Mastering the art of selling shoes online: a comprehensive guide

How to sell shoes online

Thinking about selling shoes online? In this comprehensive guide, you'll learn everything you need to know about how to sell shoes online and create a beautiful — and profitable — eCommerce shoe site.

There is no better time to sell footwear online. A 2022 study found that 74% of footwear purchases happen online. (Personal confession: 100% of my footwear purchases since 2020 have happened online 😀)

So, if you're considering selling shoes online, you're in the right place.

how to sell shoes online - product recommendations

In this detailed guide, I'll walk you through:

  • The basics, aka what you need to know about how to sell shoes online.
  • The steps to selling shoes online via your own website using WooCommerce and WooCommerce Product Options.
  • How to be successful and make money selling shoes online.

A quick note: This guide is 100% beginner-friendly, so you can easily follow along even if you don't have any coding skills. If you're not familiar with WooCommerce, it's the most popular eCommerce platform in the world. We'll be using it with the WooCommerce Product Options add-on, which lets you add options to your product pages and upsell extra items to increase revenue and profits.

What are the best shoes to sell online?

Some sites prefer to sell just men's shoes, while others focus on women's shoes. Here are some ideas to help you narrow down the type of shoes you can sell on your website:

  • Casual shoes - Think: sneakers, loafers, slip-ons, slippers, etc.
  • Athletic shoes - Think: running shoes, training shoes, and sport-specific footwear such as basketball or soccer cleats, etc.
  • Formal shoes - Think: dress shoes, derbies, brogues, oxfords, etc.
  • Outdoor shoes - Think: Hiking boots, trail shoes, waterproof footwear, etc.
  • Specialized shoes - Think: 'Niche' footwear such as vegan-leather shoes, orthopedic shoes, safety shoes for professionals like nurses or construction workers
  • High-end shoes - Think: Designer shoes, or even shoe brands and their sub-brands like Nike and Jordans, Puma, etc.

Bonus tip: You can offer complementary items like shoe care products, insoles, storage solutions, and other accessories. There's high demand for these products so they delight customers and increase your overall profit margin. I'll tell you how to upsell these later in this tutorial.

What do you need to sell shoes online?

  1. WooCommerce: To create a website with eCommerce capabilities so that you can sell shoes online.
  2. WooCommerce Product Options: To add extra options to your product pages to sell shoes in different sizes and colors, and boost customer satisfaction and profits.

Why sell shoes online using WooCommerce?

When deciding on a platform for your online shop, there are endless options to select from. There are:

  • E-Commerce platforms like Shopify, Wix, SquareSpace, etc.
  • Online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, StockX, etc.
  • Social commerce marketplaces like Depop, Poshmark, Craigslist, Grailed, Flyp, Facebook marketplace, Mercari, etc.
  • Online resale/consignment shops that sell secondhand shoes like The realreal etc.

The list goes on. So, what makes WooCommerce the best platform to create a storefront to sell shoes online?

With a market share of 39%, WooCommerce is the no. 1 eCommerce platform in the world. WooCommerce is an open-source (free) eCommerce plugin that works on top of WordPress, another free, open-source plugin.

Here are the top reasons WooCommerce is the best option to sell shoes online

  • Beginner-friendliness: WooCommerce is super simple to use — even for newbies. This means you can easily set up your store from scratch even if you don't have any technical skills.
  • Customizability: You can tailor the look and feel of your online store to match your shoe brand. Simply choose a theme that matches your aesthetic and tweak it as desired.
  • Wide range of plugins: Plugins allow you to add extra features to your website (similar to using apps on your smartphone). There are nearly 60,000 free or freemium plugins in the official WordPress plugin directory and tons of paid options to upgrade your website's features.
  • Scalable: You won't have to worry about outgrowing your eCommerce platform and migrating to a new one as your business grows. You can easily add more products, expand into different shoe categories, and accommodate an unlimited number of customers.
  • SEO-friendly: WooCommerce lets you easily add meta titles, descriptions, alt text for images, and other SEO requirements. Plus, you can use plugins like Yoast SEO, RankMath, etc., to further boost your store's organic ranking.
  • Cost-effective: WooCommerce is 100% free with zero monthly subscription fees. In addition, there are no transaction or order processing fees. You may have to pay for website hosting, a theme, and plugins. However, it is still way cheaper than alternatives like Shopify and Wix due to its open-source nature. (For context, Shopify charges a monthly subscription fee and more than 2% per transaction with its basic plan 😧).

How WooCommerce Product Options boosts online shoe sales

Customers want variety, especially while shopping for footwear. Variety can be in the form of product customizations, multiple colors, sizes, patterns, materials, sole types, etc.

WooCommerce lets you provide basic product options to customers using its built-in variable products feature. However, product variations have the following restrictions:

  • Tedious setup - Managing numerous shoe attributes (style, size, color) may require a lot of time and effort. That's because you have to create a separate variation for every possible combination of options, which multiplies the effort required exponentially.
  • Inflexible display options - Product variations only ever appear as dropdown lists, for example you might have one dropdown for size and another for color. That's not a very visual way to choose options, and customers can't see the price of each combination until they make a selection.
  • It's not the best user experience - Buying variations isn't not very intuitive. Customers who aren't tech-savvy might struggle with this, especially if you have many variants.
  • No upsell opportunities - Variations can only be used to add options to an individual product. You can't use them to encourage customers to buy related items at the same time as the main product, such as shoe care products.

Overall, using the built-in WooCommerce product variations doesn't provide an ideal experience for shoppers wanting to buy shoes online.

Enter: WooCommerce Product Options.

This easy-to-use plugin that lets you add — you guessed it — extra options to products on your eCommerce site. You can use it to present shoe variants and upsells in a user-friendly way that boosts revenue and profits.

WooCommerce Product Options is packed with useful features. Here are the top ones, plus tips on how you can use them in your store:

Add image/color swatches

Swatches make it easy for customers to see color choices at a glance. This is especially valuable for shoe stores because customers can quickly find the perfect color that matches their style.

It also helps prevent confusion that might arise from using only text descriptions for colors. Instead of wondering what "burgundy" or "navy blue" looks like, customers can simply click on the swatch and checkout faster.

Here's how color swatches look on a demo WooCommerce shoe website:

How to sell shoes online - color swatch field

Variation options (dropdowns, checkboxes, and radio buttons, etc.)

WooCommerce Product Options comes with text boxes, radio buttons, checkboxes, dropdowns, and a wide range of additional fields to make the shopping experience more intuitive.

Combine as many product options as make sense for your store. For example, you can use the dropdown menu option to offer size variations and use checkboxes and radio buttons for options like material preferences or shoe styles.

Here's how multiple fields look like on a demo WooCommerce shoe website. Here, I've used the text label for sizes, radio buttons for width and color swatches for color options:

Accept personalized messages and custom designs

You can use the text input and file upload fields to allow shoppers to add a personal touch to their shoe orders. Shoppers can add a custom message or request a unique design printed on their shoe.

Customizable shoes are very fashionable at the moment. This level of personalization sets your store apart and creates a deeper relationship with your customers. If you've wondered how to use WooCommerce to sell customizable shoes, then WooCommerce Product Options is the answer.

Here's how the text input and file upload fields look like on a demo WooCommerce shoe website:

Offer upsells and cross-sells

Upsells and cross-sells are powerful techniques that can significantly increase your store's average order value (AOV).

Upsells mean recommending more expensive products than the ones shoppers are currently browsing. Meanwhile, cross-sell recommendations are for products that complement what shoppers have already added to their carts.

Using WooCommerce Product Options, you can add complementary products like premium insoles, specialized socks, or shoe maintenance kits right above the "Add to Cart" button:

how to sell shoes online - product recommendations

This significantly increases the chance that customers will buy more than one product from you. It's just like when they buy a pair of shoes in a physical shoe shop - at the counter, they're presented with additional products to complement their purchase. Displaying these suggestions above the add to cart button forces customers to make a conscious decision about whether or not to buy these extra items.

Note: This is just an overview of some of WooCommerce Product Options' features. Check out the complete feature list here.

Steps to set up your online shoe store

Follow these steps to get your shoe site up and running.

1. Create a WordPress site

To start selling shoes online, you need a WordPress website with the WooCommerce plugin installed. There are two main ways to do this:

  • Use the hosted Woo Express service - Woo Express is the easiest way to get started with WooCommerce as everything is done for you. You pay a low monthly cost which includes hosting, and it's incredibly easy to set up.
  • Self-host your own WooCommerce site - There's also a free version of WooCommerce which you can install on a web host of your choice. To make this as simple as possible, I recommend using a good quality managed WordPress web host like Kinsta.

Once you've got the overall website set up, use the WooCommerce setup wizard to set up the eCommerce side of things. This includes important details such as setting your location, currency, payment methods (like PayPal, Stripe, etc.), shipping carriers (like Fedex, USPS), shipping costs, shipping labels, etc.

2. Add products

  1. To create a new product, navigate to WooCommerce Products Add new.
  2. Follow the steps in this guide to fill in the relevant product data, including product title, short and long description, product images, regular and sale prices, inventory (stock status and the number of available units), product type, product categories, tags, etc. Don't worry about adding product options/variations at this stage.

A few important things to note:

  • Use at least one high-quality, distraction-free image to give shoppers a visual representation of the pair of shoes, as they can't see them in person. Ideally, you should also add extra photos to showcase the shoe in multiple angles, and style them on a model.
  • Use copywriting techniques to add a sales-driving description of the product to entice shoppers to buy.
  • Mention details such as the material(s) used to create the shoe.
  • Remember to enter a price and (plus sale price if needed).
  • Enable stock management and add the number of shoes in stock.
  • Add descriptive, practical categories for your site to make it easy for customers to find what they want.

Finally, once you've added all the relevant product details, scroll to the top and click the 'Publish' button. This will make the new shoe product live on your website.

3. Install the WooCommerce Product Options plugin

Once you've created all the products, it's time to add various fields and product recommendations. Follow these steps to add WooCommerce Product Options to your site:

  1. Get the WooCommerce Product Options plugin.
  2. Download the plugin (it's a zip file) to your computer.
  3. Head into your WordPress admin and navigate to Plugins Add New.
  4. Add the plugin to your site by selecting 'Upload Plugin' followed by the zip file.
  5. Select Install Now Activate.
  6. Enter your license key into the plugin setup wizard to activate it.

4. Create product options

WooCommerce Product Options lets you add as many product options as you like. You can either offer the same options on all products in your store, or show each group of options on specific products and categories.

For this tutorial, I'll add size options (using text labels), width options (using radio buttons), and color options (using color swatches):

  1. Navigate to Products Product Options within your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Click 'Add New' to create a new group of product options, or hover over the default group to amend it. (The plugin adds a group of options by default when you download it.)
  3. Type in a name for the options group. (Keep this simple and descriptive so it's easy to identify).
  4. The 'Visibility' tab controls which shoe products to add the product options to. Select 'Display globally on all products' to show the options on all products in your shoe shop's catalog, or alternatively 'Show on specific categories or products'.
  5. Now, scroll to the 'Options' section. Click 'Add Option' to create the field type you want displayed on the product pages and configure it as you prefer. As mentioned, I'll add text labels, radio buttons, and color swatch fields in this tutorial.

Adding size options such as clickable text labels

  1. Enter the option name, 'Size', and tick the 'Display' checkbox next to it.
  2. Tap 'Text labels' from the 'type' section.
  3. Scroll to the 'Choices' tab and enter the name for each label.
  4. Add prices for each product option (note: this is optional).
  5. Enter a description of the product option (note: this is optional too).
  6. Tick the 'Required' checkbox to make this option mandatory.
  7. Toggle the button to set up advanced rules, such as quantity limits and conditional logic. Configure as you prefer (note: also optional).
  8. Select Add Option Save Changes.

Displaying shoe width options as radio buttons

  1. Enter the option name, 'Width', and tick the 'Display' checkbox next to it.
  2. Select 'Radio buttons' from the 'type' section.
  3. Scroll to the 'Choices' tab and enter the name for each label.
  4. Optionally, you can add prices for each product option.
  5. Enter a description of the product option (note: this is optional).
  6. Tick the 'Required' checkbox to make this option mandatory.
  7. Toggle the button to set up advanced rules, such as quantity limits and conditional logic. Configure as you prefer (note: also optional).
  8. Select Add Option Save Changes.

Adding color swatches

  1. First, enter the option name, 'Color', and tick the 'Display' checkbox next to it.
  2. Select 'Color swatches' from the 'type' section.
  3. Scroll to the 'Choices' tab and enter each color's label and hex code.
  4. Optionally, you can add an extra fee for each product color.
  5. Enter a description of the product option (note: this is optional).
  6. Tick the 'Required' checkbox to make this option mandatory.
  7. Toggle the button to set up advanced rules, such as quantity limits and conditional logic. Configure as you prefer (note: also optional).
  8. Select Add Option Save Changes.

Note: Rinse and repeat to add more options and create as many option groups as you prefer.

5. Add upsell and cross-sell products

Sharing product recommendations is a powerful way to encourage shoppers to add extra products to their carts. This inspires them to buy shoes with complementary items and accessories.

Here's how to add them:

  1. Tap 'Add group' to create a new product option group, or add them to an existing group.
  2. Use the 'Visibility' tab to select the shoe products to display the upsells on.
  3. Scroll down to the 'Options' section to add the products to be recommended. Tap 'Add Option' to create the recommended products field and then configure it. I've named it 'Heel protector bundle', selected 'Product' in the 'Type' section, set it to "Select specific products", and then used the search bar to choose the heel protector product.
  4. Additional (optional) settings:
    • Enter a description for the product option.
    • Choose a display option for how the upsells will look on the page.
    • You can also use the Advanced section to set extra rules like quantity limits and conditional logic.
      Select Add Option Save Changes.

You're all set! Now it's time to head to your site's front end and test it to ensure everything works as intended.

How to be successful selling shoes online

These are the top tips to help you create a profitable shoe site:

Invest in high-quality visuals

Use crisp, high-resolution images that give customers a close-up of the shoes. Customers can't touch or try on the shoes online, so your visuals should compensate for that. Provide multiple angles, close-ups of materials, and shots of shoes being worn to give customers a sense of what they're buying.

For example, if you're selling running shoes, display images that highlight the sole's traction, the cushioning, and perhaps an action shot of someone jogging to convey the product's performance.

Use organic marketing techniques

Organic marketing helps you connect with your ideal customers by ranking high on search engines. You can,

  • Create a blog - Start with building a content marketing strategy for your blog. Then, create content around topics that resonate with your potential buyers. For a shoe store, this could be articles like "choosing the right running shoes for beginners" or "how to clean and care for leather shoes."
  • Optimize product descriptions - Write enticing product descriptions that contain relevant keywords. If, for instance, you sell running shoes, sprinkle in terms like "high-performance," "cushioned support," or "breathable mesh".
  • Build an active community on social media - Social media is not just a platform to sell. It's also a tool to build a community (and engaged customer base) around your brand. You can share your blog content and product updates on social media platforms such as Instagram. Also, responding to comments and questions helps boost audience engagement.

Craft a straightforward return policy

Spell out your return policy in clear and simple terms — including conditions or timeframes for returns. Let customers know what to expect if they need to return shoes they bought from your site. Also, don't bury the return policy in small print at the bottom of your website; place it where customers can easily find it.

A best practice is to create a dedicated page for returns and exchanges and link the page to a visible location, like the footer menu or the checkout page. You can also display returns information as an extra tab on the product page.

You now know how to sell shoes online!

In this post, we've looked at how to sell shoes online. To recap, you need:

  1. WooCommerce - The most popular e-commerce platform built on top of WordPress. The software itself is free — you only have to pay for hosting and a domain. It's also pretty beginner-friendly, so you don't have to worry about knowing how to code.
  2. WooCommerce Product Options - This easy-to-use plugin lets you add extra options for your shoe products, and upsell additional products to encourage customers to buy more.

Get WooCommerce Product Options and follow the steps set out in this guide to start your own awesome online shoe business today!

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