Are you interested in starting an online boutique with drop shipping? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting an online clothing store with no money and no experience.
Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample online boutique business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample online clothing store marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for online clothing boutiques.
In this article, we will be considering all the requirements for starting an online clothing store. So put on your entrepreneurial hat and let’s proceed.
Table of Content
- Boutique Industry Overview
- Market Research and Feasibility
- Online Boutique Business Plan
- Online Boutique Marketing Plan
- Online Boutique Name ideas
- Clothing Store Licenses and Permits
- Cost of Starting an Online Boutique
- Clothing Store Marketing ideas
Have you ever been on the internet and whilst you are on facebook, or at the same time as browsing another site, and suddenly the advertising image of an online boutique pops up? Well if you have, you might also have taken no that these online fashion stores have very attractive pictures that are compelling. This is so that anyone who sees it is lured to go to the store, either to make an outright purchase or for a window shopping.
It is no longer news that businesses all over the world are no longer relying on bricks and mortar store to sell their products or services; they are now maximizing the internet to reach out to clients far beyond the location where their businesses are situated. Boutiques / retail clothing industries are some of the major beneficiaries of the internet.
If you visit the internet, you will discover countless numbers of online clothing stores that are retailing different labels and style of clothes at a price that is most often cheaper than what you can get from the conventional clothing stores.
Why Start an Online Clothing Boutique?
Research has it that more and more people are becoming comfortable purchasing clothes and clothing accessories online as against visiting a conventional clothing store in the city where they live in. This is because of the advantages of shopping online when compared to the stress you might be subjected to if you wanted to go to a boutique around your location.
Although when you shop online, most often than not you will be required to pay the shipping fee, but the truth remains that it will save you loads of stress. One good thing about shopping online is that you have the opportunity to see the specification of what you want from the comfort of your home or offices before making your orders, as against assuming that you will find what you want from a brick and mortar store before taking the trip to the boutique or shopping mall.
Over and above, customers are attracted to online clothing shops / stores not only because of the high level of convenience they stand to enjoy, but also because of the broader options, highly competitive pricing, and of course accessibility to a wider range of information.
Aside from all the benefits stated above as regards online stores, another leverage for entrepreneurs is that it is pretty much cost effective to run an online clothing store as against operating a brick and mortar boutique. Do note that as a matter of fact, you can successfully run your online boutique from your home no matter the part of town you live.
All you need to do is to ensure that you design a standard users’ friendly website with a secured payment platform and also to engage the services of a reputable shipping company.
Once you are able to gain the confidence of the online community, you will be amazed at the rate people will patronize your online clothing store – especially if you have the right stocks in your store. Just ensure that you deal directly with clothing labels and you will be able to get stocks at the right prices and also sell at a very competitive price.
Starting an Online Clothing Store With No Money – A Complete Guide
- Industry Overview
Research has it that online shopping retail sales are predicted to grow steadily to $370 billion in 2017, up from $231 billion in 2012. Online retail revenue experienced an 11 percent year-over-year growth rate for the first quarter of 2014, with online orders growing with 13 percent increase when compared to the same quarter in 2013.
Interesting Statistics About the Online Clothing Retailing Industry
Statistics revealed that in the first quarter of 2014, online retail revenue generated via a mobile device was up 35 percent over 2013 first quarter, with mobile owning 13.7 percent of total e-commerce orders in Q1 2013 compared to 18.5 percent during Q1 2014. Two-thirds of Americans 50-plus buy from e-retailers online.
It was confirmed that 83 percent of those who shop online are said to be satisfied with the experience. Most of the people that lodged complaints indicated that they are not satisfied with being restricted to the delivery date and time chosen by the online store. The average online shoppers prefers flexibility when it comes to choosing delivery date; ability to choose a specified time of day for delivery of purchase; flexibility to reroute packages; and lastly a green shipping option.
Aside from computers which people use to source for goods online and also to purchase stuffs from online stores, a recent research conducted indicated that consumers ages 25 to 34 lead the chart in Smartphone usage in-store, comparing prices, reading reviews, buying products, and engaging with brands on social media while in physical stores.
In recent time, there is a tremendous increase in the number of online retail clothing stores and more entrepreneurs are still opening their own online boutiques in the United States and in other parts of the world. The industry is still growing despite the numerous online retail clothing stores in operations.
Apart from the point that starting an online boutique is cost effective to set – up and profitable, entrepreneurs are encouraged to move towards this direction of business majorly because of the easy of setting up, operating and managing an online retailing clothing store.
The truth is that irrespective of the fact that there may be high number of online retail clothing store located within the same street in the same city, it will not in any away affect the patronage they stand to enjoy because the scope of their market is not limited to the location where the online boutique is located by the global village as long as effective means of shipping purchased items to any part of the world is in place.
Starting an Online Clothing Boutique – Market Research and Feasibility Studies
In starting any trade at all there will always be the need to be conversant with statistics and figures of the trade. Why is this so you may wonder? This is so that one doesn’t go into a trade without being exhaustively equipped with the right information. As such; here are some notable figures to take note of;
- Demographics and Psychographics
Statistics has it that people who fall within the age range of 18 – 45 leads the chart when it comes to purchasing clothes and other fashion accessories online. Also a recent research conducted indicated that consumers ages 25 to 34 lead the chart in Smartphone usage in-store, comparing prices, reading reviews, buying products, and engaging with brands on social media while in physical stores.
So, if you are looking towards starting your own online retail clothing store, your marketing strategy should be geared towards reaching out those who falls between 18 years and 45 years; they are your major market.
- List of Niche ideas Within the Clothing Industry
There are several areas of specialization you can concentrate on if you want to start your own online retail clothing store, but on the average most entrepreneur prefer to operate a Unisex / General online retail clothing store. Here are some of the niches you can find within the online retail clothing / boutique industry;
- Unisex / General Online Boutique
- Men’s Online Boutique
- Women’s Online Boutique
- Kids / Children’s Online Boutique
- Sports Online Boutique
- Newborn and Maternity Online Boutique
- African Attires Online Boutique
The Level of Competition in the Industry
It is true that some folks in business enjoy monopoly to the fullest. It is also news that there are some businesses that do not have the luxury of offering monopoly. This is because of the strict level of competition that abounds. An industry like the online boutique is just one of such trades that have a still competition rate.
Despite the fact that there several online retail clothing store in the United States, United Kingdom and in most parts of the world, the competition is not as stiffer as expected. It is fact that an online boutique in Las Vegas could attract the bulk of its customers from other parts of the United States or from Africa, especially if they are into international shipping of goods.
If you open an online retail clothing store, your market base will not be restricted to the location where you are operating from but the entire online community hence you will experience a fair share of competition simply because of the huge numbers of people that purchases clothes and other fashion accessories on a daily basis.
- List of Well – Known Brands in the Clothing Industry
There are several big – time online retail clothing stores in the United States and in the other parts of the world. The nature of the industry makes it difficult for any online retail clothing store to monopolize the market. Here are some of the popular online retail clothing stores in the United States;
- Shopify (clothing retail platform)
- TeeSpring (clothing retail platform)
- Chico’s (clothing retailer)
- Zara (retailer)
- H&M –
- Ann Inc.
- Aussie Bum
- Edward Stripe Australia
- Lone Wolf Company
- Apple Tree Boutique
- Dream Diva Plus Size
- European Wardrobe
- Forever New
- Gosh Celebrity Fashion
- Karen Walker
- My Clothes Horse
- Pinup Girl Clothing
- Runway Girl
- Unique Vintage
- Victoria’s Secret
- Beautiful Boutique Baby newborn to 7 years.
- Charlie & Me newborn to 10 years
- Crazy 8 newborn to size 14
- Gymboree newborn to 12 years
- Janie and Jack newborn to 12 years
- Pumpkin Patch newborn to 11 years including maternity
- Boutique Lane
- Context Clothing
- American Apparel
- American Eagle Outfitters
It is also a known fact that these brands have been in existence your decades or even more, and have been able to survive all business challenges there are. Therefore, in starting a business, there is what is called the staying power. That is your ability to be able to bounce back after a challenge or challenges, and not throwing in the towel and quitting the trade.
- Economic Analysis
Loads of entrepreneurs would prefer to choose opening an online retail clothing store as against opening a conventional bricks and mortar boutique simply because of the economic advantages and other key factors.
The start – up cost of setting – up an online retail clothing store is far lower when compared to the cost of setting up a conventional boutique. Besides it is economical to run an online retail clothing store. You have the opportunity of eliminating key running cost.
Starting an Online Clothing Store from Scratch Vs Buying a Franchise
One of the very reasons why one may want to lean towards buying a franchise might be because of the opportunity to leverage on the successful name of another brand. However, truth is that one might not readily find a franchise for an online boutique. Well for now, you can hardly find the franchise of an online retail clothing boutique because there is no economic sense in selling or even buying a franchise for this type of business.
So if you are looking towards starting an online retail clothing store you do not have any option other than to start from the scratch. As a matter of fact the other option you have if you don’t want to start from the scratch is to buy over an existing online boutique.
Over and above, it is easier, cheaper and of course cost effective to start an online retail clothing store from the scratch as against looking for a franchise to buy. Starting from the scratch will give the opportunity to build your brand from the scratch and also to choose a niche in the industry that you are comfortable with.
Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face When Starting a Clothing Store Online
One of the major threats and challenges that you may face in any online business is attack from hackers. Hackers can go all the way to compromise or crash your online store. Another major challenge you are likely going to face is the challenge of getting a reliable shipping company to work with. Of course there are reliable, effective and efficient shipping companies in the U.S., but you may not be able to afford their fees if you are just starting out on a smaller scale.
Lastly, other common threats and challenges that businesses are subjected to include; economic downturn, unfavorable government policies and the arrival of a big and well positioned competitor.
Writing a Business Plan for your Online Boutique
Starting an online retail clothing store business especially if you have plans of going international requires detailed business plan. There are loads of major players in the industry and for you to be able to compete in the online boutique industry you should be able to come up with good and workable business plan.
Business plan is the blueprint that is needed to successfully run a business. You are required to write a detailed business plan that can pass reality test when subjected to it. The whole idea of writing a business plan is not just for the sake of having a business document in place; but a detail guide on how to effectively run the business.
Your business plan should outline and cover strategies on how you intend to manage your online retail clothing store. The rule of thumb in writing a business plan is that you just try as much as possible to be realistic and never to over project when putting figures on income and profits et al.
As a matter of fact, it is safer to underestimate when writing a business plan so that you won’t be so disappointed when reality sets in. These are the key areas that should be covered in your business plan;
- Executive summary and Company’s descriptions: you are expected to write about the concept of your business, descriptions of your company, your company’s vision statement, and mission statement and where your company will be located and the regions you intend shipping purchased items to et al.
- Other key components that should not be missing in your online retail clothing store business plan are product offering, SWOT analysis, marketing and sales analysis / strategies, pricing, costing and financial projection, publicity and advertising strategy, budget and start – up capital generation.
Choosing a Location for Your Online Fashion Boutique
When it comes to choosing a location for a business such as online retail clothing store, feasibility is not a major factor to consider since all your target market is the online community. As a matter of fact, if you have enough storage space in your apartment, you can successfully operate your online boutique from your home and reach out to clients scattered all across the globe.
So, when it comes to choosing a location for your online boutique just ensure that you concentrate on areas where you can see cheaper and spacious warehouse to lease or rent. It must not be a commercial hub.
Starting an Online Boutique With No Money – Technical & Manpower Details
When it comes to starting and running an online clothing store, the key technology and tool that you would need is the internet. Your website is your office and your store, so you must ensure that it is well equipped and of course user’s friendly. Your payment platform must be secured and compatible with various online paying cards.
As regarding manpower, you would only need a handful of staff to run this type of business especially if you choose to start on a small or medium scale. Some of the key staff that you would need are; IT officer / Web developer, Photographer / Graphic Artist, Call Centre Agent, Dispatch Rider (You can contract this role to shipping companies) and manager / procurement manager. On the average you will need less than 5 full – time employees to start an online retail clothing store business.
Starting an Online Clothing Store With No Money – The Marketing Plan
- Finding a Suppliers/Distribution Network for your Clothing
Firstly, in order to successfully run an online boutique, you must establish good business relationship with wholesale distributors. Of course you would need steady supply of clothes from wholesalers in order to remain in business. And when it comes to distribution or shipping as the case maybe it is better that you have a full grasp of the delivery routes around the location where you intend shipping purchased items.
If you choose to start a large scale online retail clothing store it will be to your advantage to maintain warehouses at strategic locations within the areas your intend selling your clothes and fashion accessories. It will help you safe cost of shipping goods to your customers.
For example; if you want to sell your clothes and fashion accessories not just to people in the United States but also in other parts of the world, it will do you a world of good if you have warehouses in key cities within the continents and countries you hope to attract customers from. Even if you want to attract customers from all over the United State alone, it will still be to your advantage to maintain warehouses in key cities within the United States.
Once a payment has been accepted and confirmed and the address where the goods will be delivered is confirmed, then the purchased clothing items can be queued for delivery. Items can be delivered through shipping.
Shipping-: The item purchased are shipped to the address indicated by the customer. You can choose to engage the services of shipping companies like FedEx, UPS, DHL, or TNT or the public postal services.
Tips for Running an Online Clothing Boutique Successfully
The success of any business is the combination of the daily activities that takes place in the organization. In order to run a successful online retail clothing store business it is important to create standard operating processes that runs on autopilot and your website (online store) must always be available.
- Every day’s job should start by reviewing the previous day’s job, reviewing all the set targets and goals before setting a new target or goal for the day. If an organization must succeed, all hands must be on deck; everybody should be involved in promoting the brand of the organization. It should not be left to the PR or marketing and sales department.
- The management of the organization should ensure that they review the operating processes from time to time in order to develop better and faster ways of doing things. If it is possible, they can hire the services of business consultants to look into the process and then make recommendations on how best to carry out a job description et al. Recommendation could mean suggesting a customized software for a specific process in the clothes production.
- The truth is that, no matter the kind of business you run, your ability to get all the members of your team on same page at all times is one of the keys you need to successfully run the organization. As the chief executive officer of the business, it is you responsibility to give direction to the business. Part of what you need to do is to ensure that you create time for office meetings; a time where challenges, feedbacks, projections and relevant issues are discussed. The meetings could be daily, once in a week or once in a month.
- Carrying out appraisals on a regular basis and training your employees will help you run your organization effectively. You should also keep your doors open for suggestions from members of your team and be willing to reward excellent performance as at when due.
In conclusion, starting an online boutique is one of the best things that could ever happen to you, this is because of the massive volumes of sales that can be generated. However, it becomes very important that you have a solid plan as discussed earlier as to how you intend to drive traffic to your online shop. This is because of the point that you need a whole lot of people to be aware of what you do, before you are able get leads. Once more, have great plans in place and in no time you will be made.