Nowadays, starting an online business is more affordable than ever and allows you to reach a much broader audience. Plus, who doesn’t want to run their business from home in their pajamas, right?
So, to help you do that, we researched the key steps needed to start an online boutique.
As an example, we used Shopify - a very popular, powerful, and simple eCommerce platform. While we provided a brief tutorial on boutique creation with this particular platform, many tips on this list apply to any platform of your choice.
How To Start An Online Boutique
The process of creating an online boutique is similar to creating any type of eCommerce website. There are some specific tips and best practices to consider, though.
Here is how to start an online boutique:
- Look into the business laws in your state/country
- Choose a unique niche for your boutique
- Research and vet your suppliers
- Choose an eCommerce platform to create your boutique
- Buy a domain name
- Customize your online boutique
- Add products to your boutique
- Set up your preferred payment options
1. Look into the Business Laws in Your State/Country
Before starting an online boutique, you need to check the business laws in your area.
If you plan on making this a full-time gig, I recommend you form a business in your state. By doing so, you’ll get all the information you need regarding licensing and paying taxes.
In the United States, a lot of information on documentation and taxes can be found in the IRS Small Business section. The U. S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, also provides helpful resources for small businesses.
In these sites, you may also find out about funding options you didn’t know were available.
2. Choose a Unique Niche for Your Boutique
When preparing to start your boutique, it’s important to choose a specific niche.
You can do this by considering your target audience. Ask yourself who your products are aimed at and hone in on that idea. Be as unique as possible.
For inspiration, research unique business ideas. One of these could be I Do, Now I Don't, who re-sells different kinds of jewelry, but mainly - unused or barely used engagement rings.
The more unique and concentrated your products are, the more you’ll be able to charge. If your competition is small or better yet, near to non-existent, there is no benchmark for your customers to compare your prices to. By investing time into identifying your niche, you’ll be able to charge more money in the long run.
3. Research and Vet Your Suppliers
Now comes the important part - products.
Depending on what your business is like and what it does, you may have several different options.
- You can choose a wholesaler. Selling merchandise of a bigger company is a common route for many online boutiques.
- You can be using a dropshipper who will also take orders and do all the shipping for you.
- Or you could make your own merchandise.
The issue with getting the products out in the wild will mostly be the creation of the supply line. By making sure you always have products available to purchase, but don't overstock, you can really help your business stay competitive.
With wholesale purchases, you're likely to have more direct communication with your chosen supplier, as well as preferable rates. The downside is that the wholesaler will most likely ask you to pay a lot of products in advance, making your business less flexible, and the initial investment - much more sizeable.
If you wish to avoid that, check out dropshipping suppliers.
While looking at individual suppliers may give you more choice, dropshipping companies are a lower risk option. This is because you only have to pay for a product if a customer places an order. Also, you won’t have to deal with any of the hassle associated with handling and shipping products.
And of course, if you choose to make products yourself - make sure you can keep up with demand. Don't make too much stuff at once, but always have spares. And price yourself accordingly! Grinding for weeks to make barely any money isn't much fun after all.
4. Choose an eCommerce Platform to Create Your Boutique
To create the actual site for your boutique, choose the right eCommerce platform.
We created an example shop using Shopify, but there are dozens of other options. Some of them are BigCommerce, Volusion, Wix, WooCommerce, and many others. Whichever one you go for, make sure that it offers enough space for you to add all of your products.
Also, check that it’s compatible with your preferred payment method.
Once you’ve chosen the right one, sign up for a free trial or choose your plan. Then, follow the sign up instructions.
Shopify, for example, offers a 14-day free trial. To get started with it, simply navigate to the Shopify website and click on “Start free trial”. Then, fill in your credentials and you’ll automatically get redirected to your Shopify dashboard.
5. Buy a Domain Name
The majority of eCommerce platforms allow you to buy a domain once you sign up.
With Shopify, you have 3 options. You can:
- Buy a new domain
- Transfer the domain from another website to your new one
- Connect an existing domain that you bought elsewhere.
You can view all of these options by clicking on the “Domain” tab followed by the “Domain” button.
If you don’t have a domain, click on “Buy new domain”. I recommend you go for your business name with .com TLD. This is one of best practices for choosing your domain name.
Shopify gives you various alternative domain extensions to choose from if the .com one is unavailable. Once you type in your preferred domain, it'll either give you the option to buy it or it'll say "Unavailable" next to.
6. Customize Your Online Boutique
To customize your site, click on “Home” followed by the “Customize theme” tab and the “Customize theme” button. You’ll automatically be assigned Shopify’s signature theme “Debut” which you can edit by clicking on “Customize”.
While the default themes are good for most shops, a boutique store should stand out from other online stores.
As you’re targeting a specific niche, explore the free themes or, if your budget allows, visit the theme store. This will give you options that may align better with your vision and branding. To add a new theme, click on the one you like followed by “Add [theme name]”.
Alternatively, if you've had a theme designed specifically for your boutique, you can upload it to your Shopify account.
7. Add Products to Your Boutique
Products, of course, should be the focal point of your new boutique. So, navigate to “Products” in your dashboard and either click on "Import products" or click on “Add product”.
Here, you have the choice to start from scratch or use a list of existing products from an excel sheet. If you do import products, you can click on "Download a sample CSV template to see an example of the format required".
If you do click on "Add Product", you'll be redirected to a page where you can add each product’s title, description, and any relevant images. You can also input the price, shipping, and inventory information. If you have variants of the same product, you can also add this information on the same page.
8. Set Up Your Preferred Payment Options
Once customers come to your boutique and decide to purchase something, it is important to have flexible payment options.
To enable payment providers, click on “Settings” on the bottom left-hand side of your screen. Then, click on “Payment providers”.
To start receiving payments, you first have to click on “Complete account setup”. Here, you’ll be asked for your business details (these vary based on your location), personal and product details, as well as customer billing and banking information. Once you’ve filled in all the information on this page, click “Complete account setup”.
Now that you’ve finished setting up your account, you can receive payments from customers. The type of payments you accept will completely depend on your individual preferences. Shopify allows you to accept Paypal and Amazon Pay payments. You can also choose from a list of alternative options and set up manual payments so that customers can pay you outside of your online store.
How to Start an Online Boutique: Final Considerations
Before starting your online boutique, do your research: find out which laws and tax regulations apply to you; decide upon the niche you'll be targeting; look into possible vendors; choose a platform that will be convenient for online store creation. Then, take care of a good domain name, store customization, and purchasing process.
And even if your intent is to start small, don't be discouraged - everyone started somewhere.
Do you already run your own boutique store online? If so, we’d love to learn more about your experience as a shop owner in the comments below.