How To Run A Fast-Paced Footwear E-Commerce Business

Footwear retailing has always been fast-paced, but advances in technology have caused things to speed up even further. The internet, as well as the proliferation of footwear e-commerce companies it enabled, has drastically changed how people shop for shoes and their expectations of the products and service they receive.

Traditional shoe shops are now only one of an increasing number of outlets where consumers can purchase footwear, and the majority of these shops now also offer their products online. Multinational online retailers, continuing to expand into new markets and refine their product offerings, are also affecting the marketplace, giving shoppers access to a wealth of choice.

The internet hasn’t only made it easier for people to browse and order footwear, it also allows them to read reviews and engage in discussions on social media about products, before they make a purchase. Issues such as the overselling of products, delayed deliveries and long-winded returns processes can quickly find their way online, in the form of complaints and negative reviews, which can impact future sales.

The ability to track and organise inventory, maximising efficiencies, can be a key differentiator in the footwear sector. The more streamlined processes are, the better able a business is to cope with fluctuations in demand and respond accordingly.

The time is now

It’s a good time to be in footwear e-commerce. Global footwear sales are having a good run, rising 6% overall in 2015, with worldwide e-commerce sales accounting for 12% of those sales – the equivalent of $41bn. The UK is one of the world’s more developed e-commerce markets, with online sales accounting for 17% of total footwear sales. Growth seems set to continue as well, with Cleto Sagripanti, President of the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry (CEC), recently saying:

“In the near future, online sales will become more important than brick-and-mortar shops. Companies will need finance and a skilled workforce to maximise this opportunity”.

So, if you’re a fledgling footwear e-commerce retailer, or a traditional brick-and-mortar establishment entering the e-commerce market, now is the time to get your online business set-up and ready for growth. Below, we examine the two main challenges faced by online footwear retailers and explain how implementing Warehouse Management Software can help to overcome them.

Stock levels

Predicting fashions isn’t easy. Get it wrong and you’re either stuck with too much stock or faced with running out well before demand does. A more flexible approach to the lines you sell can help to reduce the risks, though this becomes almost impossible if you are sourcing your products from China, which produces a staggering 12.6 billion pairs of shoes every year. Increasingly, e-commerce retailers are sourcing smaller quantities of footwear from more local suppliers, so they can be more responsive to demands. However, this almost always leads to higher prices, due to the higher costs and wage levels involved in Western production.

No matter where you are sourcing your products from, forecasting will still be required to ensure you are maximising all opportunities. This can be difficult, however, if you are still using paper-based management systems, which cannot be easily collated and analysed. Additionally, all the printing, sorting orders manually and time spent locating products in the warehouse can significantly reduce your speed to market, as well as your ability to respond to changes in demand. Implementing an effective Warehouse Management System will not only help to speed up your fulfilment operations, it will also allow you to analyse trends and make accurate forecasts, which will help to ensure you always have the right stock at the right time.

Returns

Perhaps unsurprisingly, fitting issues are the number one reason for returns in the footwear e-commerce sector, costing an eye-watering $260bn every year.  New technologies, like True Fit, have arisen in recent years, designed to help shoppers identify their perfect fit before they make a purchase, with the aim of driving return rates down.

Even with fitting technology, returns are an inevitable element of online retailing, so having a quick and intuitive returns process is still an essential element of successful e-commerce operations. Warehouse Management Software will have built-in returns capabilities, allowing you to streamline your returns process, effectively track reasons for return and easily identify items that can be resold. If you aren’t using Warehouse Management Software, you can get an idea of some of the basic functionality with our Free Record Returns App.

Learn more

Find out how we helped Bells Shoes raise their order fulfilment to over 99%, allowing them to fully capitalise on their potential. If you would like to learn more about getting your footwear warehouse set-up for growth, contact us anytime for a free, no obligation consultation. To discover all the benefits Peoplevox WMS could offer your footwear e-commerce business; download our WMS Buyers Guide.