Just like starting any business, setting up an online boutique store can be quite challenging. There are several factors to consider and put in place before finally opening an online store. Luckily, we are in the digital age, and information can easily be gotten online. So, starting an online boutique should be such a hassle. 

Online boutiques are an alternative to physical stores. You can easily peruse an online store, add items you like to your cart, pay and have it delivered at your doorstep. Starting an online boutique entails many things, and this article will walk you through some steps to take to ensure you’re on the right path.

10 Steps to Start an Online Boutique

Starting an online boutique takes a lot of time and investment, below is a guide to help you start your online boutique:

  • Create a Business Name and Entity type

In starting any business, you must have a name and a business structure your brand will be recognized with. So, you must decide if you want to run the business alone as a sole proprietorship, LLC, or a corporation. You can consult a business attorney or a tax professional to help you make the right choice if you are unsure of which business entity to choose for your business.

In choosing a brand name for your online boutique, you must pick a brand that represents what you do. To ensure you’re picking the right name, you can check your province’s online business database to check if the name you picked is available.

It is also important to check the federal, state, and local trademark registrations to check your business name and potential logo. This is to ensure that the logo is not infringing on another business’s intellectual property.

Most importantly, a domain name is essential to any online boutique. Your business name must be available to use as your business domain name. A domain name is what is used as the URL of any online business, and this is how your customers and prospective client will find your business online. In a case where the domain name is not available, you might want to consider changing the business name.

  • Write your Business Plan

If you want to open an online boutique, you must have a business plan to guide you through the whole process. A business plan is a blueprint that will aid you in the development of your business. With a solid business plan, you’ll be able to see if your business has the prospect to survive in the long run. 

Regardless of the niche you decide to focus on with your online boutique, your business plan should be thorough and show your financial plans, marketing campaign ideas, business strategies and the business model you plan to use. A good business plan must have the following:

  • Business model
  • Projected Start-up costs
  • Estimated Revenue
  • Expected shortcomings
  • Competitors
  • Marketing Strategy

As an online entity, you don’t necessarily need a lengthy business plan. The type of business plan you need depends on what you will be using it for. That is, if you are going to be using it to seek funding/loan, or use it as a guide to help you structure your business.

In a case where you are financially capable to start your business without seeking funding, you might want to consider a lean plan aimed at guiding you through the planning process of your business. While if you need funding, a formal business plan is advised.

  • Design your Brand

There are over a million online stores today, you must create an online brand that makes your boutique unique. Branding includes your name, logo, vision, mission, purpose and values your business is rendering. Below are some features that can help you create a solid and unique brand identity.

  • Create Brand Values

Your brand values are a guide that will help you convey your business messages and personality. You might want to call it your business principles. Creating value will help consumers/prospective client identify with your brand. If your business values align with your consumers/prospective clients, your brand will have an edge over your competitors.

  • Design a Logo/Theme

In creating a logo for your online boutique, it is important to be creative and pick a design(s) that appeals to the eyes. Your brand logo is how people recognize your online boutique. It should represent your brand and communicate your business values. You can hire a professional graphic designer to help you achieve the best logo and them suitable for your online boutique. As an online boutique, you must use colours to your advantage.

  • Deliver Trust

Having your customers assured is very important in any online business. Unlike a physical store that items can be easily sized/checked and returned as the case may be, online stores take time. So, it is important to deliver a trustworthy brand identity to your customers. Be transparent with your business dealing, your price should not be overboard and stick to each of your policies.

  • Create a Niche

As an online boutique, you need to create a niche and stick with it. Are you going to be selling both male and female clothing, or children wear, lingerie, gender-specific line, etc.

You must decide on your niche, and means of getting your items. Are you going to be producing yourself or find a manufacturer that’ll supply you? If you are not going to be producing, you must find a manufacturer(s) who can constantly get items across to you promptly.

  • Pick an eCommerce Platform

Currently, there are several eCommerce platforms available in the market. You can research and compare your options before settling for any platform that is suitable for your boutique.

Note that the eCommerce platform you choose will determine some things about your online boutique like the business cost. So, it is advisable to make an early decision on this. Ensure to pick a user-friendly platform.

Below are few things to look out for in an eCommerce platform:

  • Subscription
  • User-interface
  • Customization
  • Security
  • Integration
  • Customer service

Choosing a suitable platform for your online boutique depends on your business niche, how much control you want in terms of customizations, building traffic, etc.

  • Obtain a business license/permit

Depending on the type of your online boutique you’re establishing, there are some federal and state licenses and permit you must obtain. The requirement to obtain these licenses vary per location; where the business is being established.

If you are unsure what license your online boutique needs, you can consult your local SMA office, business lawyer, or your local business agency. Generally, depending on your type of online boutique and location, you might need a seller’s permit, sales tax license or home occupation permit.

  • Open a Business Account and Obtain a Business Credit Card

When it comes to running any business whether online or offline, finance is a key factor to any decision making. It is crucial to separate your personal and business expenses. Every financial activity of your business should be carried out on your business account. 

Activities like payments, paying suppliers, paying staff if there are any, etc. should be transacted using your business account and business credit card.

One of the upsides of opening a business account and using them responsibly is that it can boost your business credit score. This will aid your chances when seeking for funding at any time.

  • Strategic Marketing

Marketing is a crucial part of every business entity. When it comes to marketing, different tactics have to be employed to get the desired result. When starting up an online boutique, you can leverage on social media to drive traffic and awareness to your online store.

Visual sites are your best pick when using social media for your online boutique. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, pin interest can be used to reach your audience. You can also start a blog on the site. The blog can be used to draw the audience to your store.

Email marketing is another marketing technique that can be used to market your online boutique. Leverage on your mailing list to stay in touch with your consumers by rolling out deals, sending an article about your seasonal trends, etc.

Brand Ambassadors is one of the oldest marketing techniques business owners use to market their brand. This is an effective marketing technique that involves using words of mouth, referrals by an ambassador(s) to encourage people to try a brand. Trade shows and events are a great way also to network and expand your online business. 

  • Get Funding

Although online boutique requires minimal funding to startup, you’ll still need to cover some cost upfront before you start making any profit. Aspect like paying manufacturers, startup cost, marketing etc. all require funding.

So, you might need to borrow money to get your online boutique running. When it comes to seeking funding, there are some business loan options available depending on what the fund is needed for, the amount, among many other factors. Some of the funding options include; Business line of credit, startup business loan, purchase order financing, etc.

  •  Shipping your Products

How do you plan to deliver your items to buyers? It is very important to carefully determine your mode of delivery. As an online boutique, your shipping cost must not be expensive, and also the shipping time must not be slow. These are factors that ruin online businesses. You must ensure your delivery fee is affordable and the delivery time is swift. This will give you an edge over your competitors.