Hey there Sea Changers and welcome back. Today we are going to check out the online sales processes for an extremely popular product and discuss how to sell shoes online. I mean we are talking about shoes. How many people do you know that just love shoes? And trust me, it is not just the ladies. Then we can even start to think about all of the different types and needs there are for them around the world – work shoes, sports shoes, going out shoes… Oh, and slippers. don’t forget slippers.
So, if you are at all interested in making money selling shoes online, then let’s check it all out…
How do we get started?
I just did some research – it appears that we humans purchase between 14.5 billion and 19 billion pairs of shoes globally per year so surely there is a market there for us. However I would hate to convince anybody to start their own online footwear business and have it fall away due to the fact that none of these billions of pairs are purchased online. So as usual, let’s see what people are searching for:
What are people looking for?
To start let’s just confirm our market numbers:
1. Number of monthly searches
As we are looking to see if there is an interest in the purchase of shoes online (so we can sell them), let’s start by checking for purchase related searches. You will need to find yourself a good keyword tool (I use Jaaxy) and enter in the keywords that best describe your market. In this case, let’s start with the basics:
Wow, those are some decent numbers – over 475,000 searches per month – and we can start to get a few niche ideas there with number of searches for particular brands as well as searches for discount and clearance items. This is great to know in regards to good post ideas for this nice which we will discuss a little later on. Let’s break it down a little:
Tick!… Some big numbers there. And interestingly people are interested in brands. Let’s see what we get with a more specific search in regards to specifics:
Yep… another large result – I could keep going but I think we are seeing a good pattern here. In fact to be honest, the results here are higher than many other niche searches that I have undertaken in posts like this.
2. Search Trends
Another important aspect of online sales and niche selection is to check that interest is maintained over time. To gain an insight into this let’s check out how the searches for a few of our shoe related products are trending online.
Ok, so we can interest has been maintained fairly well over the past few years with some spikes and dips based on seasonal needs. And if you are looking at a niche around shoes for the workplace, you can also see that general interest in this area remains steady across all seasons. All in all, shoes are something that we can definitely market all year round.
Again, I really see a good opportunity here.
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What is our niche?
Ok, now the fun part begins – In the statistics and screen dumps above, we can already see some of the interest in different niches within the shoe market. The decision you have now is to determine whether you wish to create your online business covering shoes or footwear in general or concentrate on a specific area or sub niche. There are a good number of different areas you could explore here – and off the top of my head, some examples include:
- Brand specific shoes
- Needs specific shoes – work, sports, smart etc.
- Shoes by gender – men, women, boy, girl
- Second hand shoes
- Budget or discount shoes
- Designer/Fashion house shoes
And that is just a few – all of which can be marketed from the point of view of the writer, or simply as a means of supplying information to those looking to purchase. As you start to think about this, the question to ask yourself is whether the content you are covering is too large to cover effectively. The risk here is that if you start with a niche that is too broad, you may not be able to cover everything to the level required or to become authority on the subject – which you will need to be if you are going to convince people to purchase from you and not their local store. Don’t forget, you can always add a new section to your site as you grow as well.
As you work through narrowing your targeted niche, consider the following:
- Are you able to solve a problem – Most people undertake searches on the internet to solve a problem – see next section.
- Is it a subject that you have an interest, or knowledge in– I am guessing that you are in this post as you know about, or have an interest in shoes. If you don’t have either of these, maybe consider another market as to be honest, you might struggle to produce solid content if you don’t know much about them – or worse, have no interest in shoes at all. Trust me, people will know immediately if your information is not up to scratch or can put their love of a good pair of shoes at risk.
Let’s investigate this a little further by discussing the problem solving elements of niche selection.
Do you have your own niche in mind? Enter your keywords below to checkout your ideas…
What problem are we solving?
If this is a niche that you are interested in, you may already know what it is that you are trying to sell. If not, then maybe start to look at it from the perspective of solving problems. This, added to your area of interest is a great way to work out exactly what you think you might like to base your business upon.
Think about your own search behaviours when you are online – I would hazard a guess that most searches you do are in order to solve a problem. Now think of these in a manner in which someone might have problems within the greater shoe related niche such as:
- You know what you want to buy a new pair of golf shoes but don’t know which is the ‘best’.
- You have a problem and need a solution – I.e. “I work in wet areas so need something to keep my feet dry”.
Your goal here is to determine just what problem/s you are trying to solve for your readers. This maybe one problem that spans your site or differ for each post that you write. For example, if you have chosen sports shoes for your niche, then problems might be:
- Matching products to use– They want to know what they would need to protect their shoes when playing in the rain or snow – you would outline their options with recommended products to match.
- Which to buy – There are a number of basketball shoes on the market – but which is best on a budget?
In these cases, people would be searching for those topics based on having a problem and needing a solution. Your site would outline and review the best options for them.
Alternatively, if your site is about work boots etc., then you would be addressing problems such as:
- What boots are best?
- When are steel caps are needed?
- Should you consider a particular brand?
- Which non-leather options are best.
- Ways to protect and clean.
Note: You do not need to identify every possible problem that your readers may have straight away. In many cases, the more you write, the more ‘problems’ will present themselves so initially you really just want to make sure that there are some that may need solving as we have found here.
How are you going to convince them to buy?
Now that we know our niche (or are at least working on it) and have an idea of the types of problems that we want to solve, there is one last thing to consider which is the online purchase behaviour of your targeted audience.
The first thing you would need to consider is exactly who will be looking at your site. The first group that comes to mind are the parents who want to get their kids fitted out with the best shoes within their price range. But what about teenagers who want to be seen in the latest and greatest? Oh, and don’t forget the seasoned business traveler who wants a pair of solid, comfortable shoes that are going to last. Your sales/post pitches not only need to match the needs and problems that your site visitors are looking to solve, but also target them specifically as well. Some examples include:
- Those that are purchasing for a specific need will want to know exactly what they are getting and why it is needed. Families however might want the same information, but may be looking at some options a little gentler on the back pocket.
- Avid collectors will want to know all about the latest brands to be seen in – they will dissect your reviews with a fine toothed comb.
- If you are dealing with those just looking for a “pair of shoes to wear on weekends”, make it as easy as possible to get a decent pair onto their feet – give them the information and let them get on with it.
So at the end of the day, even though we do have purchaser behaviour on our side, to be successful in selling footwear related products online, consider the following:
- Solve problems without purchase – That’s right – write your posts in a way that actually makes it easier for people to do their research and buy elsewhere – by doing this, you are solving problems and helping readers out. If they trust you, they will be more likely to return next time and buy from you then – especially if you follow up with posts on similar or compatible products or accessories that might interest them!
- Provide the intangibles – One major disadvantage when it comes to selling anything online is that we can’t really know what the products look and feel like. And the same goes for terminology – after all, even harmless words such as ‘soft’ or ‘tough’ can mean different things to different people. Your posts will need to cover this information in a manner that puts minds at ease and explains some of the intangibles.
- Know your audience – A big mistake many make here is to target the product and not necessarily the buyer. This is especially important when dealing with a budget minded audience. It is very easy for example to get carried away explaining how great a pair of shoes is because it is cheap all the while forgetting that those intending to use them are going to be walking in water a lot. The same goes for high end options… Expensive doesn’t always mean safe or appropriate. Make sure you do your research on the buying behaviours of those you are targeting before writing your posts.
Tip: Still not sure? Have a look and see what others are doing. It might just help you with some ideas.
How do we sell shoes online?
And then we come to probably the most important aspect of this whole online selling caper in that we need to consider how we are going to sell the products that we have decided to promote. Depending on the product, there are a number of methods you can use to do this. Let’s explore them below:
Affiliate programs are setup directly by companies or marketplace platforms (Amazon, Ebay etc.) that allow you to join and then refer traffic to them via customised affiliate links. In short, this means that you will write about shoes and then refer your readers to a link where they will purchase directly from the vendors. The vendors then pay you a commission for the sale.
Affiliate programs are especially good for those selling shoes and their accessories online as you can move seamlessly through changes to fashion and product upgrades without needing to sell out of previous ranges first. This way you can promote/review the latest pairs and then refer your readers to the vendor to manage the sale without you having to hold inventory or organise shipping.
Finding affiliate programs is generally not a difficult task either. To find shoe affiliate programs that better suit your site, you would normally just type “Affiliate: shoes” into your preferred search engine:
Or, if you are looking for programs within a more specific sub-niche, then you can narrow your searches as per the below example:
So, as you can see, there are plenty of options in regards to affiliate programs for shoe related niches. As you search through them all, you can check it all out and find programs that:
- Relate to your niche/problems that you are solving.
- Have quality products – your brand can be severely damaged if you promote poor quality or unsafe products.
- Have solid payment and customer service arrangements.
- Pay decent commissions.
- Have good testimonials covering commission payouts and quality of product.
- Whether they have high ticket items you can promote on the side.
In most cases, you will need to apply for the program before you are allowed to promote their products – don’t take this step lightly or you will be rejected. Affiliate programs will generally want to know:
- Your website name.
- Traffic levels.
- Why you want to join – (“so I can make money by selling your high heels online” is unfortunately not generally a good enough answer).
- How you plan to promote their products.
One thing to be aware of here I guess is to keep in mind the issues we discussed earlier in regards to selling footwear related products online. You need to make sure that the programs you choose can be trusted and that the consumer is comfortable that they have recourse if something goes wrong. For this reason you will need to make sure that your chosen programs are going to resonate with your readers and your niche. That said, some marketplace programs such as Amazon and EBay can give you access to these types of products and as they are more trusted, then they maybe worth a look as well. Some Amazon examples are as below:
Dropshipping is something that may be of advantage to you in this niche if you are looking to play with pricing on your products (price is a big seller in this niche). This process is similar to affiliate marketing in that you are generally promoting the products of others without the need to actually hold any inventory. With affiliate marketing, you are paid a commission on whatever price the vendor sets but do not manage any customer service, sales processes or post sales requirements. The main difference with dropshipping, is that you perform the following (there are a number of variations to this but this is the guist of it):
- Strike a relationship with a wholesaler.
- Promote the product for whatever price you see fit – often via a marketplace site such as Shopify, Amazon or Ebay.
- Manage the sales processes and customer service.
- Send the final order and payment to the wholesaler for packaging and shipping.
The money that you make is effectively the difference between whatever you managed to sell the product for and the wholesale price that you owe the vendor. The other advantages of dropshipping over affiliate marketing is that:
- You own the customer list – which is another means of building an effective email list.
- You control the cost of the product and hence the profit margins.
- You can control when you put things on ‘sale’, group them in packages or increase the price for high demand items.
The disadvantages however are the extra workload in handling payment and any ongoing customer service requirements.
To find dropshipping suppliers online, you can enter searches such as “dropshipping: shoes” into your favourite search engine:
Note: These results will usually be based on your geographical location.
From here you can search through and find programs that:
- Offer dropshipping services – Not all product suppliers offer dropshipping as a service – this may just mean that you need to organise the shipping yourself after it is delivered to you.
- Have experience and are helpful – If they are not helpful and/or appear inexperienced then you can expect the same when you are trying to process sales.
- Have acceptable fees – most dropshipping wholesalers will charge a small fee for the dropshipping service – just make sure it is not so high that it eats into your profit margins.
- Provide fast shipping – One disadvantage with dropshipping when dealing with vendors is that the customer is yours, not theirs hence sometimes shipping priorities are not where they should be – make sure shipping times are acceptable.
- Have quality products – as with affiliate marketing, don’t sell rubbish.
- Have a good name – do your research and see what others are saying about them.
Sell your own
If affiliate marketing or dropshipping are not your cup of tea, maybe you could try sourcing and selling your own products. This process is especially popular with those selling non branded (thongs, sandals and such) or customised shoe options etc. Here you actually purchase your product from a vendor or wholesaler, add your own label and then on-sell them via your website or platforms such as Amazon etc.
This process requires a much higher setup costs as you will need to purchase your products, create and affix your labels and manage orders and shipment. Some wholesalers/vendors however will affix the labels that you send them and then manage the packaging and shipment for you (see dropshipping above). This will cost you less to set up but obviously you will make less on the sale once they take their processing fee.
Again, to find out where to acquire your product, do a search for “supplier: shoes”:
Note: These results will usually be based on your geographical location so you may at times need to sort through a few pages.
From here you will need to follow the same processes as with affiliate and dropshipping programs in determining whether they are a good fit for your business plans including:
- Relate to your niche/problems that you are solving.
- Have solid delivery and customer service arrangements.
- Have good testimonials covering service and quality of product.
Alternatively, keep your eye out in your local area for exhibitions and swap meets. These are a great way to find and purchase your products at good prices – you never know, you might even find a solid supplier for future sales as well.
Tip: This method can be very effective in driving online traffic and sales via the implementation of more traditional sales methods such as kiosks and market stalls etc. As people get to know you, they can purchase from you there and then be directed to your website for future sales.
What do we need to do?
Once we have all of the above sorted, or at the very least a plan in place, we need to choose and setup the media that we intend to use to sell our product. This can include:
Build a Website
If you are looking to build your online business as an affiliate marketer, drop shipper or supplier, then chances are you will most probably need a website. Websites allow you to solve problems via blog posts and videos that people can view in order to identify the solutions that they need. Usually, this process is fairly straight forward in that you build your website, write posts (on the differences between certain types of running shoes for example), then provide links so that your readers can view/purchase the relevant materials from your links.
Promote on Social Media
When it comes to shoes, there is probably no more powerful tool than Social media. It has the power to reach thousands and allows you to target specific segments if you choose the correct platform. In terms of footwear related products online, a good platform to start with is FaceBook where you can discuss items with your audience, display shoes in use and show videos.
However, if you are looking to set yourself up as an ‘influencer’ within the niche, then Instagram will be your absolute best friend. This is great for visuals such as pictures and/or videos showing you wearing shoes as you run, walk, sit, eat, relax and so on. And, if you are able to build a following you may even get noticed and be paid gazillions to wear certain shoe brand within your pics and videos – this takes time, but it does happen…
Join like-minded groups
Anther great tool when it comes to selling products online are social groups. By getting involved with these groups you can really get a great understanding as to what its members are struggling with, what information they seek and what products they are looking to buy. Below is an example of shoe related FaceBook groups:
Note: Many of these groups will not allow you to spruike or promote your sites directly, however if you can interact and demonstrate your knowledge then people will ask you directly for the information. At the very least, as above, it is a great way to get ideas and insight into what people in this area really want to know about and what they are buying online.
And there it is – How to make money selling shoes online. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, need some advice or have any experiences to share.
Do you want further assistance with any of the above or need help to build your own fashion related website?
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Until next time
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