Starting an online clothing boutique is a daunting task.
But it doesn’t have to be.
We have put together a detailed strategy with everything you will need to start an online clothing boutique quickly.
Then we will teach you how to launch and grow your new business.
Each section looks at a different aspect of starting your own business online and provides you with proven tips and tricks.
Create an account here and get started an online boutique today.
At each step, I will outline the options weighing the pros and cons while reviewing the costs and benefits.
The strategies we will be using I have personally used to help grow over 100 online businesses.
You might also like to read:
- The Ultimate Guide of How to Name a Boutique Shop
- 12 Best Boutique Logo Designs – Inspiration
- Why Boutique Style Matters
- 11 Best Boutique Business Card Designs
First Step To Starting an Online Boutique
If you started writing a business plan stop.
You do not need a business plan to start an online boutique. Today business plans have fallen out of favor.
You will spend so much time working on the plan that you will never get to building your dream.
In the next step, I am going to teach you how to create a business strategy map for your online boutique.
Online Boutique Strategy
There are few key elements which we need first to define to create the business strategy.
The first thing we want to identifies the problem which we will be solving for our customers. It is important to understand why your customers are buying your product. Usually, it is to assist in resolving a particular problem or set of challenges that they have.
As an example when building out the boutique strategy, we are going to pretend we are starting a maternity clothing store online.
Below we have listed out the top three problems which our customers are experiencing.
- Lack of fashionable maternal clothes
- Only expensive options
- Stores are far away from customer
Once we have defined the problems we will be solving, we can work on creating a solution.
You want to create a solution statement which addresses each of the customers problems.
Below we have listed a solution to each of the problems listed above.
- Create boutiques fashionable clothing line for pregnant women
- Create a marketplace where maternal clothes can be bought and sold after pregnancy
- Offer free shipping and returns
Once we have created a solution for each of the major problems you can start to see our value proposition.
Once we’ve decided on what we want to sell, we need to decide on who we will be selling to.
Make a list of different customer personas which you will be selling to. You can do an extensive persona exercise or just list different potential customers.
- Pregnant Women
- Friend of Pregnant Women
- Family member of Pregnant Women
Each of the individual personas we will market to in a different way. It is important to prioritize and look at which customer segment you think will be most successful. We want to spend 80% of our time in marketing on the 20% of customers who drive the most sales.
Channels for Sale
If you’re starting a new boutique an online store is probably the easiest way to get started. In the future, you can look to expand to retail environments.
Create your product
There are lots of different places where you can find a unique product. Maybe you already have a product or you just have an idea for new product line.
Many people source their product online from China using a marketplace called Alibaba.com. There is also a great option if you want to manufacture in the United States. The website Maker’s Row will help you from the idea to manufacturing and distribution phase.
Once you have chosen your product line, it is time to actually start your online boutique.
Pick a Name and Domain
One of the first things you want to do is choose your boutique name.
It’s important that you make sure your name is not memorable and separates you from the competition.
Your name should leave a memorable emotion in your customers minds when they think about it.
Once you have chosen a name you are going to want to purchase the domain and acquire all the social media handles.
Sometimes it is easier to purchase your domain name with your website hosting provider, so you might want to wait until we choose a website host below.
Today many names are already taken so you might need to use a variation on your domain name or social profile.
To check if your domain name and the social profiles are available, you can use a website called namecheckr.com.
Create a logo
After you have chosen a name, you want to create a logo and brand for your boutique. If you have a friend that is a graphic designer you can ask them to help you with creating the brand. To get started, we will decide on three main elements of the brand.
- Color palette
On these websites, you can get a professionally designed logo for anywhere from five to $500.
If you don’t have any budget you can use a free graphic design software like Canva. With Canva it is best to create a wordmark. A wordmark is just the name of your business in a typeface. This is actually very effective as a gives a high-end feel to your brand.
Color Palette – Next you need to create a color palette for your brand. If you hired a graphic designer you can ask them to you this for you. If not there are tools online that will help you choose a color system. Think about what your brand stands for and the customers who will be interacting with your brand. Reflect on the other businesses which they patronize and what colors those companies use. Depending on your product or service there may be colors which you already know you want to incorporate. Try to choose a few supporting colors in addition to one or two main colors.
If you do not know what colors to use there are tools online that will help you decide on a color system. Think about what your brand stands for and the customers who will be interacting with your brand.
Adobe has a free pallet sharing service called Adobe color CC. There are also other online options which can give you great color pallets for free. We recommend checking out Degraeve to create a color palette from an image. You could upload a picture you liked or one of your products.
Typeface – Often brands have two typefaces which are called a tight pairing. Typefaces can be very expensive, but Google fonts offer a very great library of fonts to choose from. If you have a hipster boutique, we would suggest looking at some of Google’s hipster fonts. Alternatively, there is a great website which has a collection of typeface pairings.
You can choose a typeface and download the fonts for use on your computer. If you are using an online e-commerce provider they also will let you choose the typeface from the Google library.
Pick an Ecommerce Provider
Once you have chosen a name it’s time to choose an e-commerce provider.
Choosing a website store builder is probably one of the most important things you will do when starting an online boutique.
You want to make sure that they have the support and features for future growth for years to come.
Now I know it sounds daunting, but there are a few leaders in the industry which will make it easier to start your business.
After reviewing dozens of solutions, we have decided to recommend Shopify and BigCommerce. Both platforms offer flexibility and powerful tools which can be used to grow your business. Below we do a short overview of both solutions and some of the differences.
Shopify vs. Big Commerce Overview
At the time of publication, BigCommerce has fewer themes than Shopify to choose from. When selecting a theme make sure that your theme is mobile responsive. To do this just resize your browser to be more narrow. If the site responds and becomes smaller, it will work better on a mobile device. This is called mobile responsive design.
Shopify and BigCommerce have nearly identical pricing models. This means you are going to have to choose based on features not price. Both platforms offer very similar feature sets. But there are a few unique differentiators which we will outline below. Regardless it’s good for you to check both websites and decide which platform is best for you.
Shopify vs. BigCommerce When Starting an Online Boutique
BigCommerce’s design is very similar to Shopify and easy to use. If you’re looking to edit the theme code BigCommerce is a little bit easier as you do not have to learn the Shopify templating language called Liquid. Both providers have many freelancers that specialize in editing templates so that shouldn’t be a large issue. The design of BigCommerce’s themes are generally regarded as being slightly less attractive than that of Shopify.
Shopify also offers easy-to-use design. The interface is quick and intuitive and you will be all set up your store in minutes. They also offer a great template library of themes for your site. At time of publication, Shopify offers more themes than BigCommerce.
BigCommerce beats Shopify with a larger set of features out-of-the-box. These features allow you to have more control over your customer experience. It makes it easier to do things like applying special taxes or coupons. One holiday season comes you’ll find it much easier to add an option for gift wrapping.
Shopify offers more pavement gateways than BigCommerce. Choosing a payment gateway should probably only happened once. If you already have a payment gateway that you want to use you can check before purchasing to see if it is supported by a platform of your choice. Otherwise, this probably won’t make a big difference in your decision.
Both companies are very competitively priced but BigCommerce offers four payment plans versus Shopify’s five. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Shopify offers a better payment plan.
The best comparison to make is between the Shopify Basic and BigCommerce standard. This is the tier where you are able to sell an unlimited number of products. The cost per month is only another $.95 for BigCommerce so we have to look at features and not pricing this decision.
There are three major features which you get at this level for BigCommerce that you cannot get for Shopify. If any of these three features are important you should probably go with BigCommerce. Otherwise, we would recommend Shopify due to the other features.
With e-commerce standard, you are able to create and give gift cards, use the built-in rating and review section, and offer real-time carrier shipping quotes. It should be noted that none of these three features are available with the basic Shopify plan.
BigCommerce and Shopify both offer a great blogging platform for your e-commerce business. As a boutique blogging will be very important for attaining new customers through SEO. Looks through the templates on the BigCommerce website to view the different blog styles.
BigCommerce has an application store which provides a large number of add-ons. Unfortunately for BigCommerce there are not as many integrations. At time of publication, there is about one-fourth the amount of total apps in the BigCommerce store. This is one of the benefits of choosing Shopify, as it’s an older platform and has more developers that have worked on the platform.
Who’s the winner?
Because Shopify is older and has better support we recommend using Shopify to create your online boutique.
You can start with a 14 day free trial of Shopify here.
Alternatively, BigCommerce is still a good option and in some cases a better choice.
You can start a 14 day free trial of BigCommerce here.
On Logistics & Shipping
Once you’ve chosen e-commerce provider you need to decide how you will ship the product. If you’re just starting we recommend just shipping from your local post office or from your home. We have found that using stamps.com will often offer you a lower price than using the carrier’s website.
Once you begin to grow you may no longer have the capacity to ship out of your house. Often there is an awkward time when your business is large enough that you can’t do it on your own but too small to open your own distribution center. Often at this time online retailers choose to use a third-party logistics provider. A 3PL third-party logistics provider can offer you support with shipping and returns.
They also have software which will integrate with your e-commerce solution. You can search online to find a third party logistics provider near you.
Get Your First Customer
Once you have your store set up it’s time to get your first customer. Once you have one customer you want to look to continue to grow your brand. When it’s time to launch your site, post on all your personal social media accounts. Also look to market through events and other online media forums.
In the next section we are going to teach you how to market and grow your online boutique.
Marketing and Growing Your Online Boutique
Email marketing is the most successful marketing tool that you have to use online today. Start building your email list from day one.
A great way to do this is to offer a promotion which users have to give their email to receive. For example, you could offer free shipping in exchange for their email address.
Then you could add these people to what is called an automated drip email campaign.
A drip email campaign automatically sends those users a series of emails to market to them. Over time they become more familiar with your brand and ultimately purchase more products.
Below we have included subject lines for a sample boutique drip email campaign.
- See how our clothes are manufactured in the USA
- We now offer free two day shipping
- New summer products to beat the heat
- 16 of our favorite summer dresses
Continue to build your email list as you move forward. The email list will become one of your most important marketing tools.
Social media marketing is one of the fastest ways to grow your online boutique.
You’re going to want to start by creating a profile on all major social media platforms. Then you can start posting content to each platform and see which profiles drive for both sales. Once you have figured out which platforms are most successful you want to focus your resources on growing those platforms. Traditionally for boutiques, Pinterest has been one of the most successful social media channels.
Shopify and BigCommerce both offer social media management tools. But you also can use a third party social media tools to increase sharing.
If you’re looking to create graphics for your social media profiles we recommend you use Canva. Canva is online design software that allows you to easily create social media posts. They also have templates to create sale graphics. This can be very helpful when you decide to run a promotion or coupon for your boutique.
Blogging can be one of the most important ways to increase traffic to your online boutique. Companies that blog more often see a correlation with increased traffic. If your company does not already have an online blog, you should create one. Many themes on Shopifyp and BigCommerce offer the option of adding a blog.
You may be asking yourself, but wait what am I going to blog about?
You want to focus your blogging around questions and topics which your audience would find interesting.
For the example of our maternity boutique, it would make sense to publish posts on new products which we are offering.
But it would also make sense to posts general topic articles answering questions which mothers would have about pregnancy.
For example, if you are pregnant you might be looking for advice on what foods to eat while pregnant.
By publishing a post titled “Six Super Foods For Pregnant Mothers” you could get more social shares and drive targeted traffic to your website.
Once the soon-to-be mothers are on your website they would hopefully explore and see your line of maternity clothing.
Once you have existing customers you want to turn them into promoters. It’s a good idea to send your customers a newsletter or semi-regular email. Many e-commerce builders offer email as part of their total e-commerce solution. If you don’t want to use their email sending you also could find a third party email provider.
Because it’s easier to track your customers if you use the same platform we would recommend using the built-in email sending features.
Don’t forget to continually educate your customers and turn them into promoters. Nothing is more powerful in marketing than word-of-mouth. You want to create a brand that people want to talk about and share. This is how you will grow your boutique overtime.
SEO or search engine optimization is often spoken about but not clearly explained. SEO for e-commerce and a niche boutique in particular is a little bit different than regular SEO. Don’t forget that you will be competing with major e-commerce players like Macys.com.
This means no matter how optimize your e-commerce store is you probably will not rank first in Google for “paternity clothes”.
This is why you want to focus on what is called long tail SEO.
If you created a graph of all searches related to paternity clothes you would see a downward trend from left, to right. On the left you would have the most common searches for terms like “paternity clothes” with high search volume. As you go further to the right the search queries would become longer and there would be less volume.
For example, towards the right-hand side of the curve, you might see a search query like “fraternity close for a mother is living in humid climates”.
This search query might only get 15 or 20 searches a month but they are highly targeted.
These are considered longtail search queries and we want to focus on these as they are less competitive and more specific.
In this case, we would be creating a clothing line for mothers living in very humid areas. The clothing could be made out of a microfiber technology which wicks sweat from the body.
It will be much easier to compete on a specific long tail keyword than a generic keyword.
Since e-commerce stores are often very image heavy you are going to have to supplement the images with text. Make sure to write an individual product description for each product. Make it as descriptive as possible without cramming keywords into the description.
You also want to make sure you optimize your product images. Google can’t understand exactly what your image looks like so it uses the alt tags to identify subject of the image.
The alt tag should have keywords and a description of what the image is.
For example, we might say “blue paternity mother’s shirt” as the alt tag.
If you want to expand the number of people seeing your product you need to get it in front of more eyeballs. A great way to do this is to solicit reviews from bloggers in your industry.
First, search for your industry in Google and create a list of bloggers who write about your area.
Then send them all an individual email asking if they would write an honest review for your product in exchange for a free sample.
Once they agree, ship them your products and don’t forget to follow up. If you have a great product they will write a favorable blog post which they will then share with their audience.
This is also a helpful longtail SEO technique as often people will search for reviews of your brand before buying.
We hope you have enjoyed this guide to how to start an online boutique. Though there are many steps it is easier than you would think to do. you can start by choosing an e-commerce solution and building your store today. If you have any questions or helpful hints for others make sure to leave them in the comments below. We look forward to hearing about your successful boutique.