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

Who to Sell + What to Sell


There are exact steps & key points I used for multiple clients & my own store to go from $0 to over $1,000,000 in online sales in less than 24 months (while having limited budgets & resources)

by viktoria kanevsky in Your Webstore
how to start an online boutique part 1 image

“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.

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Read More Articles

How to start an online boutique to be successful Part 2 >>>

How to get traffic to your website >>>

Wholesale suppliers for boutiques – who and how to choose >>>

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There are exact steps & key points I used for multiple clients & my own store to go from $0 to over $1,000,000 in online sales in less than 24 months (while having limited budgets & resources)

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