Recently, I’ve been in a few situations where I’ve had the pleasure of meeting new people. Hen weekends, blogger events and friends birthday celebrations – there’s been a whole host of people I’ve been talking to for the first time. I’ve noticed that when these occasions increase, you’re expected to talk about yourself a lot more. Usually the main conversation starters include: what job do you do, where do you live, what do you enjoy doing… I do like a good old chat, so I’m genuinely one who likes to kick start these talks!
However, when I talk about my blog and my little dress boutique, I find myself spending a lot of time answering questions about why did I start it, how do I run it, and more important, how did I get into something like this? Which has lead me to the point of this blog post.
I wanted to put together a few pointers for the people out there who are also interested in starting their own online fashion boutique, but have no idea where to start. So here goes… here’s a few tips on how to get started if you want to branch out into the world of online fashion shops!
1. Buy Wholesale
If you are a skilled fashion designer and dressmaker, then great news, you’ve got the right skills to build a bespoke boutique! However, many of us aren’t – including myself. For me, I started my online boutique by going down the wholesale route. There are so many online wholesalers who retail the latest trends at affordable prices, and some of the sites are able to give you usage of their model and still life photography too.
A great business idea from the back of wholesalers also includes launching your own jewellery and accessories boutique. You can find stylish, affordable ones such as Elf925. They have a fantastic selection of earrings which come in a range of different finishings and trends, and plus, an earring retailing site is much easier to keep on top of. Earrings rarely need returning due to hygiene reasons, and it’s unlikely they ‘won’t be the right size’ or have defects like clothing can.
Don’t forget that an online fashion boutique relies on quality photography as its shop window, therefore finding a wholesaler which allows photography rights can really help you out during those skint first few months! For me, I prefer to get my own model photography done, although I actually use myself as the ‘model’ to cut down costs and make the brand resemble ‘me’ and ‘real people’. I tend to use a photography studio so I get access to a skilled photographer, backdrops, lighting and editing all in one place!
These photos used in this post were taken by the team at Ivy Rose photography studio in Chorlton, Manchester. I’ll be sharing more about them a blog post coming soon…
2. Use SquareSpace or WordPress WooCommerce
The next thing to bear in mind is to chose your online selling platform. Of course, you’ll need a website, and one that trades transactional on the internet.
I started off upgrading my wordpress blog platform to hold an e-commerce function, which I did by installing a plugin called WooCommerce. So you could start off by creating an online fashion blog, and then expanding it to become an online retailer with this upgrade. Or, you could do the more expensive option, which is to build and create a site via a website builder such as SquareSpace.
I now run my boutique via SquareSpace, although I didn’t during the first year of business. I do personally prefer it – the design and navigation is all done for you, as well as all the domain and hosting work. Everything is made super easy with built in ‘Stripe’ payment options, meaning customers can make card payment without you having to set anything up.
It really does depends how much spare money you have at the time of setting up your business. If time is sparse, a pre-made website builder site will save you so many lost hours trying to learn the tricks of e-commerce website building!
3. Expand to eBay stores or online marketplace
Once you have your main platform sorted, the key is to expand your business to other channels. For me, I expanded mine to ASOS Marketplace and eBay, but there are loads more out there. Silk Fred, Amazon, Etsy (if you specialise in vintage) … the list is endless.
For those who like to attract the younger market, you can always try Depop too, which is an app based store for people to list their new/used items.
The more visibility your online boutique has across other platforms, the more audiences it will reach. ASOS Marketplace take a 20% cut of all my earnings, but for the marketing that is involved and the large customer base they reach that I could never reach alone, its worth it!
4. Contact bloggers and use social media
Online influencers have a large hold on people these days, especially the younger market. Bloggers, Instagram influencers and YouTubers all influence purchasing decisions these days, and introduce new clothing brands to large numbers of potential customers.
Start by gifting some of your items to those online influencers whose audience fit the same age group and interest groups as yours. Offer them discount codes to promote, or even giveaways. It’s all promotion at the end of the day, and will open up your brand to a lot more eyes than you may be able to reach alone.
5. Teach yourself valuable skills
Starting an online fashion boutique is by no means easy work, and requires a lot of skills that you may not have thought of. Especially if you want to keep your outsourcing costs down. Here are a number of skills it may benefit you to learn yourself if you’re breaking into online retail. You won’t necessarily need all of them, but you may need to hire the help of others who have these skills at some point…
- Web design
- Photo retouching
- Social Media
- SEO and keyword knowledge
- Fashion design
The final note from me is good luck, and go for it! You can start it off small and run it alongside your main career – which I do. If it grows phenomenally, then it may open doors for a full time career for you, Who knows, but you’ll never get an idea unless you give it a go!