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How to Start an Online Shoe Store?

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Yuri Musienko
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It’s easy to sell shoes online if you know what to do: how to stand out among the competitors, find the suppliers, create a website, and meet all customers’ expectations. Our guide to starting your online shoe store will provide you with this information.

Select a store’s niche


Analysis of search terms about buying shoes in the USA that is conducted with the help of Google Trends

When starting your online store, you have two options: to sell all sorts of things or to bet on a specific type of shoes. In the first case, you’ll have to compete directly with successful marketplaces such as Amazon, Zappos, DSW. To confront them, you need a quite big budget and teams of professional developers, marketers, and other specialists, which isn’t available to everyone.

It’s a lot easier and more appropriate to go the second way by selling a specific type of shoes; for instance, running shoes, safety shoes, orthopedic shoes, ski boots, or other things. So this is how to create a website design and marketing that are targeted at a certain target audience. This will allow standing out among the competitors and increasing the advertising efficiency.

You can find a niche in several ways:

  • By analyzing search terms. You can do this due to Google Keyword Planner, Mergewords, WordStream, or their analogs. Google Trends will help you find out whether the interest in a certain shoe type is growing or diminishing;
  • By analyzing marketing research. It’s usually aimed at the analysis of a specific shoe market or a target group. For example, here’s the research of running shoes buying habits, and here’s the report of an ugg boots market research. You can take a look at the consolidated data on Statista.
  • By studying the products and their competitiveness. SaleHoo, Sell The Trend, Spocket and Dropship Spy reveal data about what stores sell the specific goods, at what price, and what demand is there for them;
  • By checking what is being sold on large marketplaces. Many marketplaces have sections like Amazon Best Sellers, where you can see what shoe models are mainly sold online.

Determine a business model

Dropshipping. It’s the simplest form of e-commerce, which implies that your store will be taking orders and sending them to the suppliers and/or manufacturers. Under this approach, you need to manage only sales and marketing, and track shipments. The suppliers take over the production, warehousing, and the direct product sending to the end customer.

The majority of small sellers on Amazon, eBay, and other marketplaces use a dropshipping business model because it’s not necessary to create a website under this approach, which is the additional cost savings. However, as soon as these sellers achieve a steady sales level, they start thinking about launching their site on Shopify or Oberlo not to pay commissions to marketplaces and to enhance the customers’ loyalty.

Wholesale and warehousing. It’s a traditional form of trading, which implies that you will make large wholesale purchases of shoes from suppliers or manufacturers and store these products in your warehouses until someone buys them. This is more difficult and risky that dropshipping because you have to manage stocks, track orders and information about the shipment, and invest in warehouse spaces. Besides, there’s no guarantee that you’ll sell everything you’ve bought.

The advantages of this business model lie in the fact that you’ll speed up the order delivery to the end customer, guarantee the item quality, and that it’s matching its description on the site. Moreover, you can go into wholesale trade as DollarDays did. They’re selling shoes to ordinary customers and other stores at wholesale prices betting not on the margin, but on the sales.

Such a store as DollarDays needs both its website (or app) and business accounts on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, and all other platforms where it’s possible to get in touch with the buyers. Without all that, it will be hard to keep sales at a level that is enough to cover the expenses on the personnel and warehouses.

Production and your own trademark. The last option implies that you’ll be manufacturing the shoes yourself and selling them on marketplaces, your website, or through retailers. You don’t necessarily have to build your own factory, workshop, or workhouse. You may just design the shoes and send the design to a certain manufacturer. You can find one on Sourcify or other similar resources.

The main advantage of this approach is an opportunity to create your trademark. Celebrities usually do that, but not always. For example, Kate Fella, who had been an ordinary employer on a regular firm, has opened a store of luxury shoes N&K London. Plus, she had opened it without а large seed funding. Most of the money was raised on Kickstarter.

Find wholesale shoe suppliers

The next step in our guide about how to start an online shoe store is a search for suppliers. The simplest way to do that is through Amazon and eBay. These platforms present almost all large stores and suppliers, who’re operating in North America and Europe. Besides, you can find the suppliers of Amazon itself – the company made a list of all its partners publicly available in 2019.

You can as well find wholesale suppliers on SaleHoo, Worldwide Brands, Kompass, Wholesale Central, Thomas Net, Makers Row, IndiaMart Oberlo, and Doba. These are online aggregate sites, which collect data and contacts of suppliers grouping them by specialization, location, delivery time, and other parameters.


Choose a showcase of your online store

Social networks. Many aspiring entrepreneurs are selling shoes on Facebook and Instagram because it’s easy, fast, and free: you don’t have to pay marketplace a commission to or create a website of your online store. Besides, social networks provide the opportunity of free (due to content and communities) and paid promotion of your account and separate products. Thereat you can target an advertising campaign by many parameters: location, education, hobby, profession, marital status, children, etc.

Large marketplaces. You can also arrange the sale of shoes via Amazon, LetGo, Craigslist, and other large marketplaces. It’s quite simple and doesn’t take a lot of time, but you won’t have an opportunity to stand out among other sellers on these platforms otherwise than cutting the prices down. Besides, if you’re planning to sell more than 50 types of products, then your store will most likely need to either take out a subscription or pay a commission.

E-Commerce platforms. Such cloud services as Shopify, BigCommerce, or Magento make it possible to start a website of your online store quite quickly, which will be ready to work almost straight away. It’s enough to choose a template of website design, customize it, and fill out flypages. In addition, e-Commerce platforms allow connecting useful plugins to the site, such as Loox Visual Reviews on Shopify, which collects and adds clients’ reviews with photos to the site.

Website development from scratch. It’s more difficult, expensive, and longer than other options, but it’s the only way to create an online shoe store with unique design and features. It’s suitable for niche projects and for those, which are ready to spend more money now to save on subscription and/or commissions later.


Develop a marketing strategy

Methods of promoting the online shoe store are pretty conventional — SEO, SMM, paid advertising, referral programs, content marketing, and emailing. Accents in the advertising are also conventional: high-quality pictures of the products, special offers, discounts, and sales. You don’t need to tell about the store itself unless you’ve implemented a unique feature such as virtual fitting rooms.

Besides, you should add your shoe store to business listings of Google My Business, Yelp, Zomato, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Expedia, Yellow Pages, Yahoo! Local, and to Apple Maps, Bing Maps, and Google Maps.

In addition, you should pay attention to other important aspects:

  • Real product photos. Sellers frequently edit the pictures of shoes making them more attractive owing to higher brightness, contrast, color saturation, or more contrasting background. You may do this, but you shouldn’t go overboard not to confuse the buyer when he buys sneakers of one shade and gets sneakers of another.
  • Discounts and sales. If you say you provide a 50% discount on the advertising, this discount needs to be applied to the products, which the purchaser will really be interested in. It shouldn't be applied only to one or two items that nobody wants. Otherwise, the buyers might consider this advertisement a deception and forget about your store. In a best-case scenario, you should create a filter that would sort products by a discount rate.
  • Credibility factors. These are such things as influencers’ recommendations, all necessary permits and licenses, the security of the website and payments, positive and, what’s important, negative reviews. Negative reviews are important because a perfect rating is less credible and generates potential buyers’ skepticism.


How to Start an Online Shoe Store? key takeaways:

#1. Select a store’s niche
#2. Determine a business model
#3. Find wholesale shoe suppliers
#4. Choose a showcase of your online store
#5. Develop a marketing strategy

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Yuri Musienko
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