There has been a long debate about the feasibility of fashion and boutique businesses for everyone. You know it’s an evergreen industry and there is always a flood of demands for fashion products.
However, if you don’t already have a big name in the fashion industry, it seems like an impossible job to start one.
Luckily, eCommerce has made fashion and many other niches accessible to the masses. Today, you don’t have to be a big fashion designer to make the world stylish.
The concept of online boutiques has brought the industry a new face, which is more accessible, more affordable, and trendier. Of course, the niche still wants you to work harder, but it also makes it possible to start a fashion business with just your business skills.
If you have been looking for ways to sell your fashion products and starting a brick and mortar boutique is out of your league, this article will help you create your online boutique in the easiest way possible. Keep reading to know how to start an online boutique, how to develop your online fashion store economically, and other similar concepts.
Find your Niche
This step is more of a formality if you are already manufacturing your fashion products. That means, you already know your niche and have been working to get exposure.
However, if you haven’t done this yet, you should find a niche first before proceeding any further.
Selecting a niche is important not just for focusing your efforts on meaningful steps but also to build a clearer roadmap, where you can dedicate your efforts effectively on building your business plan.
It’s a sure thing that so many options in the fashion industry will tempt you to try out a little from everything, but it makes more sense to focus on a niche than selling general class of products. For example, if you have been manufacturing designer shoes, you can pick a niche like women’s shoes, men’s shoes, or children’s shoes.
In short, selecting a niche will de-clutter your catalog, and it would be easier to establish your brand. At least, people will know where to go if they want good men, women, or children’s shoes.
Devise your business plan
Once you get your niche, devise your business plan around it. It should consist of your roadmap for the next couple of years. You can start with identifying your goals, steps you need to take to acquire them, competition in the market, plan for product sourcing, B2B services you need, legal formalities, etc.
In simple words, a business plan will help you visualize your challenges so that you can prepare a strategy to tackle them and build a roadmap towards stability within a certain period. In this way, you can always track if you are moving in the right direction.
Establish Your Supply Chain Network
Depending on your business plan, you may be manufacturing your products by yourself. This is the right way to run a boutique. However, if you are not into manufacturing, and just want to make money by selling third-party products, you have some good options to consider:
a. Wholesale suppliers
You can source your products from a wholesaler or a manufacturer directly. You will stock up the inventory on wholesale rate, and make a profit from the margin between wholesale rate and your retail rate.
This model also demands you to store inventory and manage all the costs associated with it. For example, warehouses, shipping, logistics, packaging, and product delivery.
However, since boutiques are into mass manufacturing, you would have to convince your manufacture to supply customized products. This would increase your wholesale rate, but you can make up for it while deciding your retail rate.
Dropshipping model exempts you from managing the inventory and shipping, but also limits your control over the products’ quality. Since dropshipping suppliers will directly be sending your orders to your customers, you can’t see the products going to your customers. You won’t be able to check if the supplier has made the products as per the order details.
Even the profit margin is comparatively lower than the inventory model here. However, this model is great for starting an online boutique without an inventory and associated hassles.
c. Multi-vendor model
Another way to source your products is by starting a multi-vendor marketplace. An online boutique with such a model lets different vendors sell on the platform, while the platform will make money from the commissions it gets from the sellers. Since you can allow individual designers to create and sell their products directly to your customers, this model has the highest feasibility for an online boutique.
This would be a more complex architecture and would require cutting-edge technology as the backbone of your marketplace store. However, it would also let you start an online boutique without even being a designer but a businessperson.
Choose an eCommerce platform
Depending on your business model (as seen in the previous point), you can start with building your online boutique to sell your products. There are several ways to build a boutique. Here are a few of the most prominent ones you can choose:
· SaaS-based eCommerce platform:
You can subscribe to a SaaS-based platform and create your store by simply using a graphical user interface. You can choose from Shopify, BigCommerce, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, and Volusion. All these are SaaS eCommerce solutions. They have customized templates for online boutiques. You can select the one you like and build your store on the go.
The benefit of using SaaS solutions is you don’t have to worry about development, programming, security patches, website hosting, and even payment gateways.
The vendors of these solutions manage everything for you. In return, they charge a monthly subscription fee, which varies based on your requirements.
However, SaaS solutions hardly support the multi-vendor model. Hence, if you are planning to sell products from third-party designers, it wouldn’t be possible to use a SaaS solution to run your boutique.
· Self-hosted eCommerce Platforms:
Self-hosted platforms are opposite to the SaaS solutions. Instead of giving you a hosted eCommerce store, they hand over the source-code itself. You can host the source-code on a web-hosting server of your choice.
Moreover, you can also customize your boutique the way you like. Depending on the vendor, there are both free and premium self-hosted eCommerce platforms.
Most of the free platforms are based on PHP stacks and are supported by a community of third-party developers. For example, WooCommerce, Magento, PrestaShop, and OpenCart. You will find many ready-made plugins and templates for your online boutique on the internet.
Whereas, premium platforms are more into creating large-scale boutiques, and they use the finest tech-stacks such as python and node js eCommerce shopping cart.
Since you get the source code itself, the premium solutions don’t charge any monthly fee, except a one-time cost to purchase the source code. You will get a fully loaded premium eCommerce platform for around $1000. Most of the premium solutions come with multi-vendor support out of the box.
· Sell on an established marketplace:
If building a website and managing it seems unfeasible to you, you can simply register on a popular marketplace in your niche and start your storefront on the go.
However, there aren’t many prominent marketplaces in the fashion or boutique niche. You may get some traction on popular sites like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay, but this won’t do much to establish your brand in the designer stuff or boutique industry. It’s better to start your store if you have a long-term plan.
Starting an online boutique is not a tough job if you have the right kind of technology with you. So choose your options wisely after considering the pros and cons of all the choices.
You should consider the viabilities such as customization options, control over the site, number of B2B solutions available for the platform, technical support from the developers, and how big the community of the users is.
Once you have the right eCommerce solution, you can set up your site, subscribe to some B2B services, and go live with your online boutique.
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