Step-By-Step Guide: How to Start a Successful Online Boutique
This post was last updated on December 28, 2020.
When you’ve got a passion for fashion, don’t be afraid to show it. Express your style and your flair by starting an online boutique that’ll let you make money doing what you love. While boutiques typically sell clothing and accessories, you can also get creative and sell artisanal soaps, designer home goods and other luxury items in your store.
The benefits of setting up your boutique online are clear: After COVID-19 changed the world of eCommerce, creating an online store for your business has become a necessity. Not only does it allow for contactless purchases, selling online let’s you target a much larger audience with only a fraction of the costs involved. And on top of that, eCommerce platforms offer powerful tools for branding and marketing, which is so crucial when you’re trying to make a name for yourself in the field.
So how do you start a business, like an online boutique, and make a recurring revenue?
First, do your research
Before jumping in, spend a few hours researching the field you’re entering.
If you haven’t already done this, get to know the market, the competition, and the brands you love. Look at stores with different business models and get a feel for which one will work for you.
Gain inspiration from different styles and looks and write down what you love and don’t love about the businesses already on the market. Do a competitor analysis to see what different online boutiques are selling and how much they’re charging for their products.
Once you get a sense of the field and what’s out there, use a business plan template to nail down your business blueprints. This plan may have to be modified as you move forward, but try your best to make it thorough, organized and focused. Then, create a mission statement that expresses exactly what you are setting out to do in a couple of sentences. What will set your boutique apart?
After that, it’s time to get started. We compiled a step-by-step guide on how to start a boutique to help you fulfill your potential as a fashion guru and business owner. With these tips and best practices you’ll have everything you need to know about how to open an online boutique.
Follow these 11 steps to learn how to start a successful online boutique:
01. Connect with an eCommerce platform
To get started, pick an eCommerce platform that’ll host your online boutique and help you accomplish all your business goals. It's a good idea to choose a platform that offers plenty of professional eCommerce features so that you can ensure your online boutique will be able to grow and succeed.
Here are some things to consider when choosing an eCommerce platform:
Will I be able to scale up? While you may not want to spend too much money on your platform plan from the start, you’ll want to make sure you’ll be able to grow your capabilities as your needs expand.
Is a domain name included? Some platforms, like Wix eCommerce, offer a free domain name when you acquire a premium plan.
Does it automate sales tax? If you plan to sell your products online to different regions and states, you’ll need to make sure you’re charging the correct amount of sales tax. Choose a platform that gives you the chance to automate this so your store stays compliant.
Can I create a unique design for my site? You’ll want your website to look professional and match your specific style. Make sure your platform offers varying eCommerce templates to use to get started, but also lets you easily customize them so that it looks unique. Also double check that you’ll be able to customize your checkout experience to optimize for sales.
Are there options to integrate dropshipping? When you’re creating your product list, it can be extremely helpful to boost your inventory with a dropshipping supply. Pick a platform that’ll make it easy to add products to your store from a dropshipping supplier.
Jump in now: view our Wix Learn tutorials to get a glimpse of how you can use Wix eCommerce to host your store.
02. Choose the right online store template
The simplest and most productive method for setting up your store is by using an online store website template. Building your store with an already-made template will allow you to create an entirely unique-looking site that includes all the fundamental elements your store needs.
Here are some of the best eCommerce website template examples to use to sell more online.
When choosing your template, check that it includes the basics of what you’ll need for your store:
A gorgeous product gallery
Clean product pages
An intuitive check-out flow
The next requirement depends more on your own stylistic choices and on your branding vision. Templates are often designed with a particular niche or genre in mind. Choosing one that reflects your brand identity and the audience you’re hoping to reach will save you a lot of work when you personalize the template.
Remember that you’re looking for a template that includes the features you want. But if you decide later on that you want to add more tools or remove others, you can easily do that from the site editor. You can also rearrange and restructure your website to match your needs as you grow.
03. Name your business
Now that you’ve got your creative juices flowing a bit, it’s time to come up with a name for your boutique. There are a few ways you can go about naming your store:
Create a word bank. Build a list of words and add to it from time to time with terms you love or feel capture your vision. Then compile them into your business name.
Use a business name generator. Or, more specifically, you can use a boutique name generator. Add a word you want to include or the types of items you plan to sell in your boutique and let the generator steer you toward your business name.
Build off of what already exists. Discover what’s already out here and get ideas of the styles of names people are using. Are they one word? Do they include two nouns with an “and” in the middle, like Coal and Canary?
Once you come up with a name, check Google and social media to make sure it’s not already being used by a different business. While you want to get a little creative with the name, you’ll also want to choose a name that’s memorable, easy to spell and not too weird. You’ll have to live with this name and proudly tell it to customers, clients, investors and partners, so make sure you feel completely comfortable with it.
Once you’ve committed to the name, it’s time to buy a domain name. Your website’s domain name should match your store’s name exactly so customers can easily find your business online.
04. Source or create products to sell
Now it’s time to figure out what you’re going to sell and then stock your inventory. There are a few methods you can use to go about choosing products:
Make the products yourself
Do you have the skills to create the products on your own? Then pull out your sewing machine or your tool chest and start working.
Here are some things to consider:
You’ll need to spend a significant amount of time creating products.
It’ll be difficult to scale a business like this.
Make sure to charge enough that it’s worth your labor.
Design your own products and have them made
Create a design, perhaps with the help of a designer. Then, find manufacturers who can create your ideal products and supply you with your inventory.
Here are some things to consider:
Start off small until you learn which products your customers like.
Create a break-even analysis and determine how many products you’ll need to sell at how high a cost so that you’ll still make a profit.
You’ll need to find a place to store and manage your inventory.
Showcase designers you love
Do some research to find some boutique clothing or accessory designers and brands who you love. Then showcase them on your site. Ecru Emissary’s stock is filled with clothing from various designers, but lets you shop by designer, if you want.
Here are some things to consider:
You may have to charge more for your products.
Take account of the competition. Find out who else is selling these brands and do a competitor analysis.
You’ll need to work with the designers to create a plan for managing your inventory.
Partner with a dropshipper
Avoid the hassle of fulfilling orders, managing inventory or storing your products. Use a dropshipping supplier to provide your business with products and fulfill your orders. All you need to do is market the products and choose a price.
Here are some things to consider:
You are reliant on the stock available by the dropshipping company, so your options are limited.
Make sure to buy every product you plan on selling so you can verify that it’s high quality and that you’re comfortable including it in your store.
Dropshipped orders will be fulfilled by the third party, so you have less control over shipping speeds and packaging.
05. Create a consistent brand
Whether your boutique specializes in vintage clothes or toddler chic, whether you sell minimalist designs or an eclectic beautiful chaos, your store embodies a defined style. Creating a harmony between that style and your store’s design, logo and promotions will strengthen your eCommerce branding and make your target audience feel at home when they visit your online store.
Start off by using a logo maker to design the perfect logo for your boutique. Consider the color palette, fonts and design that’ll capture the essence of your style. Once you choose these, you’ll want to use them throughout your site and marketing materials.
Let’s look at Stolen Goods online boutique, for example. One of the key characteristics of their designs is their use of bright, poppy colors, which they cleverly translate into the color palette of their website. The result is this beautiful and colorful dialog between the products and the platform where they are put on display.
Remember, visuals are everything
In order to sell clothing items online, you must first stimulate your shoppers’ visual appetite. The images on your online boutique should be so beautiful that shoppers will be immediately tempted to imagine themselves walking around, dressed in your amazing merchandise.
Quality product photography is of the essence here, so it may be worthwhile to invest in professional photoshoots as well as take the time to edit your photos with a tool like the Wix Photo Studio. You can take it one step further and add videos of your products to your site as well to give customers all the information they need to feel confident buying your product.
An additional perk of quality images is that it helps alleviate returns. When customers can see exactly what they’re buying, they’re less likely to want to return it later.
06. Streamline the checkout process
Online shopping should be a simple and straightforward activity. The last thing you want is to have your shoppers struggle with the payment process. If they do, many of them will choose not to complete their purchase, and all of the hard work you’ve put into your online boutique will go down the drain.
If you built your store with Wix, connect with Wix Payments in order to make sure your store accepts online transactions. Then consider giving your customers a few options to pay. Depending on your location, choose payment methods like:
Digital wallets (like PayPal)
Then, optimize the check out process by following these two key processes:
Minimize the necessary steps required to complete the purchase. Try to keep it down to a few simple clicks.
Regularly make sure everything is functioning properly. Test different scenarios – adding items to the shopping cart, removing items, choosing colors or sizes, changing amounts and editing shipping details. Check also that your store management options are working smoothly.
House of Sunny’s shopping cart also displays an overview of the check out steps on the top of the page and indicates where you are along the process. This helps customers understand what they need to do next and lets them feel secure in the check out procedure.
07. Design detailed product galleries
Shoppers enjoy knowing that they have options, especially when it comes to fashion, accessories and clothing. They want to be able to make an informed choice about what they buy and to pick items that really match their style and their needs. You can easily assist them by making your product galleries comprehensive and precise.
Here are some tips to keep your catalog organized and optimized for sales:
Add product options to your product pages.
Categorize your products into product galleries.
Add filter options to your catalog so shoppers can find products based on collection, price, size and colors.
Include a quick view option so shoppers can view product details without leaving your catalog.
Give customers the option to add items to their cart directly from the catalog page.
Check out how CeliaB’s product galleries are neat, include large colorful images and the option to get a quick view of the product without leaving the page.
08. Optimize your mobile store
In this day and age, you must take into account that many shoppers will visit your online boutique using a mobile device. To guarantee that your store looks absolutely fabulous on all screen sizes, optimize the mobile view and test it from multiple devices.
Mobile shopping experiences are not quite the same as shopping on a regular computer. Mobile users prefer long scrolling to clicking, so your mobile store needs to be designed vertically even if your full store uses the full width of the screen.
Images and texts should be large enough and spaced out so that they are easy to see and click. Organize your product collections and options in an intuitive and simple way, allowing shoppers to locate their preferences quickly.
The Wix Owner app is a great tool for optimizing websites for mobile users. You can easily activate and customize it, and you’ll have yourself a professional online boutique that can be reached anywhere, anytime.
Check out VB Fashion's mobile store. The product pages let you easily filter products by collection, size and color. Popups on the bottom of the screen notify you about what other customers are buying, adding a level of urgency and giving you ideas of other products to buy.
09. Boost traffic through social media
In a perfect world, visitors would find their own way to your store. In reality, however, you need to actively promote your store on their favorite online platforms. In other words, you need to be social-media-savvy. Social marketing on platforms with a strong visual element are especially important for boutiques and online stores, so focus your efforts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
Establishing a powerful social media presence does not happen in one day. But if you keep an active and frequent stream of content and attune yourself to your audience’s habits and lingo, you will no doubt see great progress and an increase in traffic.
Talliah Rose built up its Instagram following to 144,000 followers by providing consistent quality content.
Integrate your store with Facebook and Instagram. Create a Facebook shop to allow your customers to buy from your business on social media. Connect your Instagram to your store to give customers the chance to access your product pages straight from your photos.
You can also run Facebook Ads to show your products directly to your customers while they scroll through Facebook. If you created your online boutique with Wix, with just a few clicks and information about your target audience, you can create ads that are optimized for your ideal customers. You can also track it all straight from your Wix dashboard.
Here’s a guide on how to set up Facebook Ads with Wix.
10. Combine SEO and brand-driven content
Search engine optimization (SEO) is absolutely foundational for any website. A significant portion of online traffic is directed through search engine results, and it’s therefore vital that you integrate content that is optimized to show up on Google results.
But as important as search engines are for your traffic, you don’t want your site’s content to be totally dictated by SEO. Your content should be genuine and authentic, not something that looks like a bunch of random keywords. Find the right balance that combines SEO and branding effectively. Greet your visitors with a human voice that is not too “salesy”.
You can find an excellent example of this fine balance on Bowtie Behavior’s online boutique. With a friendly and personal About section and a cute blog, this brand is succeeding through online content.
11. Offer incentives to your shoppers
Buying clothes, accessories or decor items online can be a bit intimidating. There’s always the risk that the material might not be just what you wanted or that sizes won’t fit quite right. You can do a lot to reduce these risks by offering incentives that make the experience much more pleasant and appealing.
For instance, you can offer free shipping and free returns and provide your customers a safety net. You can also add a detailed size chart to give more specific information about measurements. And of course, sales, and coupon codes are always a great motivation for any shopper. Who doesn’t love a good deal?
Ready to start your online boutique? Create your free eCommerce website and start selling today.
Marketing Writer, Wix eCommerce
Geraldine is a marketing writer for Wix eCommerce. She uses her broad experience in journalism, publishing, public relations and marketing to create compelling content and loves hearing user success stories.