecommerce content for entrepreneurs and business owners. You can follow me on Twitter here.