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How to Sell Shoes Online – Start a Shoe Business

by GK January 19, 2018

Sometimes, we see fancy online stores selling products we love and think about how successful they are. What we don’t realize is ordinary people like us started these online businesses. Starting or growing a business doesn’t always require huge capital, especially if it is online.

If you want to follow your passion and make some money in the course, starting a shoe business online could be the way. If you have dreamed of starting an online shoe store, now is the time. You could own an online retail store, or dig deep for starting an online shoe boutique using a similar process. You needn’t really stress a bit, as accessible technologies will make the entire process of starting a shoe business simple.

Of course, it helps if you have a good knowledge of the market to get started with. So, let’s begin with the first step of market research, then we can understand other steps to discover more innovative answers to the questions such as: how to start a shoe business online, how to start a shoe store for online shopping, how to start a shoe business in a limited budget, and how much to open a shoe store in current market infrastructure.

Step 1: Market Research & Product Selection

Why shoes, and not some other product? Ask this question the moment you find yourself digging into this product idea. The market research is not limited to understanding the demands but also involves addressing the most fundamental questions such as:

  • How do you go about product selection when creating an online store for shoes?
  • What better can you offer than the brick and mortar shoe retails?
  • What are the difficulties of starting an online shoe store?
  • What innovation can you do to eliminate these downsides?

Selling to a particular group of individuals will allow beating the competition. The primary concern when starting an online shoe business is getting irrelevant traffic. Defining your target audience can solve this issue and assist your business strategies in many ways.

By studying the market carefully, you can channelize your marketing efforts in the right direction and reach a bigger and quality target audience. If you know your target audience and their requirements, you can generate more revenue, even with a relatively lesser audience.

The audience in the online industry works differently than a physical store. Store owners rarely interact with customers if it is a physical shop. However, as an online shoe store, you must have a clear understanding of your eCommerce target market.

When you find your target audience, your marketing decisions will become easier. Once you have created customer profiles, you need to categorize your target audience based on demographic information like name, address, user behavior, etc. Start with finding your main keywords based on your niche; target user demographics, demands, and other behaviors:

Primary keywords

This keyword should link directly with your niche and you must try to use it in your domain name, too.

For example, your niche market is for Shoes, but you can find many sub-niches and micro-niches within the same. You can pick the categories such as Men’s Shoes, Women Shoes, Kids’ Shoes, etc. Pick one or more of these categories and define a niche. For example, you can pick Women’s Shoes as your niche and check the demands of the same in the market.  

However, Women’s Shoes is still a massive market, and there is lots of competition in it. So, you must dig deeper into the category to find micro-niches such as Vegan Women’s Shoes, Women’s Running Shoes, Women’s formal shoes. Etc.

Based on your selected niche or micro-niche, you can use research tools like Google Webmaster console, SEMrush, UberSuggest, or Ahrefs to conduct keyword research and competition research. This process will let you uncover many keywords that you can use for focusing on your primary targets. 

Note:

Selecting a micro-niche is a necessary step, as your roadmap for the next steps depends on your niche. While selecting a niche, make sure the market has ample demands for the same, while you must able be to also find the supply without any hassle.

Step 2: Register a Domain Name.

If you haven’t done it already, you must choose a domain name suitable for your niche on the first chance. Narrow down some unique, user-friendly, and industry-oriented domain names and pick the one that suits them best and resonates with your brand identity.

To narrow down your choices, filter your inclinations, starting from evaluation as per your chosen niche, and continue until it satisfies the following conditions:

  • Easy to remember.
  • Easy to type
  • Mustn’t be-long
  • Easy to pronounce
  • Available in the “.com” domain
  • Must include your primary keyword
  • Social media handles must be available in the original name.

The moment you find your domain name in the .com extension, I would suggest you to also lock all major domains, such as .net, .us, .uk, .info, etc. Set up a permanent redirection of all these additional domain names to your primary domain if you are not using them. Doing so will prevent others from misusing your brand name in similar alterations.

Step 3: Build your Online Shoe Store and Obtain a Secure Hosting

This step involves developing your web store and finding a good web hosting for it.

Step 3.1: How to start a shoe store using eCommerce solutions?

Open-source eCommerce templates and SaaS-based eCommerce solutions dominate the readymade eCommerce software market. You can purchase any decent eCommerce platform to get a ready-made eCommerce store. They are not bad, considering the price point at which they come.

However, these templates fail to offer the flexibility, monetization channels, traffic handling capacity, and customization you need from a full-fledged online shoe boutique. You need a custom turnkey script – a ready-made eCommerce platform like Genstore.

Genstore is a highly scalable, ready-made, 100% customizable, open source-code, premium, and multi-vendor eCommerce script. This MEAN stack-based script can handle massive eCommerce stores without breaking a sweat. All you need to do is follow these steps, you can own a fully independent and fully customizable eCommerce store, without writing a single line of code by yourself:

  1. Purchase and Install the script:

Purchase the Genstore script from this link. You will get a free installation service and the developers will take care of the initial deployment process. However, if you want to install by yourself, you can do so after referring to the user manual.

  1. Link with your domain name:

This step is basically a part of the installation process. Hence, the developers will take care of it, too. You can link your domain name during the installation process itself.

  1. Check and edit the design:

Once you have installed the script, it’s time to give your shoe store a unique brand identity and design customizations. You can personalize your website accordingly by using a graphical user interface (GUI). Here, you can:

  • Add your unique brand logo
  • Update all the web page content
  • Create different static pages
  • Update your business information
  • Add your payment gateways
  • And Update the website settings.

In short, everything you need for converting the stock Genstore into your unique online shoe store is accessible with the click of a button. 

  1. Upload your products:

Once your shoe store is ready with the design customizations and personalization, you can begin with uploading your product listing. Based on your business model, you can adopt several methods to source your products and upload their listings accordingly. We will talk more about this later in this article.

  1. Focus on creating a Stunning UI/UX:

Once you launch your online shoe store, people start visiting your site. The overall look and feel of your website are very significant in making people stay in your store. UI stands for user interaction and UX for user experience. Both are connected to the design of a website in several ways. It all includes what the user sees on your websites like the colors, shapes, placement of functions, and more.

It is all about the visual aspect and ease of navigating around your website. Create an online shoe store with an appealing design and user-friendly functionalities.

Ask yourself why you like a particular website or an application. More often it has to do with how nice it looks and how easy it is to navigate from pages to pages. If you don’t take your UI/UX seriously, it can have a bad impact on your traffic and conversion rates. Your website has to be friendly and at the same time, it must quickly respond to potential customers. A good online store must also offer secure payment facilities for customers to make transactions with ease.

Step 3.2: How to choose a domain hosting provider?

There are two important aspects of this step:

  • You need not find a hosting provider if you have used a SaaS-based eCommerce solution to build your store.
  • You need to find a hosting provider by yourself if you have picked a customizable, open source-code eCommerce platform like Genstore.

Let’s assume that you did not find SaaS-based solutions competent, customizable, and flexible enough to hold your unique requirements, so you went ahead with the second option, which is a solution like Genstore. Now, you need to find a good hosting provider to contain your website, which is not rocket science if you follow the tips given below:

E-Commerce hosting requirements are different from blogs and smalls-scale websites. E-Commerce websites and hosting providers must follow certain standards that assure seamless experience and SEO for online shoppers. There are thousands of web hosting providers and hosting plans in the market, but not all of them are reliable enough.

  1. You must go for a dedicated adult hosting plan:

As I said, not every web-hosting provider or plan is suitable. You must find a dedicated web hosting server for your needs.

  • Confirm with live support agents or call them directly about dedicated servers
  • Research about the hosting provider’s reputation with eCommerce websites
  • Make sure they don’t suspend websites for unwise reasons
  • Make sure they have minimum server downtime

E-Commerce websites are usually massive and they get tons of traffic in the busy seasons. So, don’t settle for some cheap hosting plan to save a few bucks. Pick good servers with ample storage to manage a sudden surge in the traffic. Besides, it’s a big NO to shared servers.

If budget permits, get a CDN subscription to host your media files like Product Images, Product Videos, etc. Having a CDN is a great way to reduce the stress on your web hosting server and make your web-pages load faster, which is an essential requirement for SEO.

Step 4: Get State and Local Business Requirements

Don’t forget to acquire all the necessary permits and licenses. Failure to doing so may result in an array of legal complications, which may also lead to a complete shutdown. Based on your region(s) of operation, you must ensure you have the following permits:

State and Local Business license

You would need certain state permits and licenses to operate your online shoe store. To know more about the local permits you may need, check with your town, city, or county’s office. You can also seek assistance from local business associations in your region.

Certificate of Occupancy (CO)

You may be running an online business, but you would need certain establishments for necessary operations. For example, Warehouses and local Office Space. For any physical establishment you use, you need to get a certificate of occupancy. Such a certificate will ensure that your business meets all the local establishment laws. In case you are renting or leasing your spaces, make sure the owner has acquired the certificate of occupancy. Besides, if you do some renovation with space, you need to apply for a fresh CO. 

Business Insurance

Just as different permits, your business needs some insurances to safeguard your operations and employees. In most states, insurance is mandatory and you can’t operate without one. There are several insurance policies that you need to acquire depending on the scale of your business. To name a few, you can begin with General Liability Insurance and Workers’ Compensation Insurance.

Note:

I suggest consulting a business lawyer for acquiring your permits and meeting the legal requirements. A legal attorney can help you better in all regards, including acquiring your necessary legal permits, and the next step, too.

Step 5: Legal Entity for your Online Shoe Business

Now that you know the basics about how to start a shoe store online, the next step is to consider legal matters. When it comes to choosing the best legal entity for your business, you have the choice of choosing a general partnership, limited liability company, or LLC. You can also choose a sole proprietorship, especially if you are starting on a small scale with moderate capital.

However, sole proprietorships do not offer any personal liability protection and they don’t provide any kind of tax benefits too. If your business goal is to expand and ship to customers across different states, LLC is the best bet. If anything goes wrong in your business, LLC gives protection from personal liability. They are much simpler and more flexible to operate.

You may ask, how to start your own shoe line in this case? If you have an interest in fashion and passion for shoes, you can turn your love into a business by creating your own shoe line. No matter the niche you belong to, the market is dynamic, and it takes consistent brand awareness and strategies to make yourself stable in the market. Your corporate identity also has a significant role in building a profitable shoe line. Adorn your online store in a visually appealing manner and sensibly stock the shoe collection. Equally, promote and market your store to bring in more traffic and beat the competition.

Step 6: Obtain your Merchandise Through Wholesalers and Distributors.

If you still wonder how to start a shoe business online with a steady supply-chain, there are many ways to achieve this. To move from having a creative idea to building an online store and actually running your own shoe store, you need suppliers to source the products.

Your suppliers are not just the source of your products, a supplier must be your trusted partner as well. Anyone ready to sell to you without verifying whether you are a registered business is mostly not the reputable one and it is better not to choose them.

Finding a supplier can be as simple as building a business relationship with those who make the products you would like to sell. As with any business, you have to make sure you are dealing with a legit partner. You can check for references, reach out to others in your circle, and do a little research of your own. You also have to ask a lot of questions to evaluate your options.

Another alternative is to hire a drop-shipper who allows you to purchase from a vendor and list their products in your store. In this method, you actually don’t have to maintain an inventory. Instead, the vendor does it on your behalf once a customer places an order on your website. If you are looking for different ways of starting an online shoe store with low investment, multi-vendor dropshipping is the best way to get started with.

Step 7: Prepare for Customer Service and Shipping Requirements

Once you are done with sourcing your supplies, the next step is establishing a network to deliver your supplies to the customers, which must follow establishing a robust customer support service in parallel.

To set up your delivery network, the most economic option would be collaborating with courier companies in your regions of operation. All the major courier companies provide APIs that you can integrate into your store. These APIs will synchronize your orders and let the courier companies know about all the necessary information they need, such as:

  • Pick up Address
  • Delivery Speed
  • Delivery address
  • Payment details
  • Compare shipping rates
  • Compare transit times
  • Create shipping labels
  • Track the status of shipments
  • Process return shipments

Besides, you may also hire a 3PL (Third-party logistics) company to manage your logistics and deliveries. They can take care of everything from warehousing to transport, distribution, and fulfillment of your orders. Most of the 3PL companies also take care of delivery-related customer care services.

Step 8:  Pricing & Technical Tools!

Selling products at the right price requires some strategic balancing. You need to find the right balance between demands, supply, competition, and price of your shoes. You can’t just pick low-priced shoes and break the market. Pricing your products requires a lot of groundwork.

You need to tally the demands and set the prices of different shoes in such a way that budget-conscious customers are not scared away and poached by your competitors. Consider changing your product prices from time to time and notice the impact of different price points in your sale.

You may increase the prices of some unique shoes and yet attract customers with exclusivity. However, while selling common items, you need to engage your prospects with comparative pricing and offers such as Free Shipping, Cashbacks, FLAT discount, etc.

You can use price comparison tools and keep a track of your competitors’ pricing in real-time. There are solutions in the market that let you track the prices of marked items for multiple competitors in the market. With real-time updates about changes in the prices and discount campaigns, you can always stay competitive with your pricing.

Step 9: Overcome the Level of Competition in the Footwear Industry

No matter the competition in the industry, if your brand promotes your products in the right way, you can lead the industry. Make sure that you stock your online store with different varieties of shoes, including designer items that are in demand. Once you have found your target audience and have a stunning website to showcase your products, you can reach out to your target market. However, understand that the competition in the footwear industry is very much more and you have to face stiff competition with already established brands.

Do a competitor analysis to find out the brand that is performing well and the reason why they are there. If you are geared towards successfully launching an online shoe store and earning a profit, you must also get your cost and economic analysis right. You must carry out thorough market analysis and cost of what is required to start your online store.

If you are looking for ways on how to start a shoe business from scratch with minimum cost, there are plenty of ways out there to get started with. However, your focus must not be on building a store alone, you must focus more on building a robust clientele base and branding to maximize profits.

Step 10: How much money do you need to build an online shoe store?

It actually depends on your business model. Every step in this guide can have multiple branches, and each branch sets up a different scenario for expenditure on starting an online shoe store. Understand this with the case of a multi-vendor shoe store.

Let’s assume that you want to start a multi-vendor shoe store, which implies that:

  • You need not purchase the stock
  • You need not manage warehouses
  • Vendors on your store will manage it all
  • Or You can choose the dropshipping model

Also, if you hire a 3PL-company, it implies that:

  • You need not manage logistic
  • You need not manage the delivery
  • You need not manage the packaging

Now, all this is left is the cost of building your website. Using Genstore, you can build an online shoe store with an expenditure between $399-$999. Since Genstore is a self-hosted solution, you need not pay any recurring fee. With a one-time cost, you can own your online shoe store for good. Apart from this, you will need a good hosting plan, so include the cost of your web hosting, too. That’s it, you have a fully functional online shoe store, that too without spending a fortune or writing the codes by yourself.

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  • Daniel Jonsson

    Nowadays, we really need an online store or shop to buy easily. So, it is a wise to consider selling shoes via online to all customers. Thanks for the nice article, I have now ideas how to sell shoes.

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