Starting an online business can be a rewarding and successful venture—if you plan ahead. Competition is steep in the online retail world, but if you can find a niche and make your online boutique stand out, you may be able to make a name for your business. A clutter-free, well designed and secure website, good products, great prices, smart marketing and excellent customer service will help you stand out from the rest and bring in the sales. Creating a business plan and scouring eBay and other sites to see which styles of baby gear are the most popular will help you start a successful online baby boutique.
Apply for a sales tax permit and a federal tax identification number. Some wholesale vendors will require that you have these in order to purchase their goods. Particularly if you are going into business with your husband or someone else, consider forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC).
Choose an E-commerce site to host your online boutique. Volusion.com offers an entire package that includes your domain name, shopping cart and web hosting. Corecommerce.com is another E-commerce site that offers packages—both of these sites offer business email addresses, website templates (and the ability to use your own design), marketing tools, accounting tools, data feeds, Google AdWords coupons, the ability to create coupons or newsletters for your store and the ability to accept a number of different payment methods, such as Paypal, Google Checkout and credit cards. GoDaddy.com allows you to pick and choose the services you need, such as a domain name or shopping cart. If you aren’t familiar with SEO and online selling, an all-inclusive site such as Corecommerce.com may be the way to go. Volusion.com and Corecommerce.com offer a free 30 day trial. Vendio.com is a hosting site that allows you to operate your store for free. However, you won’t have an exclusive domain name and your URL will be lengthy. This is important—a shorter URL such as Cutebooties.com is easier to identify than one that includes the hosting site’s name and additional information, such as Vendio.com/stores/Cutebooties.com.
Set a theme for your store when selecting or designing your website. Choose a catchy name and logo for your online boutique. Familiarize yourself with your products. Create an "About Me" page that includes your business history, vision and goals. Detail your shipping and return policy on a "Shipping and Returns" page. Create a Privacy Notice page that details how you will use your customer’s information.
Locate suppliers. Look for baby gear closeouts on eBay and other auction sites. If you don’t already have specific brands in mind or you intend to design your own gear, contact American Apparel for basic wholesale baby gear. Also contact websites such as Children’s Wholesale or Wholesale Kid for purchasing wholesale baby clothing, shoes and accessories. Until you know what will be a hit, limit your purchases to no more than 10 to 15 items of each style.
Take high quality images of your inventory. Include relevant information in your product listings such as clear descriptions, sizes, colors and clothing or shoe materials.
Promote your store. Thoroughly read through your website host’s advertising tools. Take advantage of the Google AdWords coupon if offered. Submit your baby product feeds to Google. Your host site may have an easy way to do this; otherwise; you can visit Google.com and import them yourself (see Resources). Take advantage of Google Analytics, which you can use to analyze your traffic. Identify which key words (products) bring in the most customers.
Check your business email address every day. You don’t want to lose out on a sale because you neglected a potential customer. Consider selling some of your merchandise on eBay to give you some more visibility. Include coupons to your own store with each eBay purchase. Encourage customers to write product reviews of your merchandise in exchange for a coupon. When purchasing your inventory, use a card that offers a rewards program such as cash back or air miles. Depending on how much inventory you purchase, you may earn two to three free flights per year. If you have Excel, take advantage of it. Keep records of all your purchases for supplies and inventory. Visit the IRS website ASAP and familiarize yourself with your tax obligations.