Knowing how to start an online clothing boutique will help get this business started off on the right foot. Here is what you need to know.
How Much Does It Cost to Start?
If you want to start an online clothing boutique, there are some basic costs that every business structure must be prepared to pay before making their first sale.
Here is a great video that breaks down some of the costs that can come up.
Hosting and SSL Certificate
You’ll need to have someone host the website. Some webhosts offer rates as low as $3.95 per month, per domain. If you’re a new customer, you might be able to register the domain for your online boutique for free. You will need an SSL certificate for your online clothing boutique as well. That is $1.50 per month.
Credit Card Processing Fees
Online customers are not going to be paying with cash, which means you’ll need to sign up with a credit card processor. There are some processors which do not charge a monthly fee. They do, however, take up to 3% of the transaction cost, in addition to the 3% that some credit card companies take too.
You could build your website from scratch. It is much easier, however, to use a template that is pre-built to handle an online clothing boutique. Some templates can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. You can also find good ones in the $50 range.
Overall Average Cost for the Basics
If you do everything on your own, the average cost of an online boutique can be under $10 per month. If you want a fully-hosted platform that handles most of the work for you, the cost could be $200 per month or higher.
The Steps to Starting Your Online Clothing Boutique
Create a business plan.
An online clothing boutique is still a formal business. That means you’ll need to create a business plan that guides you toward your own definition of success. Focus on what brands you should carry, how you’ll obtain them, and what your expected costs will be.
You’ll also want to decide on carrying inventory or using your store as an affiliate site instead. You’ll need to have a marketing plan as well to reach out to potential customers.
It will also be good to look at your cost of goods and how much you expect the final sale price of items to be. That will let you see your estimated profit margin.
Get your budget set.
Without a budget, you might find yourself spending more on your online clothing boutique than you can afford. Take a look at your finances to see what you can and cannot do right now. Then look to the future to see what you’ll be able to accomplish when customers start to purchase your items.
Decide what products you will offer.
Once you’ve decided on the brands and know how much you can spend, you’re ready to begin thinking about what products to offer. To do so, you must think about what your targeted demographics want from an online clothing boutique.
Each demographic has specific preferences that must be met for your boutique to gather meaningful traffic. Pick the products which offer the most value at the best price as you get started. You can build in high-profit items as your boutique begins to grow.
Stick to a specific style.
Many online clothing boutiques fail because they attempt to be everything to everyone. The very nature of a boutique is that it offers a specific style. Pick a fashion option which you are passionate about, then stick to it as you begin to build your brand.
Choose your business name.
Your business name should also be your domain name. It should also reflect the type of fashion you intend to offer through your online clothing boutique. Once you’ve chosen a name, create a logo or having one professionally made for you that will tell the story of your business.
You may be asked to register your business name for reporting purposes. That means you may be required to choose a unique name. Make sure you choose the name of your business before purchasing the domain for it.
Setup your accounts.
If you’re a sole proprietor, then you can run the finances of your business through your personal finances. You’ll just pay taxes on everything throughout the year. Other business structures may require a unique business checking account, savings account, and other lines of credit. You’ll need to complete this step before you can begin finding your suppliers.
Develop your supply network.
To sell items at your online clothing boutique, you’re going to need suppliers to provide you with inventory in some way. For those running as an affiliate business or as a drop-shipper, this step can be skipped.
Most supply networks begin in China or Southern Asia because of the cost of manufacturing. If you’re starting a private label, you’ll find international wholesalers tend to be much cheaper than domestic ones.
Whichever you choose, be sure that there is some way to monitor the quality of the manufacturing process.
Market your store.
You’ll need to push your brand out toward potential customers to earn your first sale.
Tips for Getting Customers
To get customers for your online clothing boutique, you’ll need to market your brand. That process begins before you open your store, not after.
Your Grand Opening should be a major event. Here are some tips that can help you begin generating those first sales.
Send samples to influencers on social media and blogging platforms. According to Shopify, Instagram influencers can provide a brand with a 25% boost in engagement.
Craft a press release, then distribute it to local media. Consider using an online distribution service for additional exposure.
Focus on your optimization techniques. Know what keywords your targeted demographics will search for when shopping, then include content which reflects those search options. Always focus on value here.
Have your personal network share about your new online boutique. Trusted reviews can get a new store off to a strong start. Try to have at least 500 followers on your preferred social media platform before you make it to your grand opening.
Engage with everyone who talks to you about your brand. You can do this by following people who may be interested in what you offer, replying to comments left on your pages and profiles, or by talking with people who frequently share hashtags that reflect what you offer in your business.
Create a blog on your website and update it frequently. Feature the brands and people who are responsible for the products offered within your boutique. You can even feature influencers within your industry on your blog, even if they don’t feature you, to begin generating some exposure.
The issue many new boutiques run into when reaching out for new customers is quality. This content is being created before you have inventory ready for sale. That means the quality of the content you offer others will be a direct reflection of the products you offer.
If your content looks cheap, then your brand will feel cheap. That reduces the chances of making a sale.
Content can look cheap in a variety of ways. You might have poor spelling or grammar in your blog posts. The resolution of your digital graphics or photography may be poor. The videos you’ve uploaded may have poor sound quality, poor visual aesthetics, or both. Each represents a potential reduction in customer sales.
If you cannot produce high-quality content on your own, then reach out to innovators who can create this content for you. It is an investment that will often provide returns.
Industry Statistics for Online Clothing Boutiques
#1. Online retail e-commerce sales were more than $322 billion in 2016. They are expected to rise to almost $500 billion by 2021. If achieved, this would create a fashion retail sales CAGR of 7.83% in the United States. (Statista)
#2. One of the biggest threats to online clothing boutiques is a high return rate. Some stores experience return rates as high as 50%. (Shopify)
#3. Online clothing sales for men generate more than $20 billion in revenues annually from U.S.-based consumers. For the 5-year period ending in 2017, the annualized rate of growth in this category was 15.9%. (IBIS World)
#4. The top-performing categories for online clothing sales for Amazon, which controls about 1.5% of the U.S. online market in this category, were men’s bottoms, women’s intimate apparel, women’s denim, and men’s underwear. (One Click Retail / CNBC)
#5. Online sales, as a percentage of total fashion retail sales in the United States, accounted for just 1.6% of spending in 2015. (Statista)
#6. 58% of internet users globally have purchased at least one fashion or clothing-related item within the past 12 months. (Statista)
#7. When placing the average order with an online clothing retailer, a customer will order up to 5 items and pay up to $100 per order. (Statista)
#8. The most influential component of the shopping process for online consumers when purchasing clothing items is the price of the item they want. (Statista)
#9. 90% of the online clothing boutiques that are started today will fail within their first 5 years of operation. More than 80% of the boutiques that fail will do so within their first 12 months of operation. (Huffington Post)
#10. Online purchase conversion rates are typically around 1%. That means 1 visitor out of every 100 may complete a purchase when visiting an online clothing boutique. (Huffington Post)
Starting an online clothing boutique can be challenging. With the right business plan in place, it can also be quite rewarding. Set goals now, create a path that will get you there, then follow that path at all times. That will give you the best chance at beating the odds.