According to Statista, global retail e-commerce sales would grow to $4.5 trillion by 2021. More than ever now’s the right time to know how to start an online boutique.
To get things rolling, I have created a super easy guide on how to start an online boutique, even if you’re someone with zero experience. This post is dedicated to just that, and it explains all that you need to do in 7 simple steps, as well as some legal documentation that might be useful.
In this guide, we have discussed the step-by-step process for starting an online boutique in a matter of minutes. I have also covered the legal aspects of an online boutique.
Let’s get started!
How to start an online boutique
Step-1 Find best sellers in clothing and accessories
First step in our guide on how to start an online boutique is to find hot products in the clothing and accessories niche.
Right off the bat, you need to start working on a product that has low production cost, a good margin and a high demand. Check different fashion stores to get inspiration for the products.
Use Google advanced search operators to find the exact match (“product”) for your online boutique. You can also use Amazon.com or other popular stores to find out what’s selling.
Additionally, Shopify and other platforms keep featuring best selling products for every month. Like, in the beginning of the Corona pandemic, the most trending fashion product was high waist shapewear.
Try to optimize your products for what’s selling at that moment. For instance, the COVID-19 spiked the sales of fashionable face masks, comfortable home clothing and so on. You can go ahead with any niche that you like, including but not limited to:
Try to keep your online boutique niche specific in the beginning for better conversion rate and higher return on investment (ROI).
Don’t forget to use keyword research tools like Semrush or KwFinder to check the search rate and search volume for the product (keyword) that you are going to sell. This will help you narrow down the product catalogue.
Step-2 Choose your business model and logistics
Once you know what you are going to sell, you can go ahead with your business model + logistics & fulfillment. You have to be careful about the business model you choose during the time of Corona. Target regional audiences before with international customers, if that’s not possible find a supplier that’s nearer to your audience. Here are a few models:
Dropshipping is a business model where the wholesaler directly transports the product listed on your online boutique to the customer. Logistics is usually fulfilled by a third party.
For instance, if you start an online boutique with Shopify. You can use the free Oberlo app for moving the product details from the supplier (say Aliexpress) to your store. Oberlo will not only help you handpick the best sellers, but also to dropship them for a minimum charge.
Similarly, you can do Amazon dropshipping using Spreadr, where Amazon will take care of the delivery. You can choose any dropshipping company, but try to find a country specific dropshipping platform.
b. Print on demand
Next in our how to start an online boutique guide is – print on demand model.
This model is similar to dropshipping, but instead is solely focused on printing products. For example, you can use services like Printful for creating custom tees, mugs and more. They will print and deliver your design. You will earn is, price you listed on your store minus Printful manufacture cost.
This online boutique model would require you to store the items shipped by the wholesaler and then package/ship the items on your own. Inventory also requires users to set up a wholesale account along with a complete credit application.
An inventory-based business model is where you hold the storage warehouse and sell them online via your online boutique. You’d need two things for your inventory store. One is a good quality shipment and delivery service like FedEX, USPS, DHL, UPS, or any other company that you prefer for fast delivery during pandemic. Second thing is a software like ShipStation for managing the logistics digitally.
Step-3 Find a reliable supplier
Unless you manufacture your own products, you will need to find a supplier for your online boutique.
In a pandemic (or even a non-pandemic) situation, it is necessary that you select a supplier that can persistently provide high quality products. You need to ensure that what you are selling is the best product available in the market.
You can use directory services like Worldwidebrands, Salehoo, Alibaba, etc to find certified suppliers from around the world. Alternatively, use “eCommerce clothing suppliers” and similar keywords on Google search engine.
Be sure to thoroughly investigate your wholesale supplier, as well as verify the manufacturer details and access the brand reputation of your supplier. This can be done through their Google ratings, BBB+, online reviews and so on.
Step-4 Select a boutique hosting platform
There were a lot of eCommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento, etc for our how to start an online boutique guide. But these are my top picks:
- Shopify (dedicated eCommerce platform) – Shopify is a complete eCommerce solution. They have thousands of apps for improving different aspects of your boutique. Although you can use Shopify for both the inventory as well as dropshipping, their features are more targeted towards dropship stores.
- WooCommerce (WordPress plugin) – It is an eCommerce plugin for WordPress that helps a user to create an online store. WooCommerce is not good for dropshippers, but definitely a great choice for inventory models. The only reason for choosing WooCommerce over Shopify is if you want to create a content-heavy site, or if you won’t require 24/7 support.
|1.||Overview||Shopify is a complete eCommerce solution for online stores.||WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that changes a website into an ecommerce store.|
|2.||Standout Features||Beginner-friendly interface, eCommerce tools, Unlimited file storage||Extreme customization options, dynamic functionality, hosting flexibility|
|3.||Plugins/apps (for eCommerce)||4,000+||1,000+|
|5.||Pricing (starts from)||$29 per month||$6.99 per month|
|6.||Support||24/7 online support||Knowledge base and support ticket|
|7.||Best for||Dropshipping stores, inventory stores, high traffic businesses||Inventory stores|
|8.||Speed (tested for default stores)||1.03 seconds||1.56 seconds|
|9.||Live Examples||See Example||See Example|
My advice is, you should use Shopify as your eCommerce store. While Shopify charges more than WooCommerce, it also offers most of the eCommerce specific extensions for free, which are otherwise paid on WooCommerce marketplace. Shopify is a complete eCommerce solution, and will actually cost you less than WooCommerce on the long run, provided that you have to pay for every functionality you add on WooCommerce.
But if you want more flexibility, or want to fully customize your blog pages; WooCommerce is a better choice. Follow this guide to start an online boutique using WooCommerce, or to create a blogging website.
Step-5 Setup your boutique with Shopify
a. Select a 14-days free trial on Shopify
Shopify makes signing up and building an online boutique a cakewalk. All you have to do is visit their website and click the “Start free trial” button. In the beginning, you will get a free 14 days trial to get things going.
b. Find and register a catchy boutique name
Your boutique name aka domain name is the first thing your visitor will notice. When you are finding a name for your fashion boutique, make sure it is…
Brandable, short and unique – A good, catchy store name will help you develop your brand (which is essential if you are looking for a long term business). A short, unique domain name will not only be more memorable for your audience, but also good for SEO.
Relevant but specific – If you are launching a car website and your domain name is something like ABCvehicles.com, it might not be the best choice. Instead, if you go for ABC-cars.com it would be more specific and absolutely relevant. your audience would be able to know about your site.
However, if you have to choose between relevancy and brand, go for the brand. One of the most common examples of this is Amazon.
One you have picked up a domain name, get it registered on Shopify, or Namecheap. While Shopify charge $11 per year for a domain name, you can get it on Namecheap for $6.98 per year. Here’s how to connect an existing Namecheap registered domain to your Shopify store.
Step 6: Designing your online boutique for brand aesthetic
Now that you have signed up your Shopify store, it’s time to make it look appealing. Giving your store a good aesthetic is important for building your brand’s reputation, trustworthiness and improving the overall user experience. So when you select a theme for your Shopify store, think how it will look on your store. Ask yourself, whether or not this design will look good on your store niche.
a. Pick a theme
To select a theme, go to Online Store > Themes on the left sidebar and customize the default theme. Shopify offers both free and premium themes. You can check out the available styles for the free themes and use any of these for your store.
The best thing about premium Shopify themes is that they are built using professional designs, contain better code quality, provide premium support, and are jam-packed with lots of useful features. Make sure you are checking out the user reviews before choosing a premium theme just to evaluate how well it worked out for them.
b. Create a stunning logo
The web-store logo is an important aspect and you should take care of this part when launching your boutique. You can use a Shopify based logo maker to create a personalized logo. Hatchful is a free tool for designing a creative boutique logo from hundreds of pre-made templates.
c. Add Legal pages for your online boutique
You will need legal pages for providing information regarding your website policies. You can easily create these pages for free using Shopify business tools.
- Refund policy page
- Terms and conditions page
Step-7 Additional legal documents you might require
Setting a boutique online is similar to an offline boutique. There are only a few legal things that you need to take care of (similar to a brick and mortar store). Below, I have detailed the basic documents and registrations that you’d need when opening an online boutique to comply with the legal standards. However, there could be some additional rules based on your region that you may need to keep an eye out for. Read this guide Shopify guide featuring legal business laws.
Start with deciding a structure for your online boutique i.e., whether it is the LLC or the LLP business model. After selecting the business model, you can go for the following steps…
1. Employer identification number (for LLP company)
Once you have selected a structure, you would need to apply for an EIN (employer identification number). It is your registered id for taxation purposes. However, if you have an LLC company with you as a sole proprietor or don’t have an employee, an EIN would not be necessary. You can simply use your social security number for taxation. If you are not sure whether or not you need an EIN, read this post.
2. Seller’s permit
Seller permit or resale license is required for any business selling merchandise to multiple states. In some states, you’d also require a sales tax ID for paying quarterly sales taxes. Your state business department can help you know about the requirements for getting a seller permit.
To give you a head start, every state in the USA needs a seller permit except Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon. Find out the state-specific permit rules. Usually, there are online portals for seller’s permits. For instance, if you need to get a California state’s seller’s permit, visit this page.
And before you get confused by all these different terms, a resale id, a reseller ID, a state ID, a Sales Tax ID, a retail ID, and a wholesale ID are all the same thing. But usually, it is referred to as a seller’s permit.
3. Fictitious business name via local newspaper
If you are starting your business using a name other than the owner’s name, or a name that is different from the legal name, then it is said to be a DBA (doing business as). In that case, you need to file for a fictitious business name. It is necessary for those who want to operate their business under a pseudo business name.
For instance, if your name is John Hadlock and you want to start your business as Jclothingassociates, then you have to file for a fictitious business name. But if you start your business under the name John Hadlock collection, you might not need a DBA. Remember that your fictitious name cannot have something like INC. or Corp tailing it unless its a corporation registered under the Secretary of State.
A fictitious business name will help you open a bank account and receive payments in the name of your business. For LLC models, DBA or fictitious name helps in setting up multiple businesses. You don’t require a DBA if you are doing business as your formal entity.
What to do after setting up an online boutique?
A few years back, it was a lot more difficult to sell online. Nevertheless, the new user-friendly platforms like Shopify have made it a lot easier. You can easily start an online store with a slim-to-none investment. Know all the important things for starting an online boutique during Corona before going ahead.
Now that you know how to start an online boutique, it’s time to take the next steps. Start by optimizing your online boutique and improving the overall Shopify SEO.
You can get some help from your online boutique from eCommerce experts on Shopify marketplace.
If you already have an offline store with great popularity and need a more sophisticated online platform, you can always upgrade to Shopify Plus.
I hope this step-by-step guide on how to start an online boutique helped you, if you have any questions, feel free to let me know in the comments below, or reach me out via contact page.
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