Head over heels: customers flock to buy footwear online

Head over heels: customers flock to buy footwear online

The footwear industry is experiencing an e-boom, according to research that shows online shoe sales have soared over the last five years. 

It has traditionally been assumed footwear customers shy away from purchasing shoes online, due to the difficulty of determining size and fit.

But a recent report from IBISWorld found footwear e-retailers are overcoming the issue with an increasing number of industry players now offering free shipping and returns.

Online shoe sale revenue is forecast to grow by 17.4% over the five years through 2014-15 to reach $445.4 million, with revenue expected to grow by 11.3% over the next 12 months alone.

IBISWorld industry analyst Lauren Magner told SmartCompany the online shoe industry had definitely been slower to take off compared to online clothing sales because of fitting issues.

“When online retail originally started, Australians were slow to take up online shoe sales. But that’s changed since the introduction of online retailers like Styletread and The Iconic started offering free shipping,” says Magner.

Magner says customers will now order a pair of shoes in several different sizes, returning sizes that don’t fit without obligation.

“It turns your room into your own little shoe store,” says Magner.

She says the line between bricks-and-mortar stores and online retailers is becoming increasingly blurred as more hybrid business models pop up.

“Retailers are combining elements to provide an enhanced shopping experience for customers,” she says.

Australian shoe manufacturer and retailer Zomp Shoez is one brand which has diversified from its traditional bricks-and-mortar presence and is now enjoying online success.

Jaki Ristevski, Zomp’s online and marketing manager, told SmartCompany the online store had experienced steady growth since its launch two years ago, seeing a huge spike over Christmas time.

The online store now turns over a similar amount to one of Zomp’s nine bricks-and-mortar stores.

“People always ask if the online store will take over the bricks-and-mortar store,” says Ristevski. 

“Not at all. While we’re really strong to promote it and use it to service customers across Australia and New Zealand, it’s more about building the brand so they work for each other,” she says.

Magner says some stores are experimenting with the hybrid form, including Sneakerboy, a retailer that houses its inventory offshore in Hong Kong and uses its bricks-and-mortar presence purely as showroom, saving up to 50% of the store’s physical space.

“This model is something other retailers should look at. It allows for these retailers to increase sales productivity per square meter,” says Magner.

Ristevski says one of the most important future innovations for Zomp’s online store will be the upcoming launch of its completely responsive website.

“We’re taking into account the fast growing percentage of Australians who shop on their smartphones and tablets,” she says.

“Statistics show Australians in particular do most online shopping from those platforms and we want to accommodate that so they can shop how they want, when they want.”

Kirsten Robb previously worked at Zomp Shoez as a retail assistant.

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