“Starting an online boutique can be complicated if you don’t know where to begin. By following this guide, you’ll know exactly where to start and the 9 essential steps you need to take to launch your own successful online boutique.”
When thinking about setting up shop online you might worry:
- Will the price tag of opening an online boutique be too high?
- How good with computers do I need to be?
- Won’t it take too long to get established online?
- Will I need to hire a professional designer?
Website builders are user-friendly tools that make it easy for you to build a professional online boutique without knowing a single line of code.
Their drag and drop features mean you can be up and running much quicker than having to find and constantly liaise with a web designer. Using a website builder means you’re always in control.
And, you won’t have to fork out thousands of dollars to start selling online (as you would if you hired a designer)!
Millions of non-technical people (just like you!) have already started successful online boutiques thanks to website builders – so why shouldn’t you too?
Using a website builder saves you time, money and effort when opening an online boutique. But exactly how do you get started and make a success of it? That’s what this guide will tell you. We’ll take you step by step through the process… Here we go!
Our Guide to Starting an Online Boutique
Click to jump to the step that suits you, or simply just keep reading!
The Logistics of Starting an Online Boutique
1.Test and choose your platform
“Website builders are simple and intuitive to use. This means that anyone who wants to is able to create a stylish and functional online boutique.”
Over the years, we’ve tried out a lot of website builders when starting various different businesses.
This means we’re in a good position to share our experience with budding ecommerce entrepreneurs (just like you) who may be feeling overwhelmed by the wealth of information out there.
When starting an online boutique, if you’re looking to create a small store (under 50 products), we recommend taking a look at Wix, Weebly or Squarespace.
While the majority of boutiques are on the smaller side, if you’re thinking about opening an online store on a larger scale (over 50 products), it’s worth giving Shopify or Bigcommerce a go.
Check out our ecommerce comparison chart to compare the features and functionality of each builder.
When choosing which website builder to start your online boutique with, we recommend you take a couple for a test drive before making a final decision. Have a play around with 2 or 3 builders and see which one you like the most.
While you’re taking them for a test drive, it’s a good idea to mull over the following questions:
- Can you get to grips with the interface quickly?
- Is there enough support available if you get stuck?
- Which template designs do you like?
- Are there enough design options?
- Is it easy to add new pages and products?
- Is the ecommerce plan within my budget?
- Is there a fair refund policy?
- How many people are using the website builder?
- Do their customers review it well?
You want to start your online boutique quickly and simply without breaking the bank right? Make sure you pick a website builder that will enable you to do this!
If you bear all this in mind when checking out each website builder, it will make things a lot easier down the line. If you’re really sure about your website builder, you won’t have the hassle of having to switch and wait around for a refund.
When it comes to testing and choosing, slow and steady wins the race.
But don’t worry, once you’ve chosen, you’ll be the hare and not the tortoise! You’ll have your online boutique up and running in no time at all!
2.Choose your plan
Opening an online boutique with no money at all is pretty tricky. But even if you’ve only got a little bit of cash, you’ll be able to get started, no problem!
All the website builders in this guide offer very reasonable ecommerce plans that allow you to start selling online quickly, so you’ll make your money back in no time!
When it comes to choosing the best plan for you, it’s easy to feel bogged down by all the technical terms out there that you haven’t quite got to grips with yet.
We’re here to help you figure out what they all mean. You’ll then be able to work out exactly what you need from your website builder in order to start your online boutique.
But before we get too technical, we recommend asking yourself the following questions about what you really want when opening an online boutique:
- Do you want access to a wider range of templates to make sure you get that perfect fit?
- Do you want an online boutique free from your website builder’s logo?
- Do you want to connect a custom domain name to your online boutique?
- Do you want access to a professional site review or advanced analytics?
- Do you want to decrease your website builder’s transaction fees?
If you’re answering yes to one or more of these questions, you’ll want to consider a paid plan that can offer you all you really want.
That way, you’ll get everything you need for an affordable monthly price (which your sales will cover anyway!).
The last thing you want when starting your online boutique is to not have all the functionality you need to offer your store the best chance of success!
Here’s a quick run-down of some of the more technical terms you might encounter when comparing different website builder’s payment plans:
|Bandwidth||Bandwidth is the data allowance that powers your store. It’s consumed every time someone lands on your website and is gobbled up by on page content. Once you’re out of bandwidth, no-one can access your store until you top up or next month’s allowance kicks in.|
|Storage||Like buying more shelving for your physical products, more data storage allows you to showcase more products on your online boutique. With more storage you can also host more images, video and text on your boutique.|
|SSL Certificate||An SSL Certificate ensures your boutique is safe from hackers. It is basically the green padlock next to a website’s URL. When created with a website builder, your boutique will have one of these green padlocks so your customers can be sure their information is protected when shopping with you.|
|Transaction Fees||A very small fee charged on each sale you make. These often decrease when you upgrade to a more comprehensive plan.|
Upgrading your plan gives you access to more templates. The more templates you have access to, the bigger chance you’ll have of finding that perfect fit!
Your template forms the basis of the design of your online boutique, which will be what your customers first see when they come to your site.
With a premium plan your boutique will also be free from ads for your website builder. This makes it truly your own and has the added benefit of making your boutique look professional and trustworthy.
As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. A good first impression is the first step in a good relationship, and a good relationship is what you want to build with your customers in order to incentivize them to make a purchase.
Upgrading your plan gives you a great chance to make that all-important good first impression!
Premium plans also let you connect your own personal domain to your online boutique. Keep reading to find out more about choosing and connecting your own domain!
Create and Perfect Your Brand Story
3.Choose your domain name
“Choosing your domain name is a vital step in creating an online boutique that is professional and memorable.”
Your domain name is essentially the online version of the address of a brick and mortar store. It usually has your company name in it and tells people where to find you.
Our Top Tips for choosing a domain name:
- Keep it as short as possible – this helps customers remember your boutique so they can easily return to it
- Make sure your company name is prominent – you want your company name front and central for brand recognition
- Target your area – if your boutique will only be selling locally, consider adding your city or state to make it easy for customers to find you e.g. if you’re only selling in california: www.thecaliforniacandleco.com
- Avoid numbers and hyphens – these are often mistaken or forgotten when people hear your domain name, so to make sure all those interested in your boutique actually get there, cut them out as much as possible
A custom domain name is included in the ecommerce plans from Wix and Squarespace. This means their brand name won’t appear in your domain name.
With Shopify, you need to purchase a domain name separately to your plan. If you don’t purchase a new domain or connect one you already own, your domain name will look like this: www.legendarystationary.alexenglish.myshopify.com. It’s a bit long winded right?
Once you’ve got your own, your domain name will look more like this: www.legendarystationary.com.
You see how that adds an exclusive and professional touch? And with that exclusive and professional touch will come more trust and confidence in your boutique, which in turn will mean more first-time and returning customers.
Wondering how to get your hands on a unique domain name? Well, you have two options.
You can either purchase one directly through your online store builder, or you can go through a third party such as GoDaddy or Namecheap.
Going through your website builder is quicker in the short run. But thinking more long-term, going through a third party gives you more flexibility, for example, if you decide to change website builder.
If you’re still unsure about which option you want to pursue, we have a page dedicated to domain names that’ll help you with your decision.
4.Choose your template
Think about choosing a template like searching for the perfect location for a brick and mortar boutique.
When searching for a brick and mortar store you’d go inside, imagine where and how you’d showcase your products and envision your customers looking around.
Well, it’s the same when choosing a template. It’s worth previewing a few templates that you like the look of. Have a poke around the product pages and see if they have features that are right for your boutique.
Put yourself in the shoes of a customer and see if the template is easy to navigate.
You want to make sure it’s as simple as possible for your customers to find what they’re looking for, as this will make them much more likely to make a purchase.
You can make a great first impression with a beautiful template. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But this rule doesn’t apply to the internet.
Online, everyone judges a book by its over. Internet users can be fickle. You’ve got one chance to grab their attention or they’ll go elsewhere, and you’ll lose out. This means you need to choose your template carefully.
Using a template is a great way of building a stunning site without needing to know how to code! Think of it as a shortcut that’ll save you time and effort that could be spent on more important matters.
If you’ve already had a little look around the templates available to you, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the choice (e.g. Wix’s 500+ designs!).
But don’t worry, we’re here to take the weight off your shoulders. Below we’ll look at some of the key questions to ask yourself when choosing a template:
- Do you want to have a static or video background to your home page? Or what about a gallery of images? – Think about what will give your customers a smooth shopping experience while showing off the personality of your brand
- How do you want your menu to look? Do you want a horizontal menu bar at the top of the page or a vertical one down the side?
- Is the design easy to navigate for your customer?
- What features do the templates have on them already? – If you pick an ecommerce templates that already has a shopping cart installed this will save you a lot of time
As we mentioned above, Wix has over 500 beautiful and professional templates for you to choose from, with around 60 specifically for online stores.
They categorize their templates in a really helpful way, so that you can find something that will suit the products you’re going to sell in your online boutique.
For example, if you’re selling luxury stationery, Wix have an Arts & Crafts category. What about homemade jewelry? Well, they’ve got a Jewelry & Accessories section that would be perfect.
Of course, you’re not limited to the templates that come under your specific category. If you’re selling vintage posters for example, and don’t see a category for you, don’t worry, you’re free to choose from any of the other sections. The world is your oyster!
Squarespace is well-known for its stunning templates. They’re all designed by professionals and have the ability to give your online boutique that unique, exclusive touch.
Shopify also have an impressive range of themes if you’re starting a larger online boutique. While some may look a little on the pricy side, remember, your template is like the four walls of a brick and mortar store. Worth the investment if you find one you really love!
If you invest now you will create a sleek, professional and exclusive feeling boutique right from the start. This means that as soon as you get your boutique online, customers will know (and love) what you’re all about and keep coming back for more.
5.Customize your template
“Customizing your template is a great way to stamp your brand personality on your boutique’s website. It can help you to stand out from the crowd and grab any visitor’s attention.”
Website builders allow you to simply drag and drop different sections of your page to wherever you want them to go.
You can also resize text and change the font at the click of a button. It really is as easy as that!
Wondering what else you can do to truly customize your online boutique? Look no further than the following points:
- Add your boutique’s branding and logo to instantly engage visitors
- Upload custom imagery to market your own goods and increase sales
- Add new pages e.g. an ‘About’ page or a blog – both of which are great for sharing expertise and building brand awareness
- Add more page elements e.g. contact forms – so you can upsell to visitors
“A good online store design, with a sleek and professional feel and an easy to navigate site is essential. It’s like having beautiful interior design and excellent customer service in a brick and mortar boutique.”
While you’re customizing your template, make sure to take a look at what your boutique will look like to mobile users. You want to ensure that all your customers, no matter which device they’re using, will have a great experience from your store.
Back in 2015, Google reported that the number of searches on mobile devices had overtaken those performed on desktop. This means that you need to make it as easy as possible for customers on all devices to browse your boutique and make a purchase, otherwise you’re at risk of losing business.
Wix’s templates are all mobile friendly, which means they’re good-to-go on a smartphone or tablet. You can also edit the mobile version of your boutique independently from the desktop version if you want to tweak things here and there.
Squarespace and Shopify also have mobile-optimized templates so that your boutique can look beautiful on all devices.
Feeling worried at the thought of customizing your template and thinking about hiring a designer? We recommend sticking with website builders unless you can justify the (pretty big) cost to yourself in the long run.
Hiring a website designer can be very pricy, both now and further down the line. If you want to change something down the line and the designer is the only one who knows how, you’ll have to fork out even more money.
The ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ you have with a designer can also be very time-consuming.
And you want to get your boutique online quickly without breaking the bank right? This is perfectly doable with all the website builders in this guide.
6. Adding products
“Adding products to your boutique is the really exciting bit. It’s where your store starts to take shape and brings you one step closer to selling online.”
What’s great about the online store builders in this guide is that they each make adding and managing your products really simple.
Take Wix for example, all you need to do is go to the Store Manager tab on the left-hand side of the editor and and click on ‘Add Products.’
You want to show your products off in the best light and in a way that makes it easy for your customer to find what they’re looking for. So, it’s best to create different product groups and a different product page for each group.
For example, if you’re a boutique selling homemade cosmetics (think ‘Lush’ – but on a much smaller scale!), you’ll want to have a category for: Bath Bombs, Soaps, Face Masks, Fragrances etc.
This will help your customer quickly find what they’re looking for, making things really convenient. This will keep them happy and incentivize them to make a purchase.
“Keeping your shoppers happy by having clearly named product pages is a really simple way to encourage browsers to become customers. It also helps to convert the one-time buyer into the returning one.”
7.Customize your product pages
Your product pages are where you make your sales and ultimately boost your bottom line. This means you need to ensure they’re getting the same unique and exclusive experience on these pages as they do from the rest of your boutique.
Customizing a product page is just like working out how to showcase your products in a brick and mortar boutique, so take your time!
Wondering where to start? Follow some of our handy hints below to point you in the right direction as to changes you could make:
- Change the layout – do you want to display your products in a grid or list format?
- Add video to your product pages – help your customers make a purchasing decision by really showing off your products
- Add a filter – allow your customers to sort your products by bestselling, featured, color, material and price
- Make your ‘Add to Cart’ button visually prominent – so your customers can find it easily
- Change the place of your product captions and prices – make sure they’re really visible so your customers have all the information they need at their fingertips
- Add a ‘Quick View’ option – so your customers can preview your products in a pop up to check them out before heading through to the purchase page
- Add a related and recommended products section – this is great for upselling (i.e. more money in the bank!)
- Add a reviews and ratings section – this is a fantastic way to get your customer to really believe in your products, and believing leads to buying!
Make sure the design of your product pages is in keeping with the rest of your boutique. You want to give your customers a seamless shopping experience so they’ll remember you fondly and come back for more!
8.Setting up payments
To start making money from your online boutique you’ll need to set up a payment processor. This allows your customers to pay via credit or debit card or through services such as Paypal.
You’ll be pleased to know that setting up payments only take a few clicks!
If you’re using Wix, head to the store manager on the left-hand side of the editor and click ‘Manage Your Store.’ From there you can easily navigate through connecting a payment – they hold your hand throughout the process.
To access payment options on Squarespace, simply go into your settings on the left-hand side of the editor and scroll down until you see ‘Payments.’
One feature we really like about Shopify is their integrated payment processor, Shopify Payments. It allows you to manage and track your money in real-time, directly in your dashboard.
All the builders in this guide allow you to accept payments with credit or debit cards or via PayPal. Shopify also supports payments through Amazon Pay as well as a wealth of other payment processors.
The next step after setting up a payment processor is working out how you’re going to ship your orders.
We’ve come up with a list of questions it’s worth asking yourself when thinking about how you want to go about this:
- Do you want to vary your shipping charges per region? – For example, nationally and internationally?
- Do you want to offer a flat rate? – The same charge for all products
- Do you want to vary your rate by product weight? – If you’re a boutique selling jewelry for example, this might be a good option for you, as a small pair of earrings won’t cost the same as a heavy bangle
- Do you want to offer your customers next day delivery? Will you charge more for this? – Next day delivery is a big draw for customers, so we advise having the option available if you can
- How do you want to package your products? – If you’re selling anything fragile in your boutique, such as handcrafts or home decor such as mirrors, it’s really important to make sure your products reach your customer unharmed. Make sure the packaging you choose will ensure they don’t get damaged en route
- Do you want to personalize your orders? – If you’re a small boutique, this is a great way to make your customers feel valued and encourage them to return. Why not include a little card in their order thanking them for their purchase
All the website builders in this guide make it easy for you to ship your products, so you’ll have satisfied customers in no time at all!