How to Start An Online Boutique

How to Start An Online Boutique – A necessity for established boutiques & a good place to start for newcomers

Sources and Links:

Hosting sites: Shopify, Volusion, Yahoo Stores, Bigcommerce

Website Designer: virtualspacedesignteam@gmail.com

Marketing: Adwords, Facebook Ads, Pinterest Ads

Most, if not all boutiques these days have there own custom online store to coincide with their physical boutique. It’s a great way to market your store, establish legitimacy and make some extra income. But can it be more? I think if your without the resources to start a brick and mortar store going online is a great opportunity to start your OWN business.

Right now is the only time in recent history where someone can feasibly start a business without having to throw down a huge capital investment in a building, racks, inventory, etc. In fact in today’s tablet/phone crazy and social media obsessed society many people are having more success opening an online boutique versus a brick and mortar store. And it comes down to one reason, overhead. The cost for starting your online store is extremely low and to show you just what kind of overhead you will be dealing with when starting your online boutique let’s get straight into the numbers when determining our domain hosting supplier.

You have many options these days to build a strong aesthetic and highly functional website. All of the companies below will get you on the right path to laying down the foundation of your virtual boutique.

HOSTING COMPANIES

My favorite companies that I have personal experience with are:

1.) Volusion

2.) Shopify

3.) Yahoo Ecommerce Stores

First, all three sites are highly trustworthy and have over a decade of experience serving online retailers.  I first started out learning Yahoo’s platform and really loved the easy system and product inventory control but it was only later when I tried Volusion and Shopify that I realized how easy a website could be to build.  That is great news if you are not tech savvy! Numbers wise, a domain host company like Volusion can hook you up with a custom look for around $150 with no start up fees, then you’re going to be paying a monthly plan of 39.00 a month to keep the website up and running. They have professional and advanced plans that go from 80/mnth to 300/mnth but from my experience the basic plan is all you need to start making money.

If your new to website building I would say the most important aspect of building a website is the customer service from all of the companies that might be your hosting supplier.  Yahoo ecommerce falls to the bottom of this list in this category, although it is 24 hour service you will have to wait up to one hour to get someone on the phone. A lot of Yahoo’s tech support is commissioned out to abroad tech help companies and although this never bothered me I am well aware that this is not the preference for many customers.  Shopify and Volusion on the other hand have all of their tech help centers out of the U.S. and although they are not available at all times of the day, when they are open they will assist you almost immediately.

I hope you’ve realized that this is really going to come down to your preferences. I have simply weeded out a dozen or so companies and given you my top three companies to get started.  At 50 or so dollars a month to start your online store I would say anyone interested in starting a fashion boutique should create a website, even if you have the money to start a brick and mortar store.

Now that we’ve figured out what hosting supplier we are going to use comes the fun part. Design!

DESIGN

If you’re not much of a computer geek again you’re in luck because with all of the hosting suppliers I mentioned they have built in templates that you can choose to help create the look and feel of your website. Not only that but they do all of the work of setting up the payment options and checkout process. Super easy!

So far it has all been roses and the optimism and I’m sure I’ve got you pumped by now. Unfortunately I want to throw a bit of reality at you. The reality is that because all of this is so easy, everyone else is doing it too… From day one you have to figure out how your going to be different,  a collection of unique clothes, a cute logo, good website color combo aren’t going to cut it these days. Do some research and go check out which sites are successful and why. Start by visiting reddressboutique, shopthemint.com, nastygal.com and get a good look at the complexity of design, pictures and content that is expertly done and thrown beautifully in front of the visitor.

I’ll be honest, I created and designed my own online boutique at first and when I finished boy was I proud of what I accomplished.  In reality the website stunk.. I was just proud of myself for feeling like a tech nerd but once I did my proper research I realized how outclassed I was with a lot of great boutique sites out there.

GET A WEBSITE DESIGNED

The first thing I did to solve this problem of having a poor site was find a good designer, I scoured the net and found a vast amount of designers willing to take on my project eventually stumbling upon one that specialized in creating the whole package, from picking the host, logo, artwork, structural design and on. He would do it all and then show me how to work it once he was finished and he was fresh out of college so he was very affordable at the time, in total it cost me $950. His email is virtualspacedesignteam@gmail.com and you can ask if he would be interested in designing your site, however I am unsure if that is still his rate but I wanted to give you an idea of how much I paid. Expect upon inquiring designers to get estimates in the range of 2k – 5k, especially if they are formidable companies.

MARKETING

Once my site was up and I had my wholesale clothing distributors all figure out I still did not get a sale for at least two months! It took an extensive social media push, putting the website printed on my receipts at my boutique and filling the site up with all of my clothing did I finally start rolling in some sales. Within the last year I have been able to reach outside my community and start marketing other communities via google adwords and some unique youtube review marketing.

JUST TOUCHING THE SURFACE

The information I went over is just a touch of what you need to learn and understand about developing a successful online business.  With that said I think this gets you off on the right foot and I wish you the best of luck!