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How to Start an Online Boutique

Dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur and running your own online fashion boutique?

Becoming an entrepreneur is a big dream for many of us. What could be better than being your own boss and getting to run a business you’re passionate about? If you’re a dedicated follower of fashion and have retail savvy, an online clothing boutique could be the perfect job for you. 

Luckily, the internet makes it possible to run a boutique as a side business while you’re getting started, but gives you the opportunity to grow it into a full time occupation. Nowadays people are turning more and more to online shopping, Read on for our guide on how to start an online boutique and you’ll be up and running in no time!

Target Market and Branding

Defining your target marking and establishing a coherent brand identity is the most important step to starting any kind of fashion business. Boutiques often fail because they are trying to cater to a market that’s too broad, so be as specific as possible when determining who you want to sell to. This is known as market segmentation. This includes demographic identifiers, like gender, age, income level, marital status, education, race, or religion; geographic identifiers; and psychographic identifiers, like socio-economic class, personality, or lifestyle preferences. Of course, some of these are going to be more relevant than others, but this is an area you should do research in and not just rely on your whims or what you think you may know.  

The most successful businesses identify a new segment of the market that is not currently being served. If your boutique is too similar to others, it simply won’t stand out, so spend plenty of time learning about what kinds of clothes you want to sell to what kinds of people. Do field research by making notes on online boutiques you’d like to emulate, but also visit the library and checkout books on entrepreneurship. The more research you do at the beginning, the better off you’ll be in the future. 
Once you’ve determined who you’re marketing to, you can start building a brand that will be enticing and appealing to your customer. 

Branding includes everything from logos and website design to core values and mission statements. Again, this should be as fully thought out as possible, however this part of the process can be super fun and creative! You can make mood boards with colors stories and visual inspiration. You can start sourcing high quality boutique wholesale clothing to get ideas for what you will carry. You can start writing your brand story. Good branding is consistent, which means the identity of your boutique will be recognizable from season to season and across various social media platforms. Your brand should also be unique and stand out from your competition.

Setting the Business Plan into Motion

Once you’ve got a clear idea of the vision for your target market and branding, putting it into an organized business plan is next step in how to start an online boutique. In your business plan, you’ll want to start laying out practical details about finances, marketing, etc. At this point it’s important to assess what you’re capable of and what you’ll need help with. 

Just because you’ve got a great eye for styling and merchandising doesn’t necessarily mean you can build a killer website or make a detailed budget spreadsheet. It’s perfectly okay to need help at any point of the process! It’s also a great idea to consult with other boutique owners and professionals in the fashion industry. If you haven’t got networking opportunities, there are lots of great books to read for guidance and inspiration. 

Having a detailed and organized business plan is a must if you are seeking any kind of loan or investment for your boutique. Your business plan should include a cash flow spreadsheet that shows how much you expect to spend and how much you project for income. It’s a good idea to use an accounting software to keep track of all your business expenses and profits, as you’ll need to be prepared for paying taxes and maintaining professional bookkeeping. Even if your boutique is quite small, consulting with an accountant can pay off in big ways. 

Next in the business plan is marketing. For online boutiques, most of the marketing will obviously be through social media. You should still have a structured plan for your marketing strategy. Will you focus on daily Instagram posts? Will you have a blog? Will you create the content yourself or hire help? It’s a good idea to invest in services that provide analytics and post scheduling so you can be in total control of your marketing strategy. 

Of course, marketing can also be one of the most fun aspects of running a boutique! You can style and photograph your merchandise in editorials and lookbooks. You can write about your favorite fashion related subjects. You can curate visual imagery for inspiration posts. You can interact with customers and collaborate with social media influencers. 

Merchandising and Selling

When the business plan is in place, your website is set up, your social media accounts are created, and your funding is secured, it’s time to buy merchandise and start selling it! There are many online stores that sell high quality boutique wholesale clothing, which are a great place to start. You might also seek out local designers or bulk vintage clothing. 

If you have a passion for design, as your business grows, you might also be able to find manufacturers that will create your designs for you. There is also the option of private labeling, where a wholesaler or manufacturer puts your brand name on the products you buy from them. 

Fashion is always working a season ahead, so give yourself plenty of lead time to secure merchandise for your boutique. This means that while people are shopping for winter, you’ll be ordering wholesale clothing for spring. Keep up with trends by following fashion week recaps, reading magazines, and staying up to date with fashion bloggers. At first it might be difficult to predict what and how much you’ll sell each season, but as your business develops it will get easier to forecast.

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