How to Create an Online Fashion Boutique With Very Little Money

Updated on December 7, 2017
Doreen Mallett profile image

I enjoy writing, but only recently thought of it professionally. I have a lot to say about many things. Hope to entertain and inform.

How To ...

Stay-at-home Moms, young entrepreneurs, self styled fashionistas, and new retirees are all discovering that they can realize their dream of owning a fashion boutique online by signing up to become online affiliate marketers for large establishments such as Amazon.

Let’s say that you are a fashionista with knowledge and experience in what to wear and what not to wear. You have extensive knowledge of the fashion industry, and an innate understanding of colors, patterns, and textures. You can advise on style, items of wardrobe, accessorizing. Your dream is to establish a fashion boutique and become a fashion consultant but having no funds you can’t see how. Well here’s how. That is what our discussion is about.

Fashion is My Style

Starting a fashion boutique is a dream for many women, and a few men too. When I opened my boutique, three of us partnered to do this and the sole male partner was as excited at the outset as us two women. He had actually been in the business before.

Style is my Mantra
Style is my Mantra

Starting a Fashion Boutique

Before I begin let me refine the title a little bit by replacing ‘no money’ with ‘little money’. This is because things like promotion and developing a clientele are likely to require some funding for maximum effectiveness. Creating a website will also be a cost for some persons. There are tools such as Wordpress and Wix which make this reasonably easy. I have used both quite successfully but I find Wix to be easier for the technology novice.

Your Online Fashion Store

A large online marketing conglomerate such as Amazon is happy to invite individuals to selectively promote their listings on their own websites. This is referred to as affiliate marketing. Using this amazon program, you can create the equivalent of a virtual store – e.g. Women’ Fashion Online or Men’s Fashion Online - from a selection of the Amazon listed items that you choose. This applies to any catalog that Amazon promotes, not just fashion. For instance, I promote Caribbean novels on my website. I select the specific books from the Amazon listing and insert in my website the product image and description generated by Amazon.

Let’s say that you are known to be a fashion guru with great ideas about what to wear, what not to wear. You would like to operate a boutique and to boost your sales income by being a fashion adviser. As an Amazon affiliate you can do this. You will create a website to represent your online shop and also to serve as your platform for giving advice through blogs, videos, chats and whatever other medium you may choose to use for communicating.

How Does One Earn from Affiliate Marketing ?

First you must sign up with Amazon for an account on the affiliate program. The affiliate link is usually at the very bottom of the organization’s official site as shown below (see image in blue). The sign up process generates an ID which identifies you at the point when you select the product from the Amazon listing and again when visitors to your store click on the product from your store website, which then links them to the Amazon’s purchase page for the product. Sales percentages are established for each actual sale that is made from this link back.

see where indicated
see where indicated

How is The Affiliate Account Set Up?

Let me do a summarized description of the Amazon affiliate setup program. There are others, some listed below and a similar principle applies. For detail of all the features and facilities of the affiliate program you choose you will need to investigate the ins and outs of each, but there is sufficient information on the specific websites. After opening the affiliate link (i.e. click on it) and signing in, the Amazon Associates screen is presented. Notice the Menu strip showing “Home, Product Linking, Promotions, Tools”. From here you will access the facilities available for setting up your online store or for promoting a few select items on your website. From the Product Linking dropdown you may access any of the following :

  • Product links - used to capture the HTML link supplied from Amazon for a specific product for the purpose of insertion into your webpage. This may include the image with a description, or the description only – your choice. [Note. The HTML link may look like computer gibberish to some of you but don’t worry you simply need to copy it and paste it in your website. It works]
  • Banner – as above but this is a banner. In choosing your banner you can select the size of your banner and the category of products based on the list that Amazon site provides.
  • Native Shopping Ads – in my view this is the selection that you would use to a assemble group of items on a page (e.g. clothing items). Native Shipping Ads is the affiliate option that I use to display my selection of Caribbean novels (see screen shot below) . Amazon has some restrictions about the number of items that you can collocate on a single page and this is important.
  • Link to Page – allows you to create a link to an Amazon page. For instance if you are advertising Kindle products you may copy the appropriate Amazon page’s URL and use this to generate the appropriate HTML link for your website. Follow the given instructions.

There are other features on the menu strip under the headings ‘Promotions’ and ‘Tools’ which you may explore for further information.

Similar affiliate programs are offered by eBay, Shopbob, Zappos, Rosegal, Zulily, JNCO Jeans, Banana Republic, Boohoo, Nordstrom, Reebok, American Apparel – and more.

Note that your earning as percentage of sale will vary significantly from company to company and in some cases from product to product.

'Native Shopping Ads' is the affiliate option that I use to display my items selection ....

See Online Store - only to illustrate typical presentation

Created using Native Shopping Ads
Created using Native Shopping Ads

How to Promote and Advertise your Store

Promoting and advertising is critical to the success of your online business. Potential customers will not know of you unless you find ways to engage with them. Employ some of the Internet marketing and promotion schemes that are available – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (which is excellent for visual promotion), free promotional Youtube videos. After operating for a while you will realize the need to create paid ads on some of the social media sites and possibly from Google. When your website begins to attract traffic you are in a good position to invite operators like Google to place promotional content on your site and pay you. This is an added potential for another stream of income.

Even though this is strictly an online business one can engage traditional offline methods for further promotion particularly among friends and established clientele - mail outs; whatsapp groups; include your website URL on your letterhead and business cards; create e-brochures for specific events such as new listings, Black Friday discounts, Mothers’ Day specialties … Keep updating your website content. Not only will you have a visual shop but also you will want to give advice and discuss fashion, trends, the season’s selections and any related topic that your clientele may be interested in. Having an active online business is one way of exposing yourself to other related business possibilities such as an online fashion consultant, if that is your business area.

"Content is King" is a phrase which continues to reign!

After operating for a while, you will find that it is in your interest to run ‘ad. campaigns’ on platforms like Google and Facebook to expand your market and to better understand how that market is segmented. This will enable you to target your customers.

In this discussion I have deliberately focused on the online fashion store because this is a vast industry and a number of people both young and old (mostly women) are eager to be players in it. There is an extensive amount of online shopping, fashion online, shopping online for accessories ……The same is true for other industries to greater or lesser extent – sports gear, exercise equipment, health store, specialised books, to name a few.

Note that your earning as a percentage of sale will vary significantly from one affiliate company to another and from one product category to another.

Finally

If fashion is your business choice it may be prudent to decide on your specific areas – women’s fashion, men’s fashion, kids clothing, accessories, dressing for the workplace, casuals, handbags etc. You may think that you need to cover the whole range of interests in order not to leave anyone out, but that could be a mistake as we found out in our own fashion boutique City21. We attempted to stock ladies shoes with a view that shoes accessorised the clothing. However we found that shoes requires its own focus and concentration and simply tacking it on to clothing resulted in a significant loss. Accessories (jewellery) along with clothing proved to be quite a success. Our focus became ladies casuals, party dresses and accessories of necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.

Promoting Fashion and Style

Modelling - as a promotional event
Modelling - as a promotional event | Source
Item in different colors
Item in different colors | Source
Same item in blue
Same item in blue | Source

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