If you're thinking about starting a successful online boutique, we're here to tell you there's no time like the present.
Online shopping has exploded and will continue to grow, giving small business owners ample opportunity to create unique products and sell them online for a profit.
The online boutique industry is saturated, and standing out can be challenging. Follow this step-by-step guide to establish your brand as a leader in your niche and consistently drive sales.
How a focused business plan can help you successfully launch and scale an online store
Your niche and target audience can provide information about in-demand products based on gaps in the market
Social media marketing and a subscriber list create rich promotional opportunities
In 2021, the ecommerce market was valued at $553 billion and is expected to grow by over 8% annually until 2030. If you were wondering if an online boutique is a profitable business plan, the answer is YES!
So, what are you waiting for?! Let's get into it!
Starting an online boutique is a straightforward process, but there are critical steps you must take as a business owner to cover all your bases. Follow this step-by-step guide to check every box and launch your successful online boutique.
When starting an online boutique, the niche you will sell is the most critical factor to determine. When choosing a niche, we highly recommend selecting a market and product(s) you are interested in and passionate about. Your "work" will feel less like a job and more like a passion project.
Conduct market research to discover the trends different audiences are discussing online. Utilize Google Trends to see what consumers are searching for when they shop online and where your online boutique can close the gap by offering missing or underserved products in your niche.
Google Trends and social media will reveal market demand for various demographics, allowing you to simultaneously dial in on your niche and target market.
The potential niches for an online boutique are virtually endless. From women's apparel to sustainable clothing, eco-friendly tote bags and other carry-all's, baby and kids clothing, jewelry, and themed apparel, there are ample online store ideas that you can launch.
Once you've settled on a niche that you are passionate about, it's time to determine the target market you'll be selling to.
Many online boutique owners are tempted to market to the masses, and while this does work for some, we recommend having a smaller target market to begin with as you launch and scale your business.
Say you're starting a baby clothing business, so you'll be focused on targeting new moms, grandparents, and friends of new parents. Or you're selling custom clothing for dogs and cats, so you'll be marketing to pet owners and the gift market.
Consider your products and the gaps in the market as you determine who your online boutique is geared towards, and that will help you carve out your target market.
Your brand tells the story of your online boutique through your business name, logo, color palette, story, and the overall personality of your company. Creating a strong, memorable brand will help to establish your boutique in your niche, create visibility online, and build customer loyalty.
Choose a relevant, catchy business name for your niche and the products you'll sell in your online boutique. Make it a play on words, something cheeky or simple that is easy to remember, so customers can find you online or share your brand with friends.
Your business name will be on your website, packaging, social media platforms, and many other branding elements, so make sure it's something you're confident in.
Branding consists of visual elements like your logo, color scheme, and other graphics or imagery you consistently use within your boutique and products. A logo is arguably one of the most important aspects of a brand. Sketch out a simple, clean logo (or hire a graphic designer to do so) and make sure it's consistent with your business name and niche.
Then, choose two or three colors that will represent your brand online. Colors should complement each other and not take away from your logo and your brand's overall look and feel, but add to it. Colors should inspire shoppers and align with your products, like green hues for eco-friendly products or a vibrant neon color palette for a graphic T-shirt company.
Determine your brand's personality and ensure it's in line with your own, so you can efficiently market your brand authentically. Create your "why" or the story of your online boutique and why you were compelled to launch a business in the first place.
Share your passion and interests in your brand's values and mission so shoppers can feel connected to your brand and products.
A business plan provides a clear road map of your store's trajectory, goals and financial projections, store objectives, marketing strategy, KPIs, and more. This information will allow you to measure what's working, what needs modifying, and how to scale.
When writing your business plan, consider the following:
General goals of your online boutique
Financials, including your price strategy, marketing budget, staff, and payment methods
Your marketing strategy, including social media, paid ads, grassroots campaigns, and building repeat customers
Logistics like packaging, shipping costs, vendors, and refund/ exchange policies
Key performance indicators (KPIs) like gross profit, conversion rate, new customer orders, and customer acquisition rate
Choosing a business structure will determine how you pay taxes, potential partnerships and securing funding, liabilities, and more. Here are the most common business structure options for online boutiques:
This is the most accessible and straightforward option for small business owners who are just getting started with minimal risk or liability in their company. A sole proprietorship means the business has no employees, and there is no distinction between the company and the owner(s).
A sole proprietorship pays significantly lower taxes, and it's relatively simple to change your business structure in the future if you wish.
A limited liability company (LLC) is a hybrid model of both a partnership and a corporation. LLCs can be taxed like either business structure and enjoy benefits like easy management of the company's books and personal liability protection for the owners and their assets.
LLCs are another great option for a single founder of an online boutique who is just getting started in the business world as they get their feet wet and figure out the business side of things.
If you are running a boutique with another person, a partnership is likely the best business structure for your online business.
Partnerships share responsibilities within the company and are equally liable. In this business model, the individuals are taxed rather than the business itself, based on each individual's income.
A corporation means the business is separate from the individual, mitigating any personal liability or risk to the owner. Corporations pay more taxes than other structures, including state, federal, and local taxes.
The key benefit of a corporation lies in the protection of the owners.
No matter where you are located, look into your local government's licensing requirements to obtain a business license or a resale permit to sell online.
If you're in a state that collects sales tax, you have employees, or your business is operating as a partnership or corporation, you'll need a Federal tax ID number.
Visit the IRS website for the details you need about all relevant business tax information
A print on demand service is a cost-effective choice for an online boutique to reduce overhead and startup costs related to inventory and storage. They handle everything from printing your products to fulfilling and shipping the order to your customers.
When browsing for a potential POD company, pay special attention to their product selection and quality, sustainability practices in their printing and products, where they ship from, and how they prioritize customer service.
Now that you've done the heavy lifting, it's time to get creative and start designing your products!
Bring your ideas to life by sketching designs and creating digital mock-ups using design software like Adobe Photoshop or InDesign. Gelato+ customers can access Gelato's Design Editor tool, making it easy to perfect each design and see how it renders on various products.
If art isn't your cup of tea, outsource your design ideas to a graphic designer or artist who can bring your ideas to life.
Avoid using too many colors and elements when brainstorming and creating your designs to cater to a broader audience. Use eye-catching fonts and elements that are clean and splashy. Choose colors in your designs that are complementary and easy to pair with outfits for regular use.
Once your designs are finalized, pop them on the various products you'll offer in your online boutique so you can see them firsthand and make any necessary modifications. Take high-quality photographs of each product to use later in your product listings in the online store.
Next, you'll need a dedicated ecommerce channel to run your online store. Most business owners choose an ecommerce platform like Shopify or an online marketplace like Etsy.
For an all-in-one solution that allows customization for shop owners, Shopify is a solid choice. As you get started, there are some setup fees and a learning curve, but the community and forums provide great resources.
Etsy creates a marketplace environment rich in opportunity with shoppers ready to buy, but the competition can be stiff. Etsy also requires listing and selling fees, which can affect your profits as you try to grow a new business.
It's time to create your online store so customers can shop!
Once you've chosen a platform, create your online storefront and use elements from your brand story to make it your own. Establish your refund and return policy, and set up payment processing and shipping options so customers know what to expect when shopping in your online boutique.
Add each product to your store and include the product images you took from the order samples. Each product listing should contain a detailed product description with information regarding the size, material, feel, and any other details your customers should know.
When pricing products to sell in your online boutique, research how other boutiques in your niche are pricing their products.
Consider the cost of designing and ordering the product, what your print on demand supplier charges, and your desired profit margin.
As you start your online boutique, offer discounts and promotions to encourage conversions and get more visitors to your shop, which will help you in the short and long term.
Promote your boutique through digital marketing strategies, including social media and email marketing. In your product listings on your website, add relevant keywords to your titles and descriptions to improve visibility online.
Use the social media platforms that your target audience is active in to promote your online store. Run paid ads to build your following and promote your products via social media marketing. Collect email addresses so you can create a subscriber list. You can also partner with influencers through giveaways and promoted products to cast a wider net.
Once you've built a substantial email list, start a newsletter and send information on product launches, new designs, and other updates about your shop.
Starting an online boutique is highly lucrative and profitable, but it comes with challenges. In a sea of competition, stores have to find a way to stand out so they can grow. Offering custom clothing, prints, and accessories is a great way to provide customization and improve the shopping experience for your audience.
If your online business is coming to fruition, Gelato is here to help. Let's team up so you can design custom apparel and accessories, and we'll take care of order fulfillment and shipping. Get started here.
When starting an online boutique, it's essential to choose a niche, create an exciting and evergreen brand, and write a business plan you'll follow as you launch and grow.
The upfront cost depends on your business plan and what you intend to spend on a marketing budget, the number of products you'll sell in your online boutique, and inventory costs, among other factors. Most online boutiques can be started for around $3,000.
For many people starting an online boutique, working with a print on demand partner is a very cost-effective option because owners don't have to worry about inventory management or shipping and can focus on marketing their store and connecting with the potential customer base.
Your target audience may answer this question for you. Some consumers prefer fully stocked stores, while others like having fewer options so they don't spend too much or become overwhelmed with the store's inventory.
If you offer a complete collection, The Boutique Hub recommends having 9 to 12 pieces for customers to shop from.