5 Steps to Opening an Online Boutique
Now is the time to start an online boutique.
In the past year alone, the way we shop and acquire goods has changed a lot. A whole lot.
According to Emarketer, ecommerce grew by more than 30 percent in 2020 – speeding up the shift to online shopping by almost two years!
Now more than ever, people are buying online. And this trend’s growth isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
If you’ve been looking to start your own business, an online boutique is an excellent path with a whole world of ripe opportunities.
It might seem intimidating, but starting an online boutique might be more simple than you think. In this article, we’re going to go over five steps to opening an online boutique, with loads of resources to help you on your way.
Let’s do this.
- 1. Choose Your Online Boutique’s Niche
- 2. Find Your Products and Suppliers
- 3. Give Life to Your Brand
- 4. Build Your Online Boutique Storefront
- 5. Use Online Marketing to Promote Your Store
- Starting and Running a Successful Online Boutique
1. Choose Your Online Boutique’s Niche
First things first: what are you going to sell? Some of the most trendy online boutiques cater to women, selling items like clothing, jewelry, and home goods.
If you don’t already know what you want to sell, it’s time to do some brainstorming. And some market research.
First, think about all the types of products you might want to sell. Here’s a handy list of ideas:
You can also glean ideas from all over the web. One of the coolest tools to use is Google Trends, which helps you tap into popular, trending items. This is a form of validation, which gives you some confidence that the products you choose will actually be desirable to shoppers.
For example, check out a Google Trends search for “women’s athleisure.”
Over the past 12 months in the US, demand has been fairly steady. But with the preliminary data that Google has, it’s predicting that demand is going to go up.
You can also do some market research and validation on popular online marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba.
If you go to the Best Sellers category on Amazon, you can click through trending items in any category you like, from toys to electronics to beauty supplies. And the cool thing is that Amazon updates these lists hourly… talk about real time data.
You can also do direct competitor research by looking up some of the best online boutiques. Have you seen any cool ones lately? Dig into their website and social media accounts. Explore what’s getting a lot of engagement and reviews from their customers.
If you’re not exactly sure about who your competitors might be, do some good old-fashioned Googling. Try typing in searches like:
- Online womens boutiques
- Online fashion boutiques
- Best online boutique stores
- Jewelry boutiques online
- Designer boutiques online
As you’re doing your searches, keep a spreadsheet or notepad and write down the ideas that stick out to you most. As you keep searching, validating, and exploring your options (as well as securing products and online boutique suppliers) you can narrow down the list until you find what’s just right for you.
2. Find Your Products and Suppliers
You won’t have a store without products, right?
While products are a key ingredient, your suppliers are too. As owners of online boutique stores around the world will tell you, choosing the right suppliers can be just as critical as the products you sell.
It’s important to find a trustworthy, reliable supplier who you can depend on. Look for online boutique suppliers who have good reviews from past customers, as well as open and timely communication and strong collaboration.
If you’re looking for the right products to sell, as well as wholesale vendors for online boutiques, Handshake is an excellent place for you to start.
You can search by category, including:
- Apparel & Footwear
- Beauty & Wellness
- Home & Living
- Kids & Baby
You can also search by the supplier’s state and minimum order value to make sure that you find products and suppliers that meet your needs. The state search is especially helpful if you’re looking to sell products made by small businesses in your own state – which is super trendy these days.
As you’re looking through the site at potential products and suppliers, keep adding them to your spreadsheet that we talked about in the previous step.
Trust me, this spreadsheet might be a lifesaver down the road when you want to look at some cool handbags or an amazing company, but you can’t remember for the life of you where you saw them.
3. Give Life to Your Brand
Once you have an idea of what you’d like to sell and which online boutique suppliers you’d like to work with, it’s time to bring your ideas to life by building your brand.
The best brands are memorable, relatable, and recognizable. You want to make sure that you stand out from the crowd and get the attention of your target audience.
(And then once they shop on your site or buy products from you, you want to make sure that you give them an amazing experience. We’ll get into that a bit later.)
It might seem intimidating to create a brand from scratch, but there’s a tool to help with pretty much every aspect you need.
Here’s a basic checklist of the things you’ll need to create an awesome brand – and some fantastic tools to get you there.
Ideally, you’ll also be able to snag a domain name that mirrors your store’s name. Don’t overthink this if you can’t find exactly what you want – it’s rare that an online boutique’s name is a make-or-break for the company’s success.
Can’t think of a name? Use Shopify’s boutique name generator.
Choose something simple but recognizable. Don’t go overboard with too much detail, crazy gradients, or images that nobody will be able to identify. You might even just use your store’s name as your logo, or a simple abstract icon that represents what you’re all about.
If you don’t have graphic design skills or the budget to hire a designer, you can use a free logo generator like this one from Shopify and Hatchful. It has cool presets and templates, like the ability to choose your niche and visual style.
Here’s what it gave me when I selected “Fashion” and “Vintage” for my (fake) store name EenieMeenie. You can edit your favorite suggestion until you’ve created your masterpiece.
Brand Color Palette
One of the keys to a beautiful brand – and effective marketing materials – is to choose a color palette and stick to it on every single item you use to promote your business, from your online store to your emails to your social posts.
Try to stick with two to four colors that complement each other visually. If you have too many colors, you’ll start to look more like a circus.
Canva is an awesome graphic design tool that you can use for any of your branding materials, and it also has loads of sample color palettes for you to choose from.
4. Build Your Online Boutique Storefront
At this point, you have what you need. It’s time for the real magic.
Choose the ecommerce platform you’d like to build your store with. Shopify is a great choice, especially if you’d like to partner with suppliers on Handshake. That’s because Handshake is built by Shopify, so you’ll be able to smoothly integrate your Handshake operations into your Shopify store.
To start, sign up for a Shopify account. You can start with a free 14-day trial (no credit card required, hooray!) to learn the ropes, then it’s $29 per month for the basic plan.
Even if you’re a newbie, Shopify makes it simple to build your first store. Once you log into the dashboard, there’s a menu to walk you through the steps you need to complete to build your online boutique.
Here’s a quick checklist of things to set up before you launch your store:
- Choose a theme for your website and customize it to your brand, using your logo, color palette, photos, artwork, and other branded materials
- Add your products and include engaging and informative descriptions
- Add eye-catching and gorgeous photos of your products, which your supplier might be able to provide
- Connect your domain so that customers don’t see “youstore.myshopify.com”
- Set up payments, taxes, checkout, and shipping
Then you’re ready to flaunt your online boutique!
5. Use Online Marketing to Promote Your Store
Once you’ve launched, it’s time to let people know about it.
There are tons of ways to market online boutique stores. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular online marketing strategies.
In today’s world, the top online boutiques often make a killing on social media. This is especially true for heavily visual social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. These platforms are a perfect opportunity to showcase your beautiful product photography and create fast connections with your ideal audience.
One of the best online fashion boutiques, The Mint Julep Store, even has a “Shop Our Instagram” feature on their website. This tells us that they must make a huge amount of sales from Instagram – so much so that it’s a core sales strategy for the company.
Influencer marketing is an extension of social media marketing, but it deserves its own section. That’s because it’s a massively successful strategy for companies like online womens boutiques.
What’s cool is that you don’t need to pay thousands of dollars to famous celebrities to see returns on your efforts. Many smaller brands reach out to “micro-influencers,” or non-celebrities who have a strong following and strong engagement. The online boutiques often send them free items in exchange for a shout out in one or more of their posts or Instagram Stories.
Despite what you might have heard, email is far from a dead medium. In fact, it can be a great way to connect with your website visitors and nurture them into becoming customers.
Instead of solely using emails to blast out sales promotions and discounts, try using it to show your brand’s personality, build trust, and create stronger connections. You might send out “behind-the-scenes” emails of your company, telling your email list about you, the owner, and how you run things.
You can also use your emails to promote your content. Which brings us to…
You might have heard the saying “content is king.” Well, it is. Technically speaking, your social media posts and emails count as content. But you can create other types of content too, like videos and blog posts.
Use your content as a fun way to entertain, educate, and engage your audience. Make funny meme videos or talk about important social issues to which your company donates a portion of your proceeds. Content is an opportunity to find your “tribe,” so make sure you’re putting effort into creating content that people will truly find valuable.
Starting and Running a Successful Online Boutique
Sure, there’s a lot of work that goes into opening an online boutique. But there are so many awesome platforms, tools, and resources to help you get there faster than you might think.
Need a logo that fits your brand’s vibe? There’s a generator for that. Need to find online boutique suppliers in your state? There’s an app for that. Need to build an ecommerce store? There’s a platform for that.
Plus, the beauty of starting an online store is that it’s always a work in progress. As you build and grow, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t work. And you can use this data to optimize your products, suppliers, branding, and marketing until you’re smashing all of your business goals.
So if you’ve been intimidated by the steps needed to start an online boutique, hesitate no longer. Get started, harness the tools at your disposal, and keep an open mind.