18 March, 2013
If you’re like me and are positively mad for fashion, you’ve probably at least once dreamed of starting your own fashion boutique. Yet we remain content to shop in those owned by others. But online shopping has opened up the doors of possibility and I know many people who have decided to be brave and take their love for fashion that step further. So I wanted to find out what really goes into setting up your own online fashion boutique. I asked around about what the basic process and top tips were and it seems all you need is a bit of start-up cash and a good eye for inventory, and you could be sitting pretty in your virtual shop in a matter of days.
You're probably already aware of just how much competition there is out there when it comes to online shopping. The best way to get started with setting up your own fashion boutique is to choose a niche market. This could be something like vintage styles from a particular era, or customisable jewellery. Choosing a niche area to specialise in will help you focus your marketing efforts and really make your shop stand out.
Step 2: Source Your Inventory
Although it's tempting to simply create a shop that caters to your personal tastes, you'll also want to keep your customer in mind. You may go through a period of trial and error as you stock your boutique. Engaging with your target audience helps, so always ask for feedback as you're getting started. One option is to purchase your inventory from wholesalers, estate sales, or vintage shops. You can also start creating relationships with independent designers to stock your online shop. However, many online retailers choose to work with drop-shippers, who house and ship your inventory for you. The right source of inventory will depend on how unique you want your clothing to be. If you're selling big brands, drop-shipping could be perfect. However, for a funky vintage boutique, you'll probably want to have a more personal hand in acquiring and storing stock.
Step 3: Create a Website
With your inventory ready to go and a clear vision of what you want your brand to look like, you can then set up a website. You'll need secure web hosting and a visually appealing virtual storefront. Most web hosting services help provide you with customisable templates, so you can play around with the design of your shop. It's helpful to take a look at other online shops that you admire, to get an idea of what works and what doesn't. With the array of ecommerce software available today, you don't need to be an IT expert in order to figure out how to create a website. You will need to upload your inventory onto your website. Be sure to take attractive photographs of the garments. Visuals are extremely important in an online setting, when a customer can't try on the products themselves. Accurate measurements are important as well.
Step 4: Spread the Word
There are many outlets for online advertising. Create social networking profiles for your new shop, and use a blog to reach out to a wider audience. You can find other websites where your key market visits, and place paid ads on these sites. Another cost-effective advertising option for start-ups is to utilise pay-per-click advertising. These ads can be placed on fashion blogs, and you only pay when a customer follows the link. I’m sure you’ve all noticed these businesses I support through the ads in the sidebar and the occasional sponsored post.
Although it takes a bit of time, effort, and funding to get started, the payoff of running an online boutique seems to be well worth it for all the fashion lovers I’ve spoken to!
So tell me, would you be game to set up your own online boutique? What would you stock?