Starting an online shoe business is an venture that links two interesting–and potentially profitable–worlds. Being in the shoe business is being between the practical necessities of clothing and the aesthetic yearnings of fashion. Being in an online business increases your market and your earning potential as the reach of your enterprise expands beyond your immediate geographical market. As with any business, you need to write a business plan and write a marketing plan. Successful businesses are started twice: once on the paper of their plans and once again in the actions outlined in written plans. Opening an online shoe store requires particular preparations.
Design your inventory for your target customer. Your market research analysis should contain facts (potentially collected survey or purchasing data) about who bought what shoes for how much and, equally, should provide your educated guesses about future shoe purchases. Imagine, as you review your analysis, that your target market is represented by one customer: a customer whose shoe needs are fulfilled entirely by you. Decide the styles of footwear you’d need to stock to fulfill her needs. If your target market is women ages 25 to 39, you might avoid the platform heel and seek stiletto heels and pumps and sandals.
Determine your policies to operate an online shoe store. Your primary needs will be a returns policy and a disclaimer. In the online shoe business, size matters. Your return policy might state that you will not accept returns because a shoe doesn’t fit. You’ll need an accompanying disclaimer that is transparently provided alongside your sizing chart that states you have provided the appropriate sizing information as accurately as possible. A legal adviser experienced in such matters can help you create compliant and clear statements for your policies.
Build your virtual storefront. After purchasing a domain name for your store, you need to evaluate a Web hosting service and design (or hire a designer for) your storefront. An online shoe store will require specific bandwith and storage needs so a customer can view the necessary graphical elements. You’ll need 100 to 500 MB of disk space in storage per month and 50 to 100 GB of bandwith per month with your Web hosting service for your virtual storefront. Pay attention to the integrated payment solutions offered, as well. Seek to accept credit cards and potentially PayPal and banking transfers. When you find and agree to an adequate Web hosting service, build your storefront by building your catalog with compelling images and copy of the shoes you stock.
Advertise online with PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns such as Google Adwords. These PPC campaigns should make up about half of your advertising budget and contain highly targeted keywords and compelling copy, much like brick-and-mortar shoe store enticers. Start a blog to promote the collections or the features your shoe store is stocking. Compose, contribute to and distribute a customer newsletter for customer retention. Include your own insights as a shoe store owner as well as publishing valuable customer testimonials (especially anecdotes which will emotionally connect a reader and convince them to shop your store), and pay for freelance writers to provide interesting feature articles (pay from your advertising budget).
Purchase your inventory through a shoe wholesaler. Invest in your designed inventory from your marketing plan’s analysis and fit your initial needs to the scope of your inventory investment budget. This will tell you what shoes to buy and how many of them to buy to sell in your store with healthy predicted movement. For example, if your market analysis uncovered “the thong [sandal] is the string bikini of the shoe world,” your survey data proving this with high sales, and you find you can afford to purchase 500 of this shoe–and they are predicted to sell–you can invest in this inventory purchase with confidence.