Running your own successful boutique business can be a dream come true. However, with so many variables to consider, deciding how to start an online boutique business can be difficult. Should you build an online store or have a brick-and-mortar location? What are the pros and cons? What are the average costs involved in starting a boutique?
Things can get overwhelming if you don’t organize your business naturally, practically. Once you’ve generated enough money and built a stable customer base, you can even extend your online store into a physical location.
By 2024, Statista predicts that the apparel and accessories online retail business will be worth more than $153 billion.
You’re certainly not alone when you wonder how to start an online boutique business successfully. Below is an ultimate guide for beginners that will guide you through all the steps of creating your boutique.
What Is A Boutique?
Source: News 9.com
A boutique is a store that offers a unique selection of clothing and accessories emphasizing fashion-forward pieces. Boutiques are found in cities or smaller towns and online stores and provide the latest trends to customers without breaking their budgets.
The modern-day boutique caters to women who want more than just one outfit for every occasion, as well as men who are willing to invest in high-quality apparel at competitive prices.
Boutique owners were pioneers of creating unique shopping experiences by providing personalized services like alterations and personal styling services alongside trendy inventory.
A good example would be tres chic shoe salon L’Espalier located in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, where shoppers will find fashionable footwear made by top designers such as Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik & Stuart Weitzman–all within easy reach thanks to the spacious floor plan! From these examples, you can find some ideas about how to start an online boutique business.
What is the definition of a successful boutique business?
A successful boutique business generates profit. A run-of-the-mill boutique may succeed for a short period, but eventually, it will close down if there isn’t enough demand or people don’t want to purchase its products/services.
For this reason, many businesses are looking into new ways to stay afloat by diversifying their product offerings and expanding their target audience. A bookstore without books, as an example, would be considered unsuccessful because it doesn’t generate any income for either itself or others.
The secret ingredient in running a successful small business often comes down to what you offer your customers.
The following traits and skills are essential to have before learning how to start an online boutique business:
1. A sense of passion and drive
Do you love finding unique items in vintage shops and trade shows? Do you spend time coordinating your shoes with your outfits?
If so, this passion for fashion will help you succeed.
Running a small business is not an easy task. When it comes to sourcing or doing taxes, you might give up without the motivation to keep going! Make sure that before committing any time or money on anything related to running a small business (especially if it’s something new), make sure that what drives you is pure passion and self-motivation.
One of the most valuable things for a business is its network. Even if you’re an expert in jewellery designing, it doesn’t mean that you know how to set up an LLC or design a professional logo.
With the power of networking, you can find people who know these things and enlist their help – which will be very beneficial for your small business! It’s okay if this isn’t something new to you.
Here are some tips on getting started: sign up for LinkedIn and join relevant groups on small businesses association memberships, conferences with boutique owners and entrepreneurs like Make It Big, meet them go online with community platforms such as BigCommerce Community.
3. Using digital marketing
As a business owner, you’ll need to wear many hats. This means that while you can’t be an expert in everything for your clothing store, it’s beneficial to have some background in digital marketing.
The good news is that it’s much more accessible than ever before to learn about digital marketing online. There are excellent resources out there, which will give you the know-how on search engine optimization (SEO), paid advertising, and social media management, among other things.
Among them: DigitalMarketer offers everything from tips and tricks through complete certification courses on a wide range of topics. HubSpot Academy has its entire library of online certification courses covering content creation and PR – including video formats easy enough for even beginners.
LinkedIn Learning includes step-by-step video tutorials introducing various aspects of digital marketing such as SEO or social media management tools like Facebook Ads Manager or Twitter ads manager.
So if this sounds interesting, check these guys out!
4. Finances of the business
As with digital marketing, it is helpful to understand your startup costs before opening an online store. The good news is that you can also do research and take classes to understand better how finances should be managed and cash flow.
Some other things you’ll want to focus on include:
Understanding your credit score – the different types of business loans- how to manage a budget.
In other words, keep in mind that many people make mistakes along the way – but taking steps at the first opportunity will ensure success later on down the line!
5. Effective time management
One of the best parts about being your boss is that no one tells you what to do. However, this means you are responsible for getting everything done on your own. Passion and drive can only take you so far; if they don’t put in enough hours or get burned out fast, it’s hard to keep up with all the work piling up around us.
The best way to manage your time and prevent burnout is by prioritizing it: finding ways like reading books using apps and tools designed for managing time will make it easier!
You need to have a great deal of confidence when trying to build an online store. Don’t let any negative thoughts get in your way, and always look forward to things that will work out well because there is hope!
If you’ve never read the story about how Sylvester Stallone persevered in making “Rocky” happen, it has a happy ending.
Even if you don’t need that level of confidence, take inspiration from his story and remember that no matter what difficulties arise or how tough stress becomes-you can keep going.
Starting a Boutique Bussiness: Brick-and-Mortar store or Online store?
The first step to opening an online boutique is to decide what you want your business’ niche market. You need a specific type of clothing or accessory that sets you apart from the competition for customers, also called clients in this industry, to come back and shop with you again.
This typically takes time since new businesses start every day. Still, it will be worth it when customers choose your store over others because they know they can find what they’re looking for there instead of having to search multiple websites, which take up more time than anything else.
1. Building a Brick-and-Mortar Store
People would have to rely on a physical store for any purchases in the past. Online stores are just as popular and convenient for customers in today’s technologically advanced world.
Brick-and-mortar shops may not be highly sought after in this day and age, with shoppers opting more often than not to buy products from an eCommerce site like Amazon or eBay instead of going out looking at different stores in person.
However, some will always enjoy shopping with their family or friends while walking through malls together; many find it relaxing and entertaining without worrying about packing up everything they bought later when checking out.
2. Building an Online Store
Online stores for boutique businesses are the best way to promote and sell their products. The online store is a website that lists all of your product, its details, and price with affiliate links to make it easy for customers who want more information or need help with purchasing decisions.
An excellent online store design can be made by following specific standards: keeping text readable, making good use of color, creating a compelling customer experience whether they’re browsing on desktop/laptop computers or mobile devices like tablets and smartphones; maintaining consistency through site navigation (such as menus).
It is essential to decide on the platform, design of the site, and its features. Various media are available for building your stores, such as Shopify or Bigcommerce. It’s also advisable to divide stores into categories like “New Arrivals” or “Bestsellers.”
The look and feel will depend on what you want it to convey; something simple with basic features may be best if all that matters is functionality, while a more elaborate look may work better to make an impression.
If you’re starting out and not all that tech-savvy, we recommend Shopify. For a more robust solution for selling online or over the phone, build your site using an e-commerce platform like Magento. It’s easy to use but requires some technical know-how to set it up properly—especially when you want features such as digital downloads and subscriptions (for example).
3. Online vs. Brick and Mortar Sales Statistics
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, statistics show:
- Total retail sales rose from $1.38 trillion in Q4 of last year to $1.47 trillion this year. That’s an increase of 6.9%.
- E-commerce sales for Q4 2019 rose to $156.39 billion and increased to $206.66 billion in the next quarter, a 32%.
- From 11.3% in the fourth quarter of 2019 to 14% in the same quarter for 2020, e-commerce sales have risen as a percentage of total retail sales.
In a 2016 survey from BigCommerce, shopping in-store vs. online tends to decrease with age. Seniors and Baby Boomers are much less likely to turn to online shopping than Millennials and Gen-Xers.
Nowadays, many purchases involve both digital and physical browsing of goods. Often, a purchase begins with reading about it before you visit the store or properties to buy it in-store.
Conversely, an investment may start when people see something they like but want more information before deciding.
With smartphones being as prevalent today, customers can read reviews while walking around different stores (called “showrooming”), which has led some retail outlets such as grocery stores to ban these devices due to theft concerns!
How to start an online boutique business in 8 Easy Steps
The top boutiques in the business didn’t appear out of thin air. Even with trial and error, these entrepreneurs had a business plan and a method in place.
This section will explain how to start an online boutique business in 9 simple steps.
Step 1: Pick A Niche For Your Boutique Business
While some creative entrepreneurs know what they want to sell, you may not. But figuring out your product and niche is the exciting part.
What do we mean by niche? Starting a boutique is not about appealing to everyone. You want to target a small sector specializing in children’s clothes or hand-crafted jewellery. And keep your ideal customer in mind so that they will stay interested and satisfied with the products you offer them!
For instance, if you decide to sell men’s athletic shorts and shirts, don’t expand into selling women’s swimsuits because it would make no sense at all.
To maximize your profits and grow your boutique business, you’ll want to offer products that will keep customers coming back with new items for their shopping carts.
Another vital thing to keep in mind is customer lifetime value- it’s much more difficult getting a new customer than selling an existing one.
Step 2: Choose The Right Location
The suitable space for a boutique business is significant. It needs to be in the right location, with plenty of traffic and parking availability at all times.
If your boutique specializes in clothing, you’ll probably want to make sure there’s ample room for clothes displays which should take up about half of the available floor area. A large enough shop will also need additional storage areas to sell bulky products or display many varieties.
Choose a site near business districts, retail malls, or downtown if you’re selling primarily to working professional women. Conduct online research to see where other similar fashion businesses and boutiques have started. This gives you a decent idea of where the good business sites are.
Locals and visitors flock to downtown areas, including a slew of small boutiques and other small enterprises. Because several small businesses compete for customers in these locations, competition is fierce. Determine the area to launch a fashion boutique by visiting downtown areas, shopping malls, and outlets.
Step 3: Figuring out your inventory
If you are opening a boutique business, make sure to figure out what your inventory will consist of. You need items that people would be interested in and purchase from you, such as clothing and accessories for women’s wear or shoes for kids’ wear.
There is no set amount of inventory – it varies per person – but try not to choose more than one item per category if possible because then the store would look too cluttered. When you figure out your inventory, you’ll have less to worry about when you think about how to start an online boutique business.
1. Produce the products yourself
You have the skills to create products, so pull out your sewing machine or tool chest and start working.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The creation of products will take a significant amount of time.
- This type of business will be hard to scale.
- Don’t undercharge so much that your labor isn’t worth it.
2. Design & Manufacture Your Products
This is not your design, but you can find manufacturers to make it for you. All of this can be done with the help of a designer who can create fantastic products.
Consider these points:
- Learn which products your customers like by starting small.
- Calculate your break-even point and how many products you will need to sell at what cost to make a profit still.
- Manage stored inventory.
3. Showcase your favorite designers
We have a variety of clothing and accessory designers so that you can browse your favorite. Ecru Emissary has clothes from various brands- select the designer that suits you best!
Consider the following:
- Your products may need to be priced higher.
- Take the competition into account. Research competitors and analyze their offerings.
- Your inventory management plan will need to be developed with the designers.
5. Partner with a drop shipper
Stay away from the work that comes with fulfilling orders, managing inventory, or storing your products. Use a dropshipping supplier to provide you with products and fulfil your orders for you! You need to market the product and decide on a price.
Consider these factors:
- Dropshipping companies supply stock, so your options are limited.
- To ensure that each product you plan on selling is high quality and that you’re comfortable including it in your store, you should buy it first.
- A third party handles the fulfillment of dropshipped orders, so there is less control over shipping rates and packaging.
Step 4: Financing Your Boutique
You are starting your own boutique business surprisingly minimal. All you need is a space, some equipment, inventory, and customers to keep it running.
Getting started in the world of business can be daunting for many people, so thankfully, this endeavor has been made easier than ever before, with all that’s required being just a little bit of time and money upfront:
- The cost of renting an area depends on the size needed but generally will not exceed $1 per square foot.
- Equipment such as sewing machines, cutting tables, or other necessities might range from $500-$2 000 depending on what you require.
- Inventory should start small at first – maybe five dresses if you plan to sell clothes only – until profits begin rolling in.
To ensure that your boutique business will be profitable, you should consider the different types of investment capital involved.
- First and foremost, “hard” money would come from a bank loan.
- Secondarily, “soft” funds such as personal savings or loans from friends and family members understand how proprietorships work.
- The last type of funding for small businesses is equity financing. An investor becomes part-owner by purchasing shares in the company, usually with some return on their investment tied into it like dividends or profit-sharing over time. This option could also involve “sweat” equity where investors do not receive any monetary compensation but acquire stock based on hard labor instead.
Step 5: Make Your Brand Consistent
Branding is one of the most challenging things any business owner can go through. Great branding involves creative and consistent marketing and earnest customer engagement. It requires you to develop a deep understanding of your fashion business, values, and how your brand embodies them.
You’ll also have to consistently make decisions in step with those concepts- customers’ ideas – goals.
To get started, follow these three steps:
1. Write down your fashion brand’s name.
If you’re thinking about starting a fashion brand, you should first write out what your fashion brand will be. This way, if things go wrong in the future, you’ll know that it’s because of something specific and not just an arbitrary decision or impulse.
It doesn’t need to be structured, but it has to have been deeply thought through so there are no surprises later on.
Your brand should benefit from it, whether it’s to:
- Statement of mission
- Statement of vision
- The value proposition
- Digitally or on a whiteboard, draw a diagram.
- Describe your purpose in one word
If you are looking for some inspiration to get started, here are some sample company mission and vision statements. Once you have something written out, review it as your brand grows to track the path that has been taken.
2. Make a brand guide
A brand guide is a helpful tool that will help you define your fashion brand in detail. It’s a visual guide for the framework of your entire branding, which can be used to communicate with customers, fans, and potential buyers or partners of the fashion industry.
Typically, a brand’s guide includes:
- Identities – What makes them unique
- The strategy – What they work for, how they reach their audience.
- Communication style – How they deliver their message
- Graphics – Logo, colors, fonts, sizing, etc.
Your brand guidelines can be broken down by possible future scenarios, for example, collaborations with other brands.
Be sure to think through this tool carefully. It will play a critical role in preparing you and your team for anything that may come forth! Also, as a bonus, it will help anyone new to the group get acquainted with the fashion brand more intimately.
Don’t worry; there are some excellent examples of how to set up your guidelines out there if you’re looking for inspiration!
3. Don’t delay
When creating your fashion brand, consider it a foundational element of your business. This is the blueprint that will guide interacting with customers and partners in the industry. It should show what style or language appears on your website or social media account messages.
You cannot just think about this one step alone- it should coat every ad for clothing sales, shelf signs, email messages, etc.
Step 6: Market Your Boutique
Several day-to-day marketing activities need to occur after you’ve initially pushed for your online boutique.
This includes social media, content marketing, and email advertising. Social media is always essential because it allows people from all over the world to see what fashion trends look like globally and locally in their area.
Content marketing involves using blogs or videos on YouTube to share updates with customers about new arrivals and upcoming events, which should be encouraged by those interested in fashion photography or video production skills.
Step 7: Offer Incentives
The term “sale fatigue” is accurate, affecting the retail industry. Nearly four in 10 consumers are willing to travel to another store to try and find cheaper deals on products they want.
Most customers believe chain stores offer the best deals, while only 3 per cent think boutique retailers have better deals. Smaller retailers should not succumb to pressure and feel like they need discount prices that rival big-box chains – instead of giving in to such pressure.
Here are some six sales ideas you can use without putting yourself out more than necessary:
- Discounts should not be the primary motivation for target markets.
- Provide more significant discounts but not frequently.
- Focus on loyalty discounts for existing customers instead of sales to attract new customers.
- Make a note of what to markdown.
- Predictive analytics should be used.
- Special events are subject to lower prices.
Step 8: Re-evaluate, Re-invent, and Re-create
As you launch your store, look into the data and analytics to understand what’s working and what’s not. Then make changes or improvements like:
- Make your homepage a showcase for your top-selling products.
- A new product copy or image is tested on pages that perform poorly.
- Changing places where people tend to drop off your cart.
- Reviewing products and adding customer testimonials.
- Discounts and promotions during the holiday season.
You can also reach out directly to your customers and ask them what they want, but you must do so in a respectful way.
The conclusion of how to start an online boutique business has made life easier for people trying to provide affordable products to the general public. The Hustle Story put a great deal of effort into compiling the most necessary steps so you can learn how to start an online boutique business in this article. Please stay tuned to our page for a better experience and get more ideas.