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How to Launch a Successful Online Shoe Store

Shoe stores are a major beneficiary of the online shopping boom. According to CAGR, the global footwear business is expected to grow by 7.5% over the next four years. It’s easier than ever to go international and cultivate a diverse customer base across the world, with no need to rely on traditional brick-and-mortar stores—even for a product like a shoe that requires careful fitting. But a profitable industry is usually a crowded industry, and footwear is no exception. No matter what niche you choose, you’ll never be the only seller. So how do you create an exceptional footwear business?

Why Sell Shoes Online?

Few business niches are always relevant, regardless of the time and region,  and footwear is one of them. Here are some reasons why you should consider an online footwear business:

·    They’re always in demand

Whether you’re going to the beach and need a pair of stylish sandals, preparing for a 5k that requires supportive running shoes, or picking out the perfect pair of formal shoes for a wedding—the need for comfortable, glamorous, and functional footwear never dies. Different occasions and conditions require a wide variety of shoes, so you’ll always have interested customers. On top of that, trendy fashion footwear is irresistible to the right crowd.

·    They’re a stable source of income

According to research, the average American spends $392 on shoes every year, and the profit margins for retailers can be quite high—even upwards of 50%. Shoe stores make great money, especially if you’re good at following trends. 

·    They come in all shapes and sizes

As mentioned above, there are many kinds of footwear, and you have complete liberty to choose what you want to sell and organize your product line to best compete with other footwear businesses. Do you want to sell cowboy boots? Dancing shoes? Sneakers? Whatever your interest is, there’s a market for it.

·    They don’t require any expensive equipment

Online shoe stores don’t necessarily require a huge investment upfront; you just have to find the right suppliers to fill your stock.

What Are the Risks of Starting a Footwear Business?

Even though there are major benefits to selling shoes, you shouldn’t expect it to be easy. As in any line of business, there are pitfalls to avoid if you want to be successful

·    Fashions change

Like all fashions, footwear trends can be fickle. While there will always be a market for work boots and formal shoes, you’ll always need to keep an eye on the markets to make sure your products are relevant to the current consumer interests. Footwear needs change from season to season and fashions can change at any moment. If you’re not careful, you could wind up with large amounts of unsold inventory or find that the products you’ve invested in are irrelevant.

·    The competition is tough

The downside of launching in a stable, solid industry is that many other businesses have chased the same dream. You’ll need to find ways to stand out in an overcrowded market and show your customers something extraordinary, either in your products or the shopping experience you provide (preferably both). If you don’t have either, it’ll be nearly impossible to compete with long-established footwear companies.

However, the industry is still open to almost every aspiring entrepreneur. So what do you need to launch your own online shoe store? Let’s take a look.

Launching an Online Shoe Store

Step 1: Do your research!

You must identify your niche as a footwear business. It could be:

  1.     Indoor shoes/comfort footwear
  2.     Sports shoes
  3.     Classic formal shoes
  4.     High-end designer shoes
  5.     Office/work shoes

These are just a few of the myriad options available. You should conduct thorough market research to determine what works and doesn’t. If your plan is to sell every kind of shoe, you’ll have an uphill battle, to say the least. In e-commerce, targeting specific markets is often the way to go. We recommend starting with something that addresses distinctive consumer demands. To determine whether you are on the right track,

  1.     Check out what big brands are selling online.
  2.     Conduct surveys, polls, etc.
  3.     Use market research tools like Google Trends and Google Keyword Planning Tool.

Step 2: Identify your sources

Now that you’ve identified your prospects and the type of shoes you want to sell, it’s time to figure out how you will source them.

1.    Pre-owned footwear

Yes, you can turn a profit on used shoes! This type of inventory comes with its own challenges, but much lower upfront costs, and you can find pre-owned footwear for everything from costumes to special occasions. Plus, selling pre-owned products is an earth-friendly approach, since it encourages recycling instead of buying new shoes.

2.    Wholesale

Buying from wholesalers is a good way to purchase low-cost footwear in bulk. The downside is that your order volumes might be larger and your upfront costs may be higher, so you’ll need to follow trends carefully.

3.    Manufacturing

If you’re passionate about designing or crafting footwear in addition to selling it, you can always consider forming a team and manufacturing your own shoes. If you have a knack for it, this has the potential to make your business completely unique.

4.    Dropshipping

With dropshipping, a customer places an order and you then purchase the item directly from a supplier and have them deliver the footwear to your customer. Your margins will be lower, but so will your overhead and startup costs.

Step 3: Know where to sell your products

You can either sell your products in online marketplaces or on your own online store.

1.    Marketplaces

These are platforms that allow people to launch their own shops, which are hosted on the platform. Amazon, Etsy, and eBay are some of the biggest names.

2.    Ecommerce stores

You can also build a store with platforms like WooCommerce, BigCommerce, or Shopify. You’ll take home more revenue but you’ll need to promote your brand more aggressively since you won’t have the benefit of appearing in search listings for a large platform. This option may work best for well-known brands.

Step 4: Set the right prices

You’ll need to carefully tune your prices, as high prices will deter your customers, and low prices will reduce your margin. Market research can help you nail the perfect price point.

Step 5: Develop a business plan

A business plan will be the foundation of your success as a retailer and/or manufacturer. The plan must include the following:

  1.     Executive summary
  2.     Ownership structure
  3.     Product details
  4.     Market analysis data
  5.     Sales strategy
  6.     Management structure
  7.     Financial goals

Step 6: Register your business

Before setting up your website, register your business to avoid future legal issues. Make sure to follow all relevant trademark, patent, and copyright laws when naming your business and creating a logo.

Step 7: Set up your online store

You can now start creating your platform. What you’ll need to do to get started depends on where you plan to sell.

E-commerce sites

For this, you’ll need to buy a domain, which you can do from vendors like GoDaddy, Bluehost, or HostGator. After that, you can set up your store with a platform like WooCommerce or Shopify.

Marketplaces

This will likely be a quicker and simpler way to get started. Follow the guidelines of your chosen marketplace(s) to get your store set up.

Social media

Did you know you can also make money selling via social media? Sites like Instagram allow you to sell right on their platform. Once again, you’ll need to follow the guidelines of your social media platform of choice to get started. Make sure you aren’t violating any terms of service, as this could majorly disrupt your business if the platform takes action against your account.

Step 8: Photograph your products

To sell products, you need to present them in their best light. For this stage, you’ll need to either hire a photographer or invest in a stable camera and basic studio lights. Once you’ve captured the images, you can further invest in success by editing them to correct any issues with lighting, color, smudges, or unwanted elements in the frame. This doesn’t have to be a costly or time-consuming exercise. Using an AI-powered photo editor like autoRetouch can give you professional-quality editing at a low cost. You can even make advanced edits like adding shadows to give your photos depth.

Step 9: Optimize your web presence

After finishing your store, you’ll need to implement a marketing strategy for brand exposure. Here’s what you need to work on:

  1.     SEO for visibility.
  2.     Contextual advertising to boost your store’s online presence.
  3.     Social media for better engagement.
  4.     Blogs to answer user queries and present yourself as an expert.

How Much Does it Cost to Launch an Online Shoe Store?

The cost to launch a footwear business online can vary widely depending on your choice of inventory, suppliers, and delivery method. At a minimum, you’ll need the funds for business registration and startup fees, buying stock, hiring, website development and maintenance, marketing costs, and shipping costs. If you don’t have adequate capital, we recommend dropshipping, which will vastly lower your expenses since you only need to pay for the shoe itself and a professional website. However, bear in mind that you will still need to market your business.

Wrapping up

Starting an online shoe store has its challenges. Still, with the right business sense and a solid plan, it can be a very lucrative enterprise for entrepreneurs, combining a stable income source with the opportunity to make it big in specialized niches. If you’ve decided to launch your own footwear business, use the guide above to kick-start your sales—and stay one step ahead of the competition. Happy selling!