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How to Start an Online Clothing Boutique for FREE (Ultimate Guide)

According to Statista, global retail e-commerce sales would grow to $4.5 trillion by 2021. More than ever now’s the right time to know how to start an online clothing boutique.

 

To get things rolling, I have created a super easy guide on how to start an online boutique, even if you’re someone with zero experience. 

 

This post is dedicated to just that, and it explains all that you need to do in 7 simple steps, as well as some legal documentation that might be useful. 

 

In this guide, we have discussed the step-by-step process for starting an online boutique in a matter of minutes. 

Let's Figure Out Step by Step!

1

Create a business plan and select best selling products

Another Statista’s research shows that U.S. clothing and accessories stores generated a revenue of $268.16 Billion in the year 2018.

There is a great demand in the apparel market even after so many variations of clothing products. And if you can find the supply-demand gap for your niche, you can make a highly profitable online boutique. 

Apparel market size in billions as per Statista (2018)

Learn from your future competitors

First thing you’d want to do for starting an online boutique – selecting a very specific niche and learning from your future competitors. If you have no idea about the best clothing products to sell in your online boutique, simply head-on to KwFinder or Google Keyword Planner and check the search volume for the type of products you are hoping to sell. Or just look on Amazon fashion category for some inspiration. 

 

When it comes to starting an online boutique there is a variety of clothing and accessories that you can sell. Try to narrow down your product categories and target specific audience in the beginning. For instance, if you want to sell kids clothing, target it towards a particular age group.

Find out the best selling product category

Trends keep changing and so you need to find what makes your clothing unique. Like, in the beginning of the Corona pandemic, the most trending fashion product was high waist shapewear. You can use Google trends to see the trend rate for particular clothing. 

Optimize your products based on current trends. For example, many online brands customized their products to the Corona products line. You can also use keyword research tools for checking product competition. 

Do a quick analysis for target market

You can use tools like Google Trends to analyze the best performing products in the marketplace. Simply enter the type of clothing products to find out how popular it is.

 

Before you start selling, it’s better to know a little more about your customers, right?

 

    • Think about a relevant customer base – Think about who is most likely to buy this product? Is there a bigger brand to compete?

  • Check your customer base – Perform a quick analysis to find out how big your customer base is. Apparel market alone contributes to 1.5 billion US dollars. Similarly, you can use platforms like Statistia and other credible sources to see how big your audience is.

  • Specify demographics – Try to figure out a demographics report featuring age, location, gender, occupation, income, etc about your target audience.

    Note – Choose the products that you are going to sell. It could be anything from kids’ clothing to fashion accessories, but make sure it is unique and helpful to your customers. Here are some of the most trendy products you can sell in 2020 for some inspiration.

2

Choose between wholesale or dropshipping model

Product sourcing is the second thing you’d want to do. You can either hold an inventory or ship the products directly upon order arrival (dropshipping).

What is a drop-shipping business model ?

Simply put, dropshipping is a business model where the supplier directly ships the product to the customer when the order is placed. As a dropshipper, you don’t need to keep any stock. Dropshipping is a good business model for those who don’t want to invest a lot of capital and want the room for multiple product variations.  

You can easily migrate the product listing from a supplier (AliExpress, for instance) to your store in just a few clicks. There are two types of drop shipping businesses:

  • AliExpress dropshipping – Choose from thousands of products available in the marketplace and re-brand, sell it on your store.

  • Print on demand dropshipping – Sell your custom design products like mugs, t-shirts and phone cases.

Both are popular in the dropship industry, but as a boutique owner, a print on demand dropshipping model should be your preference.

What is an inventory business model?

Inventory would require you to store the items shipped by the supplier and then package/ship the items on your own. Inventory also requires users to set up a wholesale account along with a complete credit application. You can either work as a wholesale boutique or a retailer. For wholesale boutique, you’d need to order bulk clothing products directly from the manufacturers. Retailers on the other hand mostly work with wholesalers allowing them to get better clothing orders. 

 

More importantly, you’re gonna need a warehouse/storage space for the shipped items. Also, don’t forget to add the insurance fee to fully secure your products. 

3

Select a high quality boutique supplier

Third important thing to do to ensure long term success for your online boutique is – choosing a reliable supplier. Your supplier can be- 

  • Custom clothing manufacturer – If you want to hold an inventory, working directly with manufacturers is a good choice. While most of the manufacturers have a high minimum order quantity (MOQ), there are some custom clothing manufacturers that you can work with and get higher profit. 

  • Wholesale supplier – Wholesaler is the one that buys the products from manufacturers and sells it to customers or retailers. Wholesale clothing suppliers can give you cheaper prices and lower minimum order value, but the scope for design customization is quite limited. 

  • Print on demand dropshipping supplier – Print on demand companies allow you to fully-customize your clothing and you don’t have to perform quality checks on your own. Plus they are extremely reliable for long term business and most of the POD suppliers provide custom branding and multiple print variations.

So which is the right way? The best boutique supplier is a print on demand dropshipper. You will have full control over the clothing design + the startup cost is little to none. That said, you should look for a print on demand supplier that offers cheaper product pricing. For instance, CCWholesaleClothing is a great Shopify app.

4

Select an eCommerce platform for online boutique

There are tons of eCommerce platforms for starting an eCommerce business, but for starting an online boutique, there is no better platform than Shopify. This is because of three things – wholesale print on demand suppliers on Shopify app marketplace, beginner oriented dashboard and recommendations by most successful online boutiques.

 

Here’s a quick table for reference –

 

If I have to select the top 3 best platforms for starting an online boutique, Here are my picks:

 ShopifyWooCommerceWix eCommerce
OverviewShopify is a complete eCommerce solution with awesome scalability.WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that changes a website into an ecommerce store.Wix is a drag and drop website builder that lets you design a store from scratch.
Standout FeaturesBeginner-friendly interface, free eCommerce tools, Unlimited file storageDynamic functionality, hosting flexibilityAI based features, Site design controls
SEO score4.8/54.9/54.4/5
Themes/templates1300+2000+300+
Ease of usage score4.9/54.7/54.8/5
Plugins/apps (for eCommerce)4,000+1,000+300+
Trial14 daysUnavailable14 days
Pricing (starts from)$29 per month$6.99 per month$23 per month
Support24/7 live chat, email and phone supportKnowledge base and support ticket24/7 support, knowledge base
Best forAll types of eCommerce storesInventory storesInventory stores
Business toolsYesNoYes
LimitationsShopify has limitations with blog page design and you'd need additional page building app..WooCommerce limit its payment gateway to a few regions around the globe,Wix eCommerce don't let you switch templates and you'd find a lot of ads on cheaper plans.

*Table is hidden on mobile devices regarding size. For the ones who want to see it, please visit our desktop site.

There are a lot of eCommerce platforms for starting an online store, but when its about an online clothing boutique, I’d say – SHOPIFY.

 

This is mainly because of excessive clothing suppliers that integrates with Shopify than any other platform, 24/7 support, budget friendly apps and everything-at-one-place interface. My personal recommendation is Shopify and you can try a free 14 days trial to try it out.

5

Select a name for your online boutique

Your boutique name aka domain name is the first thing your visitor will notice. When you are finding a name for your fashion boutique, make sure it is…

 

  • Brandable, short and unique – A good, catchy store name will help you develop your brand (which is essential if you are looking for a long term business). A short, unique domain name will not only be more memorable for your audience, but also good for SEO.

  • Relevant but specific – If you are launching a car website and your domain name is something like ABCvehicles.com, it might not be the best choice. Instead, if you go for ABC-cars.com it would be more specific and absolutely relevant. your audience would be able to know about your site.

    However, if you have to choose between relevancy and brand, go for the brand. One of the most common examples of this is Amazon. You can use a boutique name generator to get some solid suggestions.

6

Register your business identity

In order to get your boutique up and running legally, you’d have to do a few quick things. First, register your online store as a business identity:

  • Sole Proprietorship/LLP – A Sole Proprietorship is the simplest type of business to form. You’d need only a few legal documents.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – With an LLC, you can create a protection between you and your business store. But you’d need more additional documents.

  • Corporation – Select this if you are looking for funding and investors. 

    Other legal documents you might need are:

  • EIN – If you are not a sole proprietor, you’d need an EIN (employer identification number) for taxation. However, sole proprietors with no employees can use their social security number for this.

  • ITIN – Individual tax identification number is required if you are a non-us resident with no SSN (social security number) for tax processing.

  • Seller’s permit – Seller permit or resale license or business license is required for selling merchandise. You can get it from your sales taxing authority.

  • DBADoing business as is required if you are starting your business using a name other than the owner’s name, or a name that is different from your legal name.

  • Operating bylaws – A few states require LLC business identities to have operating agreements.

7

Design your online boutique for brand aesthetic

Now that you have signed up your Shopify store, it’s time to make it look appealing. Giving your store a good aesthetic is important for building your brand’s reputation, trustworthiness and improving the overall user experience.

So when you are looking for a Shopify theme to represent your online boutique, think how handy your products will go based on design type (minimal, modern, etc). You can also see what theme top Shopify boutiques are using for some inspiration.

 

After that you can use Hatchful, a free logo maker for adding to your store design. You will also need to create legal pages like a refund policy for providing information regarding your website policies. You can easily create these pages for free using Shopify business tools.

 

What to do after setting up an online boutique?

 

Now that you know how to start an online boutique, it’s time to take the next steps. Start by optimizing your online boutique and improving the overall Shopify SEO. If you already have an offline store with great popularity and need a more sophisticated online platform, you can always upgrade to Shopify Plus.

 

At this point, the guide on how to start an online boutique is officially complete, but I’d like to suggest some eCommerce marketing strategies for the heads start:

  • Create unique Facebook/Instagram ads – Facebook marketing is saturated, but you can still make a good conversion for your products.

  • Create a blog- Start a simple blog and search for target keywords in your niche using KwFinder.

  • Referral marketing – You will ask your customers to refer your store to a friend for a reward.

  • Loyalty program – Pat your customers for buying from your store again and again.

  • Influencer marketing – Find influencers in your niche and ask them to promote your product.

  • Affiliate marketing – provide a small commission on your sales for promoting your product.

    I hope this step-by-step guide on how to start an online boutique helped you, if you have any questions, feel free to let me know in the comments below, or reach me out via contact page.

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About the Author

Pulkit Bhardwaj
Pulkit Bhardwaj

My name is Pulkit Bhardwaj, WordPress blogger and an eCommerce enthusiast. I have created Start the Blog for providing a free resource on blogging and help beginners in generating revenue online.

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Now you can open your online boutique from scratch!
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