How To / Online Boutiques

How to Start an Online Boutique

How to start an online boutique to be successful – Part 1

Who to Sell + What to Sell

“How to start an online boutique?” this question was typed to Google almost two thousand times last month!

How to start an online boutique? If you are

  • An existing brick and mortar shop owner who wants to expand the business online
  • Currently selling wholesale online
  • A newbie who loves fashion & beauty and dreams of this as a career
  • An experienced professional who can’t wait to get out of the traditional toxic corporate world and become independent
  • Or someone else who heard that selling online is the way to financial freedom

you need to make sure that you fully get a grasp of what you will need.

Before deciding on how to start your online boutique, you need to decide on four main things:

  1. Who to sell – Who will be your customers?
  2. What to sell – Which products will you sell and how to source them?
  3. Which channel will you pick to promote your store aka grow and increase website traffic? – You should use a preliminary plan on it before buying all online tools.
  4.  How to sell – technical aspect – picking up hosting, E-Commerce software, email service, shipping carrier and multiple other tools you will need

In other words, you need to create your online boutique business plan

Step 1 – Who to sell

While the online world seems enormous, you can’t sell everything to everyone because even major retailers don’t do that anymore, so when deciding on how to start an online boutique, you need to have a clear vision.
To promote your boutique, you will be investing in marketing (either time or money or, preferably, both), so you need to fish exactly where the fish are.

Going into almost 2020 you must find your niche and understand what your targeted customers want to buy.

Creating a shopper persona by slicing gender, age, race, household income, and interests is the first main thing to do.

Please, see a few examples of how approximately to think about your shopping persona. While those are examples of age, you must take nationality and income into the equation.

  • Young college student 18-24 who is clubbing on weekends (casual apparel for every day and cute dresses for going out night)
  • Stylish Plus size woman from 25-34 who is in relationships or newly married (go out cute outfits, sexy home clothes)
  • Chic 35-44 lady with job or business who loves fancy workouts (classier, higher-end apparel and accessories, plus boutique workout outfits)

There are main age segments with my comments from experience working with those age groups

  • < 18 – they don’t have own money and are subject to peer pressure. “If my friend has it, I want it too” – perfect for a group selling. Mostly using parents’ money, so your product should appeal to their parents.
  • 18-24 –dating, clubbing, working out college students. They like to change clothes with limited money to spend.
  • 25-34 –more financially stable, have their education & jobs, some with family & kids. They like staple pieces and can afford to pay more.
  • 35-44 – have established taste, love to compare prices, but if they love something price won’t be an issue.
  • 45- 54 – shop online less because of old fashion school of touch and feel, but when they do, they buy higher ticket items.

Those age brackets help you to determine where to find your customers. They belong to the same Facebook groups, follow similar influencers, read the same blogs, etc.

Actual step: before you create our product mix and source your inventory, decide who you want to sell it and start building your email list and online community so when you launch your online boutique you can start promoting it immediately.

Step 2 – What to Sell

Deciding how to start an online boutique, you need to take your product mix and supplier choice seriously.

  • If you want to sell fashions accompanied by jewelry and accessories, you must plan on consistent new arrivals otherwise happy customers will come back once and disappear.
  • If you are beauty/skincare, you should not be too broad. For example, clients who buy acne treatment won’t be interested in anti-aging products and vice versa. Too many new arrivals won’t matter because your customers would come back when they run out of their favorite product.

After you decided who your clients will be and what kind of product they want to buy, then you need to start thinking logically about their buying behavior which will lead to your product mix choices.

That’s why I suggest you need not only to know who your customers are but understand and predict their needs and buying patterns.

Choosing your suppliers.

When I started my store, picking vendors was real catch 22. Big brands did not want to work with a new store, Joor didn’t approve without three solid brand relationships, and brands that agreed to work required significant purchase. Smaller brands did not have enough inventory (or in drop shipping last minute run out of product). Brands who wanted to sell, required fixed pricing and matching promotions.
That’s how I figured out that the best way to buy from local Los Angeles manufacturers and either keep their name or do own private label. That worked perfectly for my boutique.

Tips for choosing suppliers when starting your online boutique

  • Do your research.  It might sound simple, but it is not!  The best way to see what’s available and trending is by joining major fashion marketplaces. You can see the assortment, prices, daily new arrivals, promotions, and the whole variety.

For example, there is a guide how-to source wholesale fashion jewelry Los Angeles

  • When you research and like something, make sure that Amazon does not sell the same item couple of dollars above the wholesale price. Your retail customers are smart, the do comparison shopping.
  •  If you live the same city with suppliers, go to their store, touch and feel the product, look at average inventory quality and talk about terms. If you live in a different city and have budgets, I recommend visiting vendors anyways at least once.
  • Meeting supplier in person might help you with negotiating better prices or even drop shipping deals, you never know.
  • If you don’t have an opportunity to travel, order one pack or bare minimum from one company to start. Tell them you want to test their product on your customers first before placing the large order. If they don’t want to deal with you, move on. The secret is that there are hundreds of suppliers with relatively similar merchandise, prices, promotions, etc.
  •  If you deal with a smaller supplier, you will get more attention and sometimes better quality because they treat each client like gold, while large vendors don’t care about small boutiques and concentrate on large retailers and private label orders.
  •  Don’t be afraid to have limited inventory. It will give your store flair of exclusivity and urgency. Just state amounts in the product descriptions.
  • Always negotiate. Every dollar matters in this game. You need to have room for your margins and promotions.

Prices and Promotions

You are in the business to make money, not give a product away.

Pricing should be done based on your competition, target customers’ financial capabilities, and a common sense.

Several years ago, the average online pricing formula was $wholesale x 2.5 times. This can vary nowadays. It depends on what you sell.

Some wholesale companies sell the same merchandise to high-end stores, which mark them up x6-10 times as well as lower-end retailers who mark it up less than double.

  • Professional product styling equals higher prices. For example, If you buy an excellent wholesale quality black dress, use professional model and style it like a luxurious item, you can get away with many time higher price that shooting it flat or on the mannequin at your back yard.
  • The more unique your product, the higher the margins should be. It is the beauty of one-of-a-kind, hard to find merchandise.

DOWNLOAD Your FREE Boutique Business Plan NOW!

How to start an online boutique to bring in an additional profit?

In part I, we covered how to find your ideal customers and how to choose your product line/mix. In Part 2 you will learn how to market your online store ( how to increase website traffic) and how to pick your tools & technology.

How to Start an Online Boutique Right, Part 2.

Step 3 – How to Promote Your Store?

First of all, while you are deciding on how to start an online boutique, start thinking about which marketing channels will be right for you? By now you should know who are your potential customers are, so start figuring out how to reach them.

You can have a fantastic site and products, but unless you make sales, you are not in business. There are too many boutiques with amazing products who barely break even because they try to save on marketing.


You already have an email list or group of highly engaged people who trust your taste, products, and expertise and all you need is to reach out to them. You will launch your store to the existing audience by making an announcement, for example sending emails or videos.


  • Email list – start building it before you have your store. Make it your new online business mantra. Besides that, I wish someone would tell me this many years ago.

“How to build an email list?” -It is the #1 question boutique owners ask me. The best way is to collect email addresses in exchange for something valuable for your potential customers.  There are examples of the most common technique. Let’s say your store will be specializing in Plus Size apparel.  Before even having your store, put together a free guide for Curvy Women, something like “15 Most Flattering Fashion Tricks that Will Make You Look up to Three Sizes Smaller”. Or, if you sell anti-aging skin care, give them a checklist of “Ten Daily Anti-Aging Steps to Look 10 Years Younger”.

Figure out which information will provide your customers with value. Then give it to them for FREE, in exchange for their email addresses. Email them weekly tips while you are building your store, so your potential customers be ready to buy from you when you launch your online boutique.

  •  Facebook group – while all Fashion, Accessories companies are obsessed with Instagram, they don’t understand one simple thing. Instagram and Youtube create your following, while Facebook Group makes your potential highly engaged customers (if you do it the right way, of course).


You have to have a marketing budget because otherwise, you will be asking why nobody visits your site. While planning how to start your online boutique, put a detailed breakdown of your marketing methods

Below the

List of methods that worked for me.

If you are in Fashion or Lifestyle niches, you need to learn fashion and lifestyle e commerce to concentrate on fashion marketing

ACQUISITION Marketing – the list of methods to acquire a first time customer.

  • Search Engine Optimization is perfect for your consistent long-term results because it takes from three to six months ramp up time.
  • Paid Advertisement will bring your immediate results.
  • Affiliate is good for medium-term results because it needs one to three months ramp up time.
  •  Influencers are amazing for both instant and long-term results. Once launched with the right influencers, you will see results immediately, and they will last for a long time. Also, links from influencers’ websites and channels to your site will serve as a Search Engine Optimization technique.
  • Social Media such as  Facebook Ads will help to collect email addresses or to bring in customers.
  • Facebook Group will help to create your trusted and engaged community.
  • Instagram is the vehicle to build the following. Your most dedicated followers might or might not translate into customers. There are some Instagram business tips
  • Youtube is the same as above. Links from Youtube to your site are incredibly valuable for SEO. Also, Youtube is a search engine and can help people to find your products.
  • Pinterest is a FANTASTIC search engine. You need to learn how to use Pinterest for your business.


After someone bought from you the first time, you need to make her come back again and again (Ito retain her). Repeat clients bring a significant chunk of business. In the online retail industry, your goal should be to make your customers’ come back to you at least four times per year.

Suggested retention channels:

  • Email marketing for sending promotional and informational emails
  • Re-Targeting for reminding people who visited your site how great it is by showing them ads all over. For example,  when you visit a store, and then you will see ads about this store all over your computer.
  • Content Marketing is by posting compelling, relevant content on your blog and Social Media

Step 4 – How To Choose Proper Technology & Tools.

First, decide which e-Commerce platform you will use. Do the research, read my Tools & Resource section and talk to your E-Commerce expert. To make a decision process easier, put together the list of your online business needs. This list should include three parts with necessary, highly desirable, and optional features.

Three ways to pick your E-Commerce solution.

    1. Select the out of the box solution from the established provider and either do it yourself (if you are super tech savvy) or web developer. There might be some usability limitations, but you’ll get the most efficient and fast way to be up and running.
      Also, smaller stores’ visitors tend to be more loyal, and if they like your store, they will be patient with navigation. Out of the box E-Commerce solutions are easy to use. Plus, they have reliable and fast support. My favorite solutions are Big Commerce and Shopify.
    2. Hire UX designer to draw your store wireframe, Web Designer to create a color theme and look & feel, and a Web developer to put it all together. In this case, your developer should use free open source well-known provider. My favorite is Magento because it has all the necessary functions for an online boutique.
      Also, unless you are an E-Commerce professional, you need an expert to oversee the process. Think about it as you build a house. UX designer is an architect; Web designer is an interior decorator; Programmer/Coding is a construction worker. In this case, an E-commerce professional will be your construction manager/foreman.
    3. You should avoid at any cost choosing the completely custom website development and coding.
      Many developers suggest it to very knowledgeable clients to get more money. First of all, do not invent the bicycle. All vehicles for a successful online retail ride already exist. Top professionals have created, re-created and optimized them for years. Second of all, with minimum coding knowledge, you have no idea what amount of labor will be involved, so you’ll end up with tons of frustration and a huge bill.
      Many years ago, I invested my money in a custom coded website and affiliate program by my very trusted programmer/friend. One day he silently disappeared, and when I started to look for another one, I figured out that “my friend” used an incredibly pricey old programming language which hard to work. So, I had to start the whole project all over again.

Second, pick your website hosting. Web hosting is the space where your website will live (it’s like buying the lot to build your future store). After you decide on your E-Commerce Provider, pick premium hosting compatible with this provider.

After you choose an e-Commerce solution and hosting

  •  Find a web developer/programmer. Either you want or not, unless you are super technical, you will still need one. And this is not the area of saving money and finding different people of the various little tasks. There passwords, labor of other people and inventory involved. Think about your primary web developer like about your family doctor – you have to build long-term relationships and trust. I will write a separate article on how to choose your programmer, and what matters for successful online business in those relationships.
  • Choose your photographer and graphic designer. Online customers are not able to touch, feel and try on your products. All they can do is look at them – so your pictures and graphics must be exceptional and customers targeted. It must sell well!
  • Analyze your needs for promotional methods and decide which tools you will need.
  • Make a decision which email service provider is the best for your business (based on the length of your email list, your budgets and kind of emails you will be sending). You have to pick two – one from transactional emails and one for promotional/editorial.
  • Social media management/scheduler tools – just read reviews from quality sources such as PCMag or TopTenReviews. Make sure you won’t fall for suggestions from affiliate sites which promote whoever pay them larger commissions.

(In my RESOURCE SECTION) I will be recommending only resources that I used and liked for my business and clients)

If you have more questions about how to start an online boutique, please email at info@onlineboutiquesmba.com, and I’ll create an article on this topic.

Leave a Comment