May 12, 2020
E-commerce is booming like never before; in fact, 68% of shopping occasions begin online. What does this mean for the in-person retail shopping experience? Doesn’t look TOO promising… (*sigh*- Neiman Marcus, we’re looking at you). With that being said, if you’re looking to start a business and want to fall into the realm of retail, e-commerce is probably the best option- more now than ever. So what do you do if you want to open an online boutique? Don’t stress, because we have steps and suggestions on how to open it, and make your online boutique the best it can be.
You should start thinking about the name of your boutique. Starting an online boutique can be daunting, especially when there are so many of them with cute or unique names. Your name should be something you aren’t embarrassed to say in public, and it should be short and sweet- we recommend 1-2 words, 3 at the most. This is a great site to help brainstorm and help you kickstart some ideas.
Once you have your name, register it! We recommend working with an accountant for this, as a grander part of your overall business plan.
This should be determined in your business plan, but as you’re planning, you may discover other options! Once you’ve figured out the outside of your store, it’s time to figure out the inside. Where do you stock from?
Read: very important. Research who your target audience is: how old are they, what’s their job, what do they wear, what’s their personality like, what gender are they, etc. Who is your ideal customer and what do they look like? Do they like functional products or fashion products? Do they want to pay more money for handmade items? Are they only concerned with going out and looking expensive, but their budget isn’t that big? All these will help you curate your inventory and how you market it.
Figuring that out will help create an outline for everything else that follows, and will allow you to perfectly identify who you are selling to. Because essentially, who you’re selling to becomes your brand.
It’s an online boutique, where are you going to sell your product? There are so many out there to choose from that it can be overwhelming. Don’t forget to consider where your target audience would shop most. We’ve broken down some of the popular few into categories to hopefully help with starting an online boutique easier:
Doing it all for you:
All the templates:
For the more advanced and eCommerce savvy
The most known option here is Shopify for anyone who has experience or knowledge or just wants to go hard. Shopify starts at $30/mo,, but with that you get so many features and apps. You can sell physical and digital products AND services, which is a plus. Also, they have more than just 4 payment options that include Google Pay, unlike other platforms. It’s so popular that big brands like Harry’s Razors use it, too! The templates they provide also come with moderate SEO, which we can’t stress enough how important that is. Overall, we think Shopify is a great option for starting an online boutique.
Note that the templates you start with on Shopify are free, but they are basic. We recommend purchasing a template or working with an experienced Shopify site builder to create a more customized site.
Unlike creating a brand image (that’s next!) a brand design plan includes logos, fonts, color usage, brand guidelines, etc. Creating a brand design that is cohesive is important because it will create a flow on your website and aid in the overall brand image and aesthetic. A basic plan will just provide the font and the coordinating color palette, like the image below, but others can also include a different version of a logo, and what the voice is like when speaking on social or in ads.
Inventory aside, how are you going to show off all your new stuff? You can either DIY, or hire someone. If you’d like to hire a photographer and models, get ready to shell out some serious cash for it, although the pictures will be great and the inventory will look professional.
But, if you’re confident in your photography skills, know someone with a camera, or can rent one, grabbing friends to show off your clothes or products and you taking the pictures will save you lots of money! Making sure your products look the best they can is crucial when having people decide if they want to buy them or not.
Last, your marketing plan. While lots of business marketing have points they want to hit outside of social media because your boutique is online, that’s basically where all your marketing lives (social media, etc), besides the packaging. Your first marketing budget should be for allocating resources to pay for promoted ads on Facebook and Instagram and promoting posts for your business profile.
For online boutiques specifically, we’d suggest being on Instagram and Pinterest first, and plan out what your posting schedule looks like and what your content will look like. Flesh out your profiles to be as inviting as possible for potential curious customers. Figure out your tone for captions and story posts. We say Pinterest and not Facebook because as a new online boutique, the chances of you being discovered are higher than being on Facebook; a majority of searches on Pinterest are unbranded, so your product can come up at any time. Also, like Instagram, Pinterest allows you to be taken directly to the product if they want to buy it, so it creates more encouragement to purchase.
However, if you don’t feel confident in doing your own marketing, then reaching out to a third party to do it for you is never a bad idea. It will definitely cost you money, but the end game of getting more traffic to your brand might be well worth the cash. Professionals will also be able to understand your brand at an industry level and figure out the best ways to market it that you might not have thought of before.
Now in terms of packaging, that’s also a big part of your marketing. Packaging contributes to the overall experience of shopping with you, and especially if you’re a unique online boutique, they’ll expect your packaging to be unique as well. It should have your main brand colors, logo, and font, and if you’re a small store, a little handwritten note of thanks goes a long way.
Influencers and paid ads are also something to consider. If you have the budget, reach out to an appropriate influencer that you think represents your brand well, and see how you can work together to promote it. Paid ads will also be crucial in creating awareness of your brand, and on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, you can target exactly the audience you want, down to their location.
Everything we’ve mentioned here will help you develop your overall business plan. If you intend on working with investors or applying for a loan or just LASTING as a business, you need a plan.
So, what constitutes a business plan? In summary, it’s a plan that outlines the first couple months of business operations, what you’re bringing to the table to offer consumers, the first couple of finances and how you’ll meet the numbers, etc.
Here’s an outline of what should be included in your business plan:
Starting a business, let alone an online boutique is not easy. It takes time and effort and research to be successful, but the rewards are worth it! We’ve helped, and it was tons of fun. If you have an idea of a store and want to create the online boutique of your dreams, look no further, we have you covered! Contact us or DM us on Instagram, and we’ll work together to make starting your online boutique a breeze.
Written by Kyla Patton and Lauren Bordelon
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