The 5 Most Powerful Online Shoe Stores

When it comes to online shoe-selling, it can be tough to get all of the elements right. From storytelling and editorial content to selection and scale, it takes major skills to be an e-commerce powerhouse.

For it’s 2018 Best of E-Tail issue, Footwear News sought out the fashion firms with the digital know-how to lure consumers in and also keep them coming back for more.

Here, we round up the five big online footwear powerhouses.

Nordstrom Inc.

Among department stores, Nordstrom has become the leader in taking traditional brick- and-mortar into the digital realm. In the past
few months alone, it has rolled out innovative digital concepts including “Reserve Online and Try in Store,” same-day delivery service, 24-hour curbside pickup and Style Boards — a digital selling tool that lets customers receive personalized product recommendations on their mobile phones. The department store’s rising digital dominion only makes sense: Nordstrom in 2009 became a pioneer of the “buy online, pick up in store” concept — which has become the saving grace of many a physical shop. Now Nordstrom has in its arsenal several key techniques to optimize the service, including its rollout of devoted spaces for customers to quickly retrieve the items they ordered online. With a wealth of consumer data at its fingertips, the company has also recognized that many online customers prefer to select a particular location’s inventory as op- posed to shopping the entire company’s wares. In response, the company launched a feature called Store Mode, which allows the customer to filter the inventory he or she views on Nordstrom.com or within the Nordstrom app by a store of their choice.

Nordstrom store
A Nordstrom store
CREDIT: Shutterstock


When Walmart’s Jet.com shelled out $70 million for Boston-based ShoeBuy in January 2017, all signs pointed to the site quickly becoming a mega e-commerce player. Bolstered by the immense backing power of the largest retailer in the U.S., ShoeBuy in April acquired the Shoes.com domain name from its defunct Canadian parent and reimagined its website and identity. With its design dictated by both quantitative and qualitative market research, the site features an expanded product offering, including Hunter, Sam Edelman and Toms. With a mission to be “the world’s first thought for shoes” the company has been focused on speed and technology, last year opening a new state-of-the-art corporate head- quarters on the Waterfront in Boston and adding warehouse capabilities to streamline its shipping practices and get orders to its 90 million monthly consumers faster.

Foot Locker Inc.

With athletic trends decelerating throughout 2017, longtime specialty retailer Foot Locker has been stepping harder on the e-commerce gas. The company spent the past several months working on digital-focused multiyear projects including a revamped e-commerce platform, a new point-of- sale technology, and it further developed its mobile application. In August, Foot Locker expanded its international goals by launching an Australian e-commerce site. For much of the past two years, the firm has enjoyed double-digit growth across its banners — which include Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Footaction and Champs. And the momentum is continuing: In the most recent quarter, Foot Locker said its online sales in the U.S. and Europe were up mid-single digits, while digital sales in Canada increased at a strong double-digit rate.

Foot Locker
Foot Locker
CREDIT: James Gourley/Shutterstock


One of the originals, Zappos has led the field for the past two decades with free and fast shipping, 365-day returns and 24/7 live customer support. But as com- petition heats up in the digital space, the Amazon-backed firm has upped the ante by creating more storytelling and editorial content aimed at fostering stronger emotional connections with customers. For instance, last week, it launched a new running vertical and a range of motivational programs. That follows 2017’s “Friends With Benefits” road tour, featuring experiences inclusive of retail, on-site pet adoptions and live music. Doubling down on its customer service-centric mission, the company also unveiled Zappos Adaptive, a shopping experience for people with disabilities. On the product side, the e-tailer remains the go- to site for brands looking to expand their digital reach, launching Katy Perry’s line last year and offering more from Ralph Lauren and Eileen Fisher.

DSW Inc.

DSW has become a whiz at omnichannel cohesion. For the past two years, the off-price retailer has taken marked steps to convert many of its physical stores into warehouses to better facilitate the shipping and receiving of digital demand and returns. Now more than half of the company’s online orders are fulfilled in-store, as opposed to in a traditional fulfillment center — boosting its competitive advantage and bottom line. To that end, in September, DSW rolled out its new mission and business strategy — an integrated online-offline model that will see the retailer ramp up proprietary in-store technology to create an even more seamless experience. The firm’s efforts are already reaping earnings benefits. In the most recent quarter, DSW said its digital demand accelerated 26 percent, boosted by its site redesign, growth in drop shipping and enhancements to inventory mobility, which helped increase online conversions. What’s more, the retailer saw its number of active monthly app users triple com- pared with the previous year. In 2018, DSW will launch a new loyalty program, leveraging the company’s 25-million-customer loyalty database and further expand its omnichannel focus.

A DSW store in New York City.
CREDIT: Joshua Scott
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