If you’re considering starting a baby boutique online, it’s important to have a clear business strategy to ensure you offer your target market exactly what it is seeking. Start by developing a business plan and clearly outlining your audience. Research the many online e-commerce platforms available and choose one that works with your business model. Be sure to have a clear understanding of shipping and logistics and develop an effective marketing strategy to incentivize consumers.
Draft a Baby Clothes Business Plan
The first step to opening an online boutique to sell baby clothes or other baby items is to write a thorough business plan. A business plan is a useful tool that you can present to investors and banks to secure financing for your business. Even if you already have the funding in place for your online boutique, a business plan can help you establish a clear strategy to reach your market.
Your baby clothes business plan should include:
- Executive summary: Write this section last. It should include what your business will do, what you will sell, to whom you will sell and how you will reach them. It should also note your financial state and how much capital you require to start and run your business.
- Company overview: Outline your business structure and specify your mission, vision and core values. Share your team members and their responsibilities and salaries.
- Your target market: Specify to whom you’re selling and what they are looking for in baby products. Quantify your market.
- Your competitors: Which other online baby boutiques offer similar products to yours? Establish your indirect and direct competitors. Outline what differentiates you from them.
- Products: Detail what kinds of products you will sell.
- Marketing plan: Cover your plan to reach your target market.
- Operations management: Provide information on your product storage and shipping details. How much inventory will you need to have on hand?
- Financial plan: Share your income statements, balance sheet and cash flow statements so your financial status is clear.
Clearly Identify Your Target Market
As part of your business plan, you’ll need to research your target market. When doing so, it’s critical to create a customer profile so you can have a comprehensive understanding of to whom you’re selling. As a result, you’ll be better equipped to select and offer products that appeal directly to your target market.
In your customer profile, research and include:
- Demographics: Age, gender, occupation, income, race, ethnicity and family status
- Geographic details: Location of your customers, including their climate
- Behavioral information: Brand loyalty, brand awareness and familiarity with online shopping
- Psychographic traits: Values, opinions, attitudes and hobbies
Learn From Your Competitive Analysis
When researching your competition, it’s important to establish how you will differentiate your business from the sea of competitors.
What will you offer to consumers that no other business can? For example, will you offer free shipping without a minimum purchase amount, or will you source clothes from specific designers? Will you put the focus on quality and offer handmade items only, or will you lower prices by selling wholesale baby clothes?
Establish Your Brand
Develop your brand’s identity. This includes selecting a brand name that is unique and easy to remember. It should also reflect your company’s mission, vision and values. In addition, it’s important to find a brand name for which you can get a unique domain name for your website. This will make it easy for potential customers to search for and find your store online.
In addition to your name, establish your brand’s aesthetic. What will your online baby boutique look like? Will you have bright, splashy colors or a muted pastel vibe? Decide on what kind of look and feel you want to portray with your branding. Be sure to consult your customer profile so you create your brand with your target audience in mind.
Source Your Products
Establish where you will get your products and how much inventory you will need to launch your online baby boutique. Consider investigating:
- Local and handmade stores: Visit local shops and online boutiques that carry the kinds of baby items you’re interested in selling. You may be able to create a business partnership to sell their clothes in your store.
- Designers and manufacturers: Meet with baby clothes designers and manufacturers to see if there is an opportunity to sell their clothes in your store. You can sell bespoke designs in addition to wholesale baby clothes depending on your target market.
- Your own inventory: Do you sew or make your own baby clothes? You can sell your own designs and creations to parents looking for unique finds.
Set up Your Online Store
One of the most important tasks when opening your online baby boutique is selecting the right e-commerce platform for your business. There are a number of options available, so it’s critical to select one that offers the features and functionality that’s right for your business needs.
E-commerce platform options include:
- Etsy: If you’re planning on selling custom, vintage or handmade baby clothes, Etsy may be the platform for your business. It provides business owners with low-cost monthly plans to run an online boutique.
- Shopify: This is a great option for larger boutiques that require extensive features such as unlimited bandwidth and storage. The platform also offers a free 14-day trial.
- Wix: This platform provides great support for small boutiques. It also offers a 14-day trial and is easy to use with a range of templates and flexible features.
- Squarespace: If the aesthetic of your brand is important to you, then you may want to consider this platform, which ranks highly for design templates.
Figure out Shipping Details
When running an online baby boutique, shipping is an important factor to consider. If your products are priced right for your target market but your shipping costs are too high, you may lose customers at the checkout stage. Similarly, if your products are high in quality but take too long to ship to customers, they may not be inclined to make the purchase.
Research shipping options available for your baby boutique that meet the needs of your target market. There are three strategies that you can apply to your business:
- Offer free shipping: This is considered an excellent bonus from a consumer perspective. Some businesses offer free shipping regardless of how much a customer spends, whereas others offer free shipping after the customer spends a certain amount.
- Charge flat shipping rates: Figure out what your shipping costs are on average and charge your customers a flat rate regardless of where they are and how much they have spent. This can convince buyers at the checkout stage because they already know what the extra expenses will be.
- Charge shipping at cost: On some e-commerce platforms, you have the option to see real-time shipping quotes. This may be an option for your business if you aren’t able to offer free shipping or have a wide range of package sizes.
Create a Promotional Strategy
Don’t forget about how you’re going to market your baby boutique to your target market. Remember to place any promotional messages where your target customers are located. For example, if your baby boutique focuses on athletic moms who keep active with their children, you may want to consider advertising on womens' fitness websites.
Your promotional strategy should consider five key elements:
- Personal selling
- Direct marketing
- Sales promotions
- Public relations
Create a promotional mix that works best to reach your target market. Ensure that your messaging is consistent and aligned so your customers have a unified experience every time.
- 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.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.