Do you want to start a shoe store online? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting an online shoe store business with NO money and no experience plus a sample online shoe store business plan template.
It is no longer news that businesses all over the world are no longer relying on brick and mortar stores to sell their products or services; they are now maximizing the internet to reach out to clients far beyond the location where their businesses are situated.
Online shoe stores are one of the major beneficiaries of the internet. If you visit the internet, you will discover countless number of online shoe stores that are retailing different labels and designs of shoes at a price that is most often cheaper than what you can get from the conventional physical shoe store around you.
Research has it that more and more people are becoming comfortable purchasing shoes and other stuffs online as against visiting conventional stores in the city where they live. This is because of the advantages of shopping online when compared to the stress you might be subjected to if you want to go to a shoe store or boutique around your location.
Although when you shop online, most often than not you will be required to pay the shipping fee, but the truth remains that it will save you loads of stress.
One good thing about shopping online is that you have the opportunity see the specifications of what you want from the comfort of your home or offices before making your orders as against assuming that you will find what you want from a brick and mortar store before taking the trip to the boutique or shopping mall.
Customers are attracted to online stores not only because of the convenience they stand to enjoy, but also because of the broader options, highly competitive pricing, and of course access to a wider range of information.
Asides from all the benefits stated above as regards online stores, another leverage for entrepreneurs is that it is pretty much cost effective to run an online shoe store as against operating a brick and mortar store; as a matter of fact, you can successfully run your online shoe store from your home no matter the part of town you live.
All you need to do is to ensure that you design a standard user friendly website with a secure payment platform, and also engage the services of a reputable shipping company. Once you are able to gain the confidence of the online community, you will be amazed at the rate people will patronize your online shoe store especially if you have the right stock in your store.
Steps to Starting a Shoe Store Online Business
Table of Content
- 2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- 3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
- 4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
- 5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
- 9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
- 10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
- 11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
- 12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
- 13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
- 14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
- 15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
- 16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
- 17. Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products
- 18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
1. Understand the Industry
Businesses in the online shoe store line of business retail footwear for men, women and children. They are involved in the sale of shoes and footwear in different forms such as rubber and plastic footwear, sneakers, protective footwear (Safety boots), house slippers and slipper socks.
Businesses in this line of business also retail men or women footwear specifically designed for casual, formal and work environments.
Research has it that online retail sales are predicted to grow steadily to $370 billion in 2017, up from $231 billion in 2012. Online retail revenue experienced an 11 percent year-over-year growth rate for the first quarter of 2014, with online orders growing with 13 percent increase when compared to the same quarter in 2013.
Statistics revealed that in the first quarter of 2014, online retail revenue generated via a mobile device was up 35 percent, with mobile owning 13.7 percent of total e-commerce orders in Q1 2013 compared to 18.5 percent during Q1 2014. Two-thirds of Americans buy from e-retailers online.
It was confirmed that 83 percent of those who shop online are said to be satisfied with the experience. Most of the people that lodge complaints indicated that they are not satisfied with being restricted to the delivery date and time chosen by the online store. The average online shopper prefers flexibility when it comes to choosing delivery date; ability to choose a specified time of day for delivery of purchase; flexibility to reroute packages; and lastly a green shipping option.
Aside from computers that people use to source for goods online, a recent research conducted indicated that consumers aged 25 to 34 lead the chart in smartphone usage for comparing prices, reading reviews, buying products, and engaging with brands on social media while in physical stores.
In recent time, there is a tremendous increase in the number of online retail stores and more entrepreneurs are still opening their own online boutiques in the united states and in other parts of the world. The industry is still growing despite the numerous online retail shoe stores in operation.
Apart from the fact that online stores are cost effective to set up and profitable, entrepreneurs are encouraged to move towards this direction of business majorly because of the ease of set up, operating and managing an online retailing shoe store.
The truth is that irrespective of the fact that there may be high numbers of online retail shoe stores located within the same street in the same city, it will not in any away affect the patronage they stand to enjoy because the scope of their market is not limited to the location where the online shoe store is located as long as effective means of shipping purchased items to any part of the world is in place.
Lastly, the online shoe store line of business is pretty much open for aspiring entrepreneurs to launch their business in the industry. One good thing about the online shoe stores business is that the business can be opened in any part of the United States and if proper market survey and feasibility studies are conducted, then you can be rest assured of profitability of the business.
2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
The demographic and psychographic composition of those who wear shoes cut across all genders and age groups. Male and female, adults and children all wear shoes hence the demographic composition of the online shoe store business is all encompassing.
The truth is that when it comes to selling shoes, there is indeed a wide range of available customers. In essence, your target market can’t be restricted to just a group of people, but all those that are active in the cyber space and who have the purchasing power.
Statistics has it that people that fall within the age range of 18 – 45 led the chart when it comes to purchasing clothes and other fashion accessories online. Also, a recent research conducted indicated that consumers between the ages of 25 to 34 led the chart in smartphone usage by comparing prices, reading reviews, buying products, and engaging with brands on social media while in physical stores.
So, if you are looking towards starting your own online retail shoe store, you marketing strategy should be geared towards reaching out those who fall between 18 and 45 years; they are your major market.
3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
It is important to state that there is no known niche area when it comes to the online shoe store business. Every player in this line of business usually sells a wide range of shoes from top manufacturing brands in the United States and other countries of the world.
On the other hand, it is important to state that some online shoe stores may decide to major in selling different designs of female or male or children shoes or sport boots et al from different manufacturing brands.
The Level of Competition in the Industry
No matter the level of competition in an industry, if you brand and promote your products or business properly, you will always make headway in the industry. Just ensure you stock your store with varieties of shoes from different brands/designers, shoes that are in vogue and in demand, and you know how to attract and reach out to your target market.
But over and above, there are several online shoe stores scattered all around the United States and the globe. So, if you choose to start your own online shoe store business in the United States, you will definitely meet stiff competition amongst online shoe stores, brick and mortar shoe stores, boutiques and supermarkets/malls et al that also retail shoes within your business location and online.
4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
In every industry, there are always brands that perform better or are better regarded by customers and the general public than others.
These are some of the leading online shoe stores in the United States of America and in the globe;
- DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse)
- Foot Locker
- Famous Footwear
- Finish Line
- Flight Club Shoe Store
- Eastbay Performance Zone
- KicksUSA Footwear Store
- Packers Shoes
- Extrabutter Shoe Store
- Champs Sports Shoe Store
- Aerosoles Shoe Store
- Nice Kicks Shop
- House of Hoops Harlem
- Dover Street Market
If you are looking towards successfully launching a business and maximizing profits, then you need to ensure that you get your economic and cost analysis right and try as much as possible to adopt best practices in the industry you choose to build a business in.
It will be safe to say that the online shoe store business is not a Green business, as a matter of fact, you will come across several online shoe stores when you start browsing for them. So, if you are mapping out your economic analysis, you should carry out thorough market survey and costing of what is required to rent a warehouse facility and the amount needed to stock your store with varieties of shoes from different brands/designers and also the cost to successfully run the business.
Over and above, if you are considering starting an online shoe store business, then your concern should not be limited to the cost of renting a warehouse facility and stocking your store with varieties of shoes from different brands/designers, but also on branding and on how to build a robust clientele base. The truth is that if you are able to build a robust clientele base, you are sure going to maximize profits in the business.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
If you are looking towards starting an online shoe store business, you would have to start from the very scratch because you can hardly get a franchise of an online shoe store business to buy.
Besides starting an online shoe store business from the scratch is less stressful when compared to other small scale businesses. With an online shoe store business, you should just try as much as possible to secure a good warehouse facility, build a user friendly online store app with a secured payment platform and reliable shipping, and then leverage on every marketing tool within your disposal especially the internet to market your shoes.
Please note that most of the big and successful online shoe stores around started from the scratch and they were able to build a solid business brand. It takes dedication, hard work and determination to achieve business success.
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
If you decide to start your own online shoe store business today, one of the major challenges you are likely going to face is the presence of well – established online shoe stores, online boutiques and other brick and mortar stores where shoes are retailed. The only way to avoid this challenge is to create your own market.
It is important to note that another major challenge that you can face in any Online business is attack from hackers. Hackers can go all the way to compromise or crash your online store. You are also likely going to face the challenge of getting a reliable shipping company to work with. Of course, there are reliable, effective and efficient shipping companies in the U.S., but you may not be able to afford their fees if you are just starting out on a small scale.
Some other challenges and threats that you are likely going to face are economic downturn and unfavorable government policies. There is nothing you can do as regards these threats and challenges other than to stay positive that things will work well for you.
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
You have the option of choosing a general partnership, limited liability company which is commonly called an LLC, or a sole proprietorship for a business such as online shoe store. Ordinarily, sole proprietorship should have been the ideal business structure for a small scale online shoe store especially if you are just starting out with moderate capital.
But if your intention is to grow the business and ship shoes to customers all across the United States of America and other countries of the world, then choosing sole proprietorship is not an option for you. Limited Liability Company, LLC or even general partnership will cut it for you.
Setting up an LLC protects you from personal liability. If anything goes wrong in the business, it is only the money that you invested into the limited liability company that will be at risk. It is not so for sole proprietorships and general partnerships. Limited liability companies are simpler and more flexible to operate and you don’t need a board of directors, shareholders meetings and other managerial formalities.
These are some of the factors you should consider before choosing a legal entity for your online shoe store business; limitation of personal liability, ease of transferability, admission of new owners, investors’ expectation and of course taxes.
If you take your time to critically study the various legal entities available for your online shoe store business, you will agree that limited liability company; an LLC is most suitable. You can start this type of business as limited liability company (LLC) and in future convert it to a ‘C’ corporation or an ‘S’ corporation especially when you have the plans of going public.
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name
When it comes to choosing a name for your business, you should be creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents. Usually it is the norm for people to follow the trend in the industry they intend operating from when naming their business.
If you are considering starting your own online shoe store business, here are some catchy names that you can choose from;
- Vatican Label® Online Shoes and Fashion Accessories Store, Inc.
- Beckley White® Online Shoes and Fashion Accessories Store, LLC
- Click ‘n’ Carry™ Online Shoes Store, Inc.
- Grant Dole® Online Boutique Store, Inc.
- Mark Fernand® Online Shoe Stores & Fashion Accessories Store, Inc.
- Foot King© Online Shoes and Fashion Accessories Store, Inc.
- Leg IT® Online Shoes and Fashion Accessories Stores, Inc.
- Georgina Paulson™ Online Boutique Store, LLC
- Size It All™ Online Boutique Stores, Inc.
- Children’s World® Online Shoe Store, Inc.
9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
In the United States and in most countries of the world, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policy covers that are required by the industry you want to operate from. So, it is important to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your online shoe store business.
Here are some of the basic insurance covers that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own online shoe store business in the United States of America;
- General insurance
- Health insurance
- Liability insurance
- Workers Compensation
- Overhead expense disability insurance
- Business owner’s policy group insurance
- Payment protection insurance
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
If you are considering starting your own online shoe store business, usually you may not have any need to file for intellectual property protection/trademark. This is because the nature of the business makes it possible for you to successfully run the business without having any cause to challenge anybody in court for illegally making use of your company’s intellectual properties.
But if you just want to protect your company’s logo and other documents or software that are unique to you or even jingles and media production concepts, then you can go ahead to file for intellectual property protection.
11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
When it comes to an online shoe store business, you do not need to have any formal training or special certification before you can be allowed to start it. All you need is informal training that will expose you to the in and out of online shoe buying and selling.
On the other hand, if you come across any form of certification that can aid you to conduct your online shoe store business satisfactorily, then by all mean try and pursue such certification.
12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
The essence of having the necessary documentation in place before launching a business in the United States of America cannot be overemphasized. It is a fact that you cannot successfully run any business in the United States without the proper documentations. If you do, it won’t be too long before the long hand of the law catches up with you.
These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own online shoe store business in the United States of America;
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Business License
- Tax Payer’s ID/Tax Identification Number
- Business Plan
- Non – disclosure Agreement
- Copy of license for the warehouse facility and/or a recent inspection report
- Employee Handbook
- Employment Agreement (offer letters)
- Operating Agreement for LLCs
- Insurance Policy
- Apostille (for those who intend operating beyond the United States of America)
- Contract documents (for vendors/shipping partners)
- Company Bylaws
- Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
- Franchise or Trademark License (optional)
13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
Starting an online shoe store business can be cost effective if you choose to start on a small scale by shipping to customers within your city and state. Securing a standard warehouse facility, building a reliable and user friendly online store with a secured payment portal and stocking your store with a wide range of shoes from different manufacturing brands are part of what will consume a large chunk of your startup capital.
But if you choose to start the business on a large scale by shipping shoes to customers all across the United States of America and other countries of the world, then you would need to source for fund to finance the business because it is expensive to start a standard large scale online shoe store business.
Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for startup capital for your online shoe store business;
- Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
- Raising money from investors and business partners
- Sell of shares to interested investors
- Applying for Loan from your Bank
- Pitching your business idea and applying for business grants and seed funding from donor organizations and angel investors
- Source for soft loans from your family members and your friends
14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
When it comes to choosing a location for your warehouse facility for your online shoe store, the rule of thumb is that you should be guided by the demand for such products and easy access to wholesale purchasing of a wide range of shoes from different manufacturing brands. Of course, if you are able to secure a central location for your warehouse facility, it will give you easy access to good road network when it comes to delivering customers’ orders.
It is important to note that a business facility in a good location does not come cheap hence you should allocate enough fund for leasing/renting in your budget. If you are new to the dynamics of choosing a location for your business, then you should feel free to talk to a business consultant or a realtor who has full grasp of the city and perhaps country you intend starting your online shoe store.
These are some of the key factors that you should consider before choosing a location for a warehouse facility your online shoe store;
- The demography of the location
- Accessibility and road network of the location
- The local laws and regulations in the community
- Traffic, parking and security
15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
When it comes to starting and running an online shoe store, the key technology and tool that you need is the internet. Your website is your office and your store so you must ensure that it is well equipped, safe and of course user friendly.
Your payment platform must be secured and compatible with various online payment cards. So also, you will definitely need computers/laptops, internet facility, telephone, fax machine and office furniture (chairs, tables, and shelves) amongst others and all these can be gotten as fairly used.
As regards leasing or outright purchase of a warehouse facility, the choice is dependent on your financial standing, but the truth is that to be on the safe side, it is advisable to start off with a short term rent/lease while test running the business in the location. If things work out as planned, then you go on a long term lease or outright purchase of the property.
When it comes to hiring employees for a standard online shoe store business, you should make plans to hire a competent Chief Executive Officer (you can occupy this role), Admin and Human Resources Manager, Merchandize Manager, ICT/Online Store Manager (can also double as Warehouse Manager), Shipping and Logistics Manager, Sales and Marketing Officer, Accounting Clerk, Customer Care Executives, Professional Photographers (optional because they can be hired when needed) and Cleaners.
These are some of the key employees that you can work with. On the average, you will need a minimum of 3 to 6 key staff members to run a small – scale but standard online shoe store business.
The Service Delivery Process of the Business
The first port of call as it relates to operating an online shoe store is to build a secured and user friendly online store with a secure payment portal. When it comes to buying and selling stuffs, there are no hard and fast rules about it. Basically, it is the duty of the merchandize manager to help the store stock goods (a wide range of shoes from different manufacturing brands).
They go out there to source for good purchasing deals and ensure that they do not only purchase at the right prices that will guarantee them good profits, but also that they purchase shoes that are in vogue and in demand.
Once the shoes are purchased, they hire a professional photographer to take good pictures of them and then they are posted on the website with a price tag attached to each item so that customers can make their purchase. Once purchase is made, it is the duty of the shipping and logistic manager in conjunction with the warehouse manager to get the goods shipped to the destination of the customer.
So also, stocks are taken after the close of business every day and accounts are balanced. This will enable them place demand for more shoes from different manufacturing brands. Challenges are also reviewed especially as it relates to customers making orders, payment portals and shipping et al.
It is important to state that an online shoe store may decide to improvise or adopt any business process and structure that will guarantee them efficiency and flexibility; the above stated online shoe store business process is not cast on stone.
16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
Generally, running a business requires that you should be proactive when it comes to marketing your goods or services. If you choose to launch an online shoe store business, then you must go all out to employ strategies that will help you attract customers or else you will likely struggle with the business because there are well – known brands determining the market direction for the online shoe and boutique stores industry.
Since your target market is within the online community, then your major marketing strategies should be specifically targeted at the online community. Part of what you need to do to attract customers to your online shoe store is to leverage on social media; social media has proven over and over again to be the cheapest and perhaps the most effective ways to market a business. You can also leverage on your website and other high traffic websites to advertise your online shoe store.
Also, it won’t be a bad idea to adopt some of the marketing ideas and strategies below for your online shoe store business;
- Introduce your online shoe store by sending introductory letters (e – mail) alongside your brochure to corporate executives, households, students, migrants, entrepreneurs, business people, celebrities, public figures, military men and women, sports men and women, tourists, cyclists and every adult in your e- mailing list
- Advertise on internet blogs and forums, and also on social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn to get your message across, so that those on social media or those who read blogs will know the site to visit when they need to purchase shoes from online stores
- Directly market your products
- Join local online store associations for industry trends and tips
- Provide discount days for your customers
- Advertise your business in community based newspapers, local TV and radio stations
- List your business on yellow pages ads (local directories)
- Encourage the use of Word of mouth marketing (referrals)
17. Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products
One key factor that will help you sell your shoes at rock bottom prices is to purchase your items directly from the manufacturers in pretty large quantities. The truth is that the higher the quantity of items that you purchase directly from the manufacturers, the cheaper you tend to get them.
Another strategy that will help you retail your shoes at the right price is to ensure that you cut operational cost to the barest minimum, and channel your efforts towards marketing and promoting your brand name. Aside from the fact that this strategy will help you save cost, it will also help you get the right pricing for your products.
18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
If your intention of starting an online shoe store business is to grow the business beyond the city where you are going to be operating from to become a national and international brand by shipping shoes to customers all across the United States of America and other countries of the world, then you must be ready to spend money on promotion and advertisement of your brand.
No matter the industry you belong to, the truth is that the market is dynamic and it requires consistent brand awareness and brand boosting to continue to appeal to your target market. Your corporate identity equally has a lot to do when it comes to building a profitable business.
Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand awareness and create corporate identity for your online shoe store;
- Place adverts on both print (newspapers and magazines) and electronic media platforms
- Sponsor relevant community based events
- Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google + et al to promote your online shoe store
- Install your billboards in strategic locations all around your city or state
- Engage in roadshows from time to time in targeted neighborhoods to create awareness of your online shoe store
- Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
- Contact corporate executives, households, students, migrants, entrepreneurs, business people, celebrities, public figures, military men and women, sports men and women, tourists, cyclists, power bikers and every adult on your e – mailing list informing them about your business and the products you retail
- List your online shoe store in local directories (both online and offline)
- Advertise your online shoe store in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site
- Ensure that all your staff members wear your branded shirts and all your vehicles and trucks/vans are branded with your company logo et al.