Footwear Sales Grow Online

Connecting to consumers in today’s Internet world was the focus of the FN Platform seminar “Strategies for Reaching & Keeping Consumers in the Digital Age,” presented on Wednesday by the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America.

The industry panel, moderated by FDRA President Matt Priest, included David Benattar, CEO of the Antebellum agency; Nick End, founder and CEO of software company Shoefitr; and Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear industry analyst at The NPD Group Inc. The group explored successful strategies for boosting sales, reducing returns and turning online browsers into buyers through enhanced visual engagement and a more interactive shopping experience.

According to Goldstein, for the 12 months ended Dec. 13, e-commerce represented 19 percent of all footwear sales, up from 17 percent the year prior. Online sales, which totaled $10.5 billion, even outpaced brick-and-mortar sales, driving growth in the industry, she said. And the average price per pair of shoes bought online was higher than in stores. “People tend to spend more online for an item,” Goldstein said, noting that higher-end consumers tend to be more active online than other consumers. However, she added, this trend has started to change as more lower-income households (those under $75,000) have been buying more online. The digital realm also attracts a more mature customer, with baby boomers representing a significant part of that audience, according to Goldstein.

Although online shoe shopping is on the rise, returns continue to be a major concern for e-tailers, as roughly 30 percent of product gets sent back, according to End. “Shoes don’t all fit alike, even in the same size and same style,” he said. Technology developed by Shoefitr scans a wide range of current and past shoe styles to determine their dimensions, allowing consumers to compare their favorite shoes to new styles they are considering buying. Nordstrom and Footsmart are among the 44 clients using the system, which has resulted in a 25 percent reduction in returns for those retailers, End said.

According to Benattar, the Internet is also a way to engage shoppers. “It’s how people get to know your product and brands,” he said, adding that people want to know the backstories about brands. Benattar encouraged stores to make an emotional connection to consumers through personalized service that can be initiated through the Internet.

Note: This article has been changed to correct the stats for total online shoe sales and 2012 percentage of footwear sales.