GUEST COMMENT If the shoe fits… why footwear manufacturers are selling direct
More and more footwear manufacturers are deciding to sell direct. From the makers of bespoke footwear, to high-end designers, online selling provides a great opportunity to reach a wider number of consumers – perhaps ones who might not be catered for on the high-street.
Selling products through a traditional retailer is still a viable channel for manufacturers but many are beginning to see the benefits of inviting customers to visit their own website and buy shoes from them directly. Not only are they able to get around the slim margins that some retailers offer, but they are also able to forge a deeper relationship with their customers.
It’s not just well-established brands that can benefit from selling direct, it is also great for footwear designers and manufacturers that are just starting out in the industry. Some designers may struggle for years to get their products in a high-end department store, or a boutique shop on the high-street, and whilst this dream needn’t fade, there are other things that they can do to get people wearing their shoes.
So why is selling shoes direct a good idea? Many still question whether consumers will have an appetite for buying footwear online, but the evidence supports the notion that they do. Mintel recently conducted a five-country consumer piece of research looking at shopping trends across Europe. They reported that 70% of UK internet shoppers bought clothing and footwear in the past 12 months, making it the most popular category for online shopping. In comparison, the figure from Germany is 68%, while it is 58% in France, 52% in Italy and 50% in Spain.
Selling directly through an online channel for the first time can be daunting. While it’s possible to learn as you go to some extent, there are certain things that need to be right from the get-go. It’s important to remember that, if you’re going to convince customers to buy directly from your website, the important things are running perfectly. One bad experience and a customer may not want to shop with you again and may even be turned off buying your brand elsewhere. Remember, you have more to lose as well as gain, since it’s the brand letting them down, not just a stockist.
Here are our golden rules:Understand your customers
Find out who your customers are. Carry out some research to find out how they prefer to shop. People who already enjoy buying online will be key to making this venture a success - they will also know their size so will feel less fazed by ordering footwear without trying it on first.Maintain a professional website
Part of reassuring the customer is having a professional and easy to use website. A modern looking and well put together website suggests the back-end of the platform is similarly well organised. Guarantee secure payments
The payment methods on the website should be secure and there should be the necessary quality-mark logos at the bottom to reassure your customers that their money and payment details are protected. Seamless delivery
This is two-fold. Deliveries of shoes must be consistent and reliable and any problems incurred here should be rectified straight away. Similarly, you need to deliver on the promises you make to the customer at the point of purchase. If you say it will arrive within 3-5 working days, make sure you make good on this. Easy returns
Returns policies should be sound before any orders are made. It is also important to reassure your customers that any shoes that don’t fit can be easily returned. Realistically, footwear has a high return rate with people often ordering more than one pair to see which goes best with an outfit. This is just a reality of the market so being prepared for it and factoring in the associated costs and processes is key.
Remember that 74% of a consumer’s purchasing decisions are influenced by the returns policy of the online store. Make your returns policy clear and eye-catching on the homepage or on the shopping basket as you don’t want people to abandon their cart because they’re worried what will happen if they aren’t happy when their shoes arrive. Know when to delegate
Outsourcing will be key as you begin to grow your business. There will be various elements to selling direct that manufacturers feel they aren’t able to manage themselves due to limited knowledge and expertise, which is why outsourcing is a savvy option. Being a great manufacturer doesn’t necessarily translate into being a great retailer. But if you know there is a market out there for you, then investing in the right processes and partners can pay dividends for both the brand and the bottom line.Jeremy Vernon is a director of Core Fulfillment