6 Tips for Starting an Online Boutique
The good news is, starting an online business has never been easier. Still, you’ll need to have a thoughtful business plan to maximize your profit potential. Before putting your ideas into action, it helps to make a few key distinctions about how to operate your new online boutique.
How to Start an Online Boutique:
1. Determine Whether You’ll Need Inventory
The first step is deciding whether you’ll need to purchase and stock inventory. Another option is drop-shipping — a retail fulfillment method that allows you to buy your products from a third-party wholesaler or manufacturer after you make the sale. The product is then packed and shipped directly to the customer.
While drop-shipping certainly has its advantages, it’s not for everyone. Owning your inventory may be more expensive initially but allows you to maintain control over the quality of the products you sell, as well as the entire shopping experience. Of course, stocking inventory presents additional challenges and potential risks, which you’ll want to consider.
2. Have a Clear Financial Plan
One of the best parts about starting an online business is that you can do it on a limited budget. Nevertheless, expenses will inevitably creep up as your business progresses.
If you decide to stock your own inventory, you’ll likely need up-front capital to purchase your products or the raw materials to create them. You’ll also need packing and shipping materials. While most small business owners fund their ventures with personal savings, according to the SBA’s Office of Advocacy, you don’t have to self-finance. A line of credit, retail business loan, or outside investors can also help get your business off the ground.
3. Choose an eCommerce Platform for your Site
You have a multitude of eCommerce platform options when it comes to building your online store, and many make it very easy get up-and-running quickly. However, you’ll need to decide whether you want to take control of design or if you’ll hire a professional to build your site for you.
While you may be able to do it all yourself, it’s important not to skimp on quality. According to a Kissmetrics study, 93 percent of buyers consider visual appearance to be the most important factor when making a purchase. So, regardless of the route you take, make sure that your site looks professional and eye-catching before you unveil it to customers!
4. Pay Attention to Branding
Your brand is what sets you apart from a sea of competitors. Take time to brainstorm a name — and slogan, if necessary — that properly represents your boutique. More importantly, make sure it’s something you’re proud of, or you’ll have a difficult time marketing your retail business. If logo design isn’t your specialty, consider outsourcing it to a freelancer or graphic design firm, depending on your budget.
Once you form your brand, you may want to legally trademark it. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office defines a trademark as a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A trademark can help protect you from imposters attempting to sell similar products using your brand.
5. Focus on Customer Service
Customers want to buy from businesses they trust. Whether you give them the option of calling, emailing, or contacting you through your website, providing responsive customer service will help you build rapport with your customers and establish credibility. It may even help you win repeat business or referrals from satisfied shoppers.
In addition, clearly state your return policy, and consider offering a money-back guarantee. This will give your customers peace of mind if they’re not yet familiar with your products.
6. Be Yourself
When it comes to designing your online boutique, the possibilities are endless. Whether it’s a side business, your sole source of income, or simply a hobby that generates extra cash, don’t be afraid to let your personality show through in everything you do. Your unique vision and voice are what will help you connect with customers and keep them coming back.
Digital Commerce 360 estimates that between 12 and 14 million online stores are in existence. Of those, about 650,000 generate annual sales of more than $1,000. In other words, there’s plenty of opportunity for success, but a very small percentage achieve it. If you do your research and leverage the right resources while following these six tips you can turn the online store of your dreams into reality.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.