HOW TO START AN ONLINE CHILDREN'S BOUTIQUE
Posted on June 22 2019
HOW TO START AN ONLINE BOUTIQUE
A Complete Guide
Thinking about starting your own online boutique shop from home? Here you’ll find everything you need to know to open an online clothing boutique in one place. This comprehensive guide is focused on starting an online children's clothing boutique, since that’s my market, but it’s easily transferrable to other kinds of boutiques.
How do I know any of this? I started a children’s and tween boutique - Little Skye - 11 years ago and built an e-commerce business and brick and mortar kids’ boutique in New Jersey. I've been doing this for a long time, and have learned a lot along the way.
How does buying work in the boutique children's clothing market?
- In the kids’ boutique clothing market, most vendors presell their collections. This means that they sell their Spring 2019 collection, for example, in January of 2019, and ship what you ordered to you 4 months or so later after they produce it. You can see samples of the collection via reps and at trade shows, and sometimes online via B2B platforms.
- Normally, vendors require that you have a minimum order of $x. Children’s clothing vendors sometimes require even that you order a certain number of pieces per size or style. Often you can choose these things, so you need to think about the size range you want to offer and how many of each size per style you expect to be able to sell at full price.
- What if you don’t order enough? Some brands offer reorders during the season, but many don’t have much stock, as they cut to order. So order what you think you will sell, and continually re-evaluate what you DO sell, as you will not be correct in your assumptions.
- Generally, kids’ boutique clothes and gifts have a 2.0 markup. That means that you will buy an item for $20 and sell it for $40. Some have and enforce a slightly higher markup. This might seem like a lot, but after you factor in the cost of operating, the profit margin is very low. Unfortunately, many customers expect to pay half price or less for everything, not realizing that’s what you paid for it and that you also have to pay for the cost of running your business. Realize that once you start selling your goods for 30% off, you are breaking even if you are lucky. This is not the era of mom and pop shops - it is the world of Amazon and shoppers are trained accordingly.
- Unfortunately, most children’s designer clothes brands have only two seasons a year in terms of their production. This means they have one collection for Spring/Summer, and one for Fall/Winter. Look for brands that have up to 5 different deliveries per season. Molo Kids for example is one of our favorite brands for not only their super cool clothes designs, but also for their multiple deliveries. This gives you much needed newness on a regular basis. European clothing brands tend to have more deliveries than American brands.
- Not all vendors will approve you right away. Some control their brands online and will not allow a new online boutique to order their clothes. Things you can do to encourage brands in the future to accept you as a vendor? Make your website clean, organized and professional looking, so vendors want their products represented there. Develop a good reputation with other vendors for paying on time and being honest. Carry other brands that are similar in style and price to the ones you want.
Where do you get children's boutique clothing at wholesale?
- Go to the trade shows. For clothing, register at ENK Children’s Club and for gifts, register at NY Now.
- Research the brands you want to carry and contact them ahead of time.
- Locate the reps near you and contact them.
Choosing products for your online children’s boutique
- Choose products and brands that suit your Don’t try to sell every style. Pick a style and stick with it. On Little Skye, we have an urban trendy kids’ clothes style, so we carry brands like Joah Love and Chaser Kids instead of brands like Mustard Pie and Dollcake. We wouldn’t try to sell them all on the same website, as they appeal to different customers.
- Do your research! Don’t just sell what everyone else has. It’s already available, and it will not be easy to outrank everyone who already sells it. The less it’s available, the more chance you have. Look at other online boutiques to see what they offer and make a list of the brands and collections that suit your brand and business. Then, research the competitiveness of everything you think you might want to sell. For example, we started selling tween clothing and cool boy clothes, because we saw an opportunity years ago from a gap in the boutique kids’ market. Now these are some of our best selling categories.
- Keep ahead of the trends! Luckily, we saw the move toward urban kids’ clothes before it started. This enabled us to pick up brands that were on the cutting edge before they stopped allowing new websites to carry them. Think outside the box and always look for new things that you customers might love.
- Mix designers to suggest cool outfit combinations to your customers! You can put a t shirt from one brand with pants from another. This can introduce new designers to you customers, and allows for more mix and match opportunities. If you stick with a branded style, you'll find this to be pretty easy. Appaman, for example, is easy to blend with other trendy kids' clothes brands. Tween clothes brands like Izzy Be with its positive message tops and Tractr with its cool denim shorts and pants combine in a snap to create super cute tween outfits that no one else has.
How do you order wholesale children's clothes once you found what you want?
- At trade shows, you can place orders right there. We don’t recommend this, but you can. We suggest instead that you take pictures of the clothing combinations you like, and then process it all at home when you have time to think about it and when you aren’t under pressure. Send in your orders once you are confident in them.
GETTING YOUR KIDS' BOUTIQUE ONLINE
Assuming you have already purchased your domain (keep in mind that your url is very important for keyword ranking), and have legally named and organized your company, now you need to create a website.Define your brand
Since you are a boutique, you will be selling other brands. But keep in mind that your business is also a brand, unified in what kids' clothes designers and which items within those designers' collections that you select. Take the time to write out your answers to these questions, and then refer to your answers constantly.
- What makes you different from all the other kids' boutiques online?
- How do you describe your brand? What do you believe about kids’ clothing?
- How will you reflect your brand? Choose fonts, colors, and styles that clearly identify and distinguish your brand, then be consistent.
Steps for opening your online children’s clothing store
We use and recommend Shopify as an e-commerce platform. You can create your own theme, or have one custom made. Just make sure it is consistent with your brand. Shopify will help you develop your website – it’s very easy. We won’t get into web design here, as it’s a big field and can be discussed with your developer or with Shopify.
On a very basic level, you need to at least do the following before you launch your newly designed website.
- Make sure your site is mobile friendly.
- Make sure your site speed is good for mobile and desktop.
- Optimize your home page and collection pages with a meta title and meta description, based on your keyword research. See below sections if you don't know what this means.
- Research your target client and know who she is.
- Open your social media accounts and link them to your website.
- Open a Google Analytics account and learn how to use it.
- Use only the Apps you really need. They slow down your website and are often superfluous.
- List your products.
- Make sure your business social media accounts are linked to your website.
6 steps (in order) for listing your products online.
- Create a spreadsheet for your products and load it to your website.
- Collect images for the items. If the vendor does not provide images that fit your web design, get samples and take them so they match everything else on your site. Whenever possible, offer alternative views of your products to customers. This allows them to really know what they are buying. Whenever possible, show the fit of the product on a model. RESIZE your images for optimal web size. RENAME your images using the name of the item. Load your images.
- Create a compelling description for your product. Make sure the tone of your copy reflects your brand. DO NOT COPY content from anywhere, even if the brand has descriptions. Include information the customer might be thinking they want to know, i.e. fabric content, washing instructions, and sizing notes. Remember that they are buying for their kids, and they can't see what they are purchasing. They will need to know if a sweater has wool in it for kids with fabric sensitivities. Or if pants have an adjustable waists for their tall, thin boys. Or if they have to hand wash a dress, which they have no time to do.
- Write your alt image tag, meta title and meta description. See the corresponding section about on-page SEO for more information about how to do this.
- Sort your products in an appealing way so that customers see what you want them to see.
- Create related products to suggest other items to customers. For example, link a cool boys’ graphic t shirt to some matching pants options and some other similar tees.
Now you've got everything listed and you're ready to launch. Your goal is always sales. To get sales online, you need TRAFFIC and CONVERSIONS. Because you need conversions, you don’t need any random traffic - you need high quality traffic.
How do you get traffic?
First, start researching keywords. This is how you get found on Google. Find the keywords that are the most relevant and have the most volume for all of the pages on your website. Think to yourself - if someone wanted to buy what I have on this page, what might they type in as a search? Then try to get more specific. You'll be surprised how many different ways people can type in something like "kids boutique clothing," so there are lots of keywords from which to choose and you want to use as many as are relevant. Ideally people who click on your website want what you have and don't leave immediately because they ended up on the wrong website that doesn't have anything they want.
Don't pick words (think of them as phrases even though they are called keywords) for which you have no chance to rank, like "girls' dresses." It's too big and you'll never compete with the large companies that rank for it. Pick SPECIFIC and RELEVANT phrases. What kind of girls' dresses? You might try to rank, for example, for "boutique dresses for girls." You can use any variety of keyword tools to research keywords - just Google "keyword tools" and pick one.
Once you choose your keywords, divide them among your pages. Don't try to rank for the same keywords everywhere. Make them specific to the content on your page. Don't for example put "kids' boutique" on your girls dresses collection page. That belongs on your home page if you want to try to rank for it. Your dress related keywords belong on your girls dress page.
Finally, make a plan for tracking your keywords with a tool like SEMrush. This way you can see if you make any progress with your rankings. You can even tag your keywords into collections - for example those related to girls, boys, tweens, babies, toddlers and so on.
What do you do with these keywords once you have them? Keep reading!
You can get traffic from Google Adwords if you want it fast, but you’d best know what you are doing or you can lose a lot of money even faster. What is Adwords? If you type in something you want to find into Google (a search query), you will see ads come up as the first listings. You'll see a little box saying it's an ad. This means a boutique used Google Adwords to bid on that keyword. For example, a business decides to try to get traffic for the keyword "kids boutique clothes." See below, where Mini Ruby and Hana Andersson have bid on the keyword that is typed into the search box, creating a clickable ad. They made an ad campaign saying they will pay x amount of money per click for that keyword. This means that if someone clicks on their ad, they pay Google Adwords (whether or not the customer buys anything). Read up about Google Adwords before you even try to use it. There is a lot to learn.
You can also get traffic from SEO (search engine optimization). These are organic search engine rankings. Back to the example, you are again looking for "kids boutique clothes." Google's algorithm says - what website out of the thousands that use this phrase best answers this person's search query? Google's algorithm changes constantly, but if you can be in the Top 5 listings that appear for this keyword, then you get more traffic for it. If you aren't on page 1, you have almost no chance of being found. It's like being on Madison Avenue or being on a farm in Kansas. People see you or they don't. Here is an organic search result for kids boutique clothes in which our website Little Skye Kids Boutique appears. This is not an ad, but an organic search result.
On-page SEO is free (sort of and if you do it yourself - there are many aspects of SEO that you'll have to pay for in one way or another), but not when it comes to your time. You’d do well to learn very quickly and comprehensively how to do SEO. It's what I spend most of my time doing. Google is very content focused, and needs to see your pages as both authoritative and relevant. You can read endless articles about this. It takes a long time to build your organic rankings, and it’s not easy. There is a lot to learn. And it can crash in a hot minute if Google does an update and you aren't doing things right. SEO has many facets - including but not limited to on-page optimization, content, technical SEO, and link building. Here are a few good articles about SEO.
Social media marketing is a huge field, so you'll need to read up on this as well. You already know to create at minimum a Facebook and Instagram account for your business. You need to take the time to learn how to use these forms of social media to start to promote your business and build a following.
This will become one of your largest sources of sales, so be sure to develop a program for capturing emails from visitors to your website. Discuss this with your web developer. Once you have developed an email list, you'll need to start learning about email marketing and using a mail sever like MailChimp to design and send your email campaigns.
Now that you've curated your products, listed them on your website, and made your best efforts to get some traffic, you're on your way! We'll leave you with 5 tips for selling children's boutique clothes online.
5 tips for selling boutique children’s clothes online
- Organize the brands you have ordered and when they are expected to ship. Create a calendar of releases for yourself, so that you have newness for your customers every week.
- DO NOT presell everything you have all at once. Many boutiques will list for presale all items they have months before they are expected to get the items, to generate cash flow. This hurts not only the boutique, but also the business. There is no newness for the customers, and products sit for sometimes 60 days before they are even in stock and before the season in which kids can wear the clothes. Then the clothes have to go on sale since they’ve been available for so long for presale. It brings down the value of the entire business and we do not recommend it. Customers also get very anxious waiting for their clothes for more than 30 days.
- FOLLOW THE RULES. Many boutique owners will try to break the rules to get ahead. Many brands protect their own businesses by creating rules about how early you can list their products, how much you can discount their products and when, at what price you sell their products, and where/how you can sell their products. Do not break the rules. Aside from it being dishonest, it devalues brands and the entire kids’ boutique market. Many brands will pull their collections from you if you do this.
- Give good service. Hire staff if you can't do it all. And you can't do it all. Make sure calls and emails are answered and customers are happy.
- Ship quickly. Customers expect very fast shipping in the world of Amazon, so keep up.