How to Open an Online Boutique in 6 Steps?
You say you want to open an online boutique but don’t know where to start? The online boutique opening guide will immediately come to your aid and guide you step by step. Opening a boutique shop can be tiring, but with proper planning, you can overcome it.
With the Internet, you can now open an online Jewelery or online clothing website without renting a shop. In this guide, we will teach you how to open an online boutique in six simple steps.
- Plan Your Online Business
First, make the necessary business plan for your online boutique shop. It will help you to open your online boutique site. A business plan is required if you want to get funds or loans from banks or investors.
Basically, your plan should include what your business is about, its goals, and how it will be achieved. In addition, your business production , distribution , marketing , etc. operations should also be mentioned.
As an online boutique owner, there are a few important elements to consider in your business plan:
1.1. Define Your Online Boutique Brand
The brand of your boutique will determine how you run your business. From who your audience is and what products you sell to how you market.
Start by deciding on your target market to define your brand . Meet the needs of a specific demographic before expanding your audience for new businesses. You can maximize your business and marketing strategy by focusing on a small audience.
Start by listing the attributes of your target market, such as:
- Age range
Then do more research to find out who they are. Personal motivations, buying behavior, likes and dislikes etc. Consider angles like
Create a customer character based on your search results . You can use this character, which will represent your ideal market, as a guide to develop the brand of your online boutique.
Next, determine your niche . You can specialize in just one area.
If your target market is male office workers, your niche may be professional menswear. Or you can narrow down your niche by only selling certain accessories like ties or shoulder bags.
Once you’ve already determined what you’re selling to whom, you can move on to the business name Make it short, memorable, and easy to pronounce so it stays in people’s minds longer. In addition, it should represent the brand of your online boutique.
Apart from these, it must be eligible to be registered as a business entity in the country where you live.
If you have determined the name, continue with creating the visual identity of your brand. This includes aspects such as the aesthetics of your boutique, the logo, the packaging of samples, etc. Make sure the design appeals to your customer character.
1.2. Search for Inventory Source
Now look for a source for the products you are going to sell .
One criterion to remember is that the supplier’s products match the style of your boutique. If possible, ask for a sample for you to check the quality of the products.
Either way, you can reduce costs by making multiple purchases. But you need to store the products yourself.
Alternatively, you can completely eliminate inventory and production costs by choosing dropshipping . With this method, you become an intermediary between suppliers and customers. You can print your brand on your products, but it depends on your supplier.
1.3. Consider Stocking and Shipping
Let’s move on to stocking and shipping your products.
If you choose dropshipping, you won’t have to deal with inventory and shipping as these are the responsibilities of the suppliers.
In the dropshipping method, you should be ready to deal with customers if there are defects in the products or shipping problems. It’s good to keep in touch with your suppliers as handling returns can be more complex.
On the other hand, when working with a wholesaler or supplier, you have to take care of the inventory yourself. However, it will be easier to track your products and make quality controls. Moreover, there are ways to reduce your costs.
One way is to store your products in your own living space. However, some areas may have regulations regarding how much business inventory you can house in your home. If the amount of products you have exceeds the limits, you may need to rent yourself a warehouse space.
There are many options for shipping. You can calculate costs by weight or region, or apply a flat rate to all products, regardless of type. Be sure to do your research to see which one suits you best.
You should also make sure you have a clear return policy . Indicate how many days your customers can return products and when they will receive their returns. It would be in your best interest to include which products can be returned and how the products will be returned.
If you do not want to deal with stocking or shipping, you can agree with a logistics service. The logistics company will take care of storage, delivery and returns for you for a fee. Some common examples of these are ShipWire and ShipBob .
- Register Your Online Boutique Business
Before you officially open your business, you need to deal with the necessary paperwork.
The documents you need to collect vary depending on where you live. That’s why it’s a good idea to do extensive research and consult a lawyer to complete this step.
Usually, it starts by choosing a business structure. Most small business owners are advised to register themselves as Limited Liability Companies . This option will protect your personal assets in case your business goes bankrupt or is sued.
Apart from that, you may need to obtain a business and sales tax number to collect and file taxes . In some countries, you must obtain vendor permission before your business starts operating.
After you finish all the paperwork, you can set up your online boutique business.
- Build a Site with an eCommerce Platform for Your Online Boutique Business
While there are many ways to set up an online store, it is recommended to choose an eCommerce platform that allows you to set up your own site . That way, you’ll have more control over monetization, design, and the shopping experience.
Some of the most popular eCommerce platforms are WooCommerce , PrestaShop , and Magento .
To help you make the right decision, we’ll provide an overview of all three platforms, along with their pros and cons:
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that can turn any website into an online store. Setting up a shopping website with this plugin is pretty easy. You will need a WordPress site that requires a web hosting purchase to use it.
According to Built With , WooCommerce powers over 30,000 websites , making it the most widely used eCommerce platform to date.
Once the plugin is activated, you can start setting up your online boutique site instantly. WooCommerce will help you step by step and automatically set up web pages for your store. Since it is easy to work with the interface, you can easily manage your website.
- It’s free — you can use the plugin itself at no cost. It is self-contained with core eCommerce features such as payment processing and store analytics.
- Expandable — There is an extensive collection of WooCommerce extensions that you can use to customize your online boutique site . Moreover, there are many third-party sites that offer premium options.
- It has a mobile app — you can manage your eCommerce store from your phone even when you’re not at the desktop.
- There is no live support — you can send an email if you need immediate assistance from an official representative. However, its guides are quite extensive and there are many articles online to help you answer it.
All in all, WooCommerce is a great option to start with if you’re a beginner. But if you run into any problems, be ready to fix it yourself.
PrestaShop is a platform specifically designed for setting up online stores. Because it is open source, you can download the software and install it on your web hosting for free.
PrestaShop includes the most basic eCommerce functions such as customizing store elements, managing orders and dealing with customer inquiries. In short, PrestaShop can be used to open a boutique online.
If you need to add extensions, you can find them in PrestaShop’s marketplace .
- Localization features — change your store settings to be accessible in various countries. You can also enable language translations, multiple currencies and local tax rules.
- Built-in SEO functions — increase your products’ discoverability in search engines by customizing their metadata.
- Comprehensive analytics — The Statistics menu summarizes many aspects of your online store, from top selling products and newsletter signups to traffic sources.
- Premium support plans — if you need direct assistance, you must purchase one of the support packages.
- Expensive extensions — only a few free modules and themes are available.
Just like WooCommerce, PrestaShop is quite powerful on its own. It may not be the best choice for those on a budget, though.
Magento is generally used by large businesses, but companies of all sizes can use this eCommerce platform.
There are two versions of Magento in total: Open Source and Commercial . The first one is free to download and you can install it on your own web hosting. The second is a premium, hosted version. Both use the same software.
The Commercial version has more features but the Open Source version is also extremely powerful. It allows you to create a customizable mobile friendly store with integrated payment systems. It also has various functions to sell products to international customers.
- Customizable — this software allows you to configure your eCommerce site by providing shipping methods and a variety of settings, from tax calculation to catalog management.
- Extendable — Magento has more than 5000 extensions in its app marketplace . You can enlarge your boutique as you wish.
- Built-in search feature — Add a search bar to your online store with ElasticSearch so your visitors can quickly find what they’re looking for.
- Steep learning curve — compared to the other two platforms, you will need some web development skills if you want to use this platform to its maximum potential. Available in Commerce version with beginner friendly features like Page Builder.
Overall, Magento is a great choice for stores of all sizes. However, if you want to use this platform for a long time, you should hire a web developer.
Or you can learn to code yourself . Magento’s knowledge base and support forums can help you on your journey. Plus, your payments will become even more valuable as your boutique grows.
Regardless of the platform, you should choose the one that best fits your priorities and preferences. If you are looking for a reasonable and user-friendly option, WooCommerce will suffice. On the other hand, Magento is great for those who want a long-term solution.
After making a choice, buy eCommerce hosting service. Contabo has reasonable plans optimized for WooCommerce, PrestaShop and Magento.
However, you must also purchase a domain name. You can use your business name as a domain, but you should check that it is eligible for registration by querying the domain name .
- Customize Your Online Boutique Website Design
The easiest way to design your website design is to use a theme. Things to consider when looking for an eCommerce theme:
- User-friendliness — visitors should be able to navigate your store easily so they can make an instant purchase.
- It has to be responsive — mobile users make up half of internet traffic . Therefore, your store should be able to serve mobile visitors as well.
- It should reflect your brand — choose a theme that is consistent with your brand design. Or choose a theme with customizable appearance settings so you can edit the theme as you wish.
There are many places to find eCommerce themes.
WooCommerce users can use any theme from the WordPress directory and integrate it with the plugin. Alternatively, WooCommerce also has free and premium templates .
For PrestaShop , there are many options in their market area .
If you’ve already selected a theme, start configuring your overall site design. Claim your store by adding your brand name and logo to the header section. Then you can change the colors, typography, layout, page elements, etc. Customize parts like
Once that’s done, move on to the next step.
- Build Your Online Boutique Site
It’s time to set up your online store. For this section we will use WooCommerce as an example to provide an overview of the most important steps.
5.1. Add Your Products
To create your first product, go to Products -> Add new in your WordPress dashboard . You will be taken to a page that looks like the default post editor screen. Here you can add the product name and description.
On the right side of the page, select the tags and categories for your product. You can also specify a product image or add multiple photos to show the product from various angles. Make sure to use high quality photos.
If you scroll down a bit, you can find the product price, inventory information, shipping methods, product specifications, etc. You will find the Product data section where you can enter information such as
There is also a box to add a short description that will appear on your product page.
Click Preview to see how your product looks after you’re done . Click Publish if everything is ok or Save Draft if you are not ready to make the product public yet .
5.2. Configure the Product Page
The product page is where all your products are displayed. How neat and attractive it looks can determine whether your visitors will spend more time on your site.
However, we will show you a short guide on how to set up your product page in WooCommerce.
If you use your WooCommerce setup wizard the plugin will create a Product page called Shop for you. But if you skipped the installation, here’s what to do:
- Go to your control panel and select Pages -> Add new .
- Name your page from the title bar. You can give your Page similar names such as “Products”, “Store”.
- Click Publish .
- From the left menu go to WooCommerce -> Settings and open the Products tab.
- In the Shop page area, select the page you just created.
- Click Save Changes .
Click Appearance -> Customize from the control panel to edit your product page . Then select WooCommerce from the left menu bar and go to Product Catalogue .
From here you can choose to show products or categories, customize how they are sorted, and specify how many products are shown on a page.
After you’re done go to the previous menu and select Product Images . Choose the proportion in which product images are displayed.
Make sure your products stand out when customizing your product page. If you need help, you can review these suggestions:
- To be clear —don’t fill the page with too many products. You can damage the visual experience.
- Be descriptive — when naming your products, make sure customers can understand what they are and what they can do.
- Use extensions — extensions like Quick View , for example , can allow visitors to see what the product looks like without leaving the product page.
5.3. Add Online Payment Methods
With an online business, you will need a secure payment gateway to charge your customers.
To see the payment methods available for your online boutique site, select the Payments tab from WooCommerce -> Settings in your control panel . There are options such as bank transfer and payment on delivery that you can use here.
After activating the payment option you want, you will have added it to your store by installing it.
After completing the basic steps, finish setting up your online store. Run a few tests, read your texts, see if there are any errors. After your store is ready, you are ready to serve!
- Advertise Your New Online Boutique
It’s time to announce your online boutique site to everyone. Two of the many channels you can use to market your business are social media and paid advertising.
Social media networks have contributed greatly to marketing the fashion industry . However, you should definitely take advantage of these platforms for your own boutique.
Create Social Media Content
There are many ways to promote your boutique through social media content. If you can:
- Post photos of your products
- View positive reviews from customers
- Repost photos of customers wearing your products
- Include relevant and trending tags to make your posts more discoverable
- Share behind-the-scenes photos
For your content to be successful, you need a proper plan. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Choose a suitable platform — since you work in the fashion industry, you need a social media network that highlights visual elements like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
- Open a business account — this will allow you to get features to advertise your products and reach wider audiences.
- Create a posting schedule based on your audience’s behavior — find when your audience is most active using your platform’s analytics tools.
- Make your profile attractive — you can create a colour-coordinated post, like Oak + Fort’s page on Instagram, for example .
- Set an engagement strategy — you can use humor in your caption, do polls, gift products, and more. Or you can follow in Nike’s footsteps to share motivational posts like this example :
Reach Influencers in Your Niche
With a large and loyal base of followers, social media influencers can promote your brand to a wider audience.
Moreover, if done correctly, you can get a high return on investment. According to Influencer Marketing Hub , businesses working with influencers earned $5 for every $1 they spent .
While they’re just getting started, you can offer them a free product or discount code in exchange for promoting your brand.
If you want to try influencer marketing, here’s what you can do:
- Find people who match the style of your boutique — they’re more likely to give you positive reviews and your followers to vouch for your brand.
- Work with micro-influencers — they may not have the largest fan base, but high audience interactions can bring higher conversion rates.
- Create a brand ambassador program — this will allow you to work with them longer and promote your brand whenever you want.
Online advertising can be a bit difficult for novices to understand. But when done right, your business can be highly recognizable.
Google Ads is the most popular online advertising platform. You need to get ad space on the search engine results page for a specific keyword to use. Your ad will be positioned above organic search results.
You can set the ad to direct your visitors to your website or a landing page.
You will then bid in the ad auction , which will determine whether or not your ad will show.
How your ad wins the auction depends on your bid, keyword relevance, and additional information. That’s why you should get a good strategy before you start.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are also big players in the online marketing industry. It has Audience Insights tools that can tell you about your target demographic and allow your ad to show on the feed of users that match you .
Bonus: Fine-tune Your Online Boutique
Managing an online store is a continuous process. Here are some extra suggestions to improve your boutique:
Secure Your Website with an SSL Certificate
Without the right precautions, online businesses may run the risk of being exposed to cyber attacks . Hackers not only gain access to your site, they can also obtain sensitive information from your customers, such as payment information.
However, there are simple measures you can take to secure your website , such as using an SSL certificate.
SSL , in short , the Secure Sockets Layer , uses an HTTPS protocol to encrypt the data moving between your website and your visitors’ browsers . In addition, it will tell browsers that your site is safe, allowing users to browse your site feeling safe.
The most obvious indicator of an SSL-enabled website is the browser’s address bar showing a lock icon next to the website’s URL. If you click on this icon it will say that the connection is secure .
Another benefit of using an SSL certificate is that your search rankings can increase as Google prioritizes SSL-enabled sites.
At Contabo, your online boutique site will be secure from the start, as all our eCommerce plans include free SSL certificates.
Install Web Analytics
Web analytics tools are great for examining your online boutique’s overall performance. It tells you what strategies are working and what aren’t so you can better optimize your site for sales.
Google Analytics is a great app for this. It is both free and extremely powerful. It shows a variety of data about your visitors, from traffic sources and visit numbers to bounce rates.
To use Google Analytics, you must be a member and add your website as a property. Then, after you get your Tracking ID, add it to the <head> tag in your site’s code and connect your store with the application.
Take Care of Your Customers
One way to keep your customers coming back is to provide great service. Many people these days prefer to have a positive experience with a company online. This may bring new users in the future.
Here are some ways to improve your boutique’s customer service:
- Be responsive — timely responses are an essential part of a good customer experience, according to research . Make sure you’ll be notified every time you’re contacted via your website, email, social media and other channels by turning on your notifications.
- Offer discounts — like free shipping or discount coupons.
- Offer a personalized package — this will add to your customers feeling special and your brand to be remembered.
Thanks to the internet, there is no longer a need for a shop to open an online boutique. With online services such as web hosting and e-Commerce platforms, you can open any business with ease.
In this guide, we explained how to open an online boutique site in six steps:
- Plan your online business
- Register your business
- Build a website with an eCommerce platform
- Customize your website design
- Build your online boutique
- Reach your audience
Your online boutique site will be successful as long as you offer the best shopping experience for your customers. Start your business with Contabo and start selling today! Good luck!