As shoe retailers know too well, each customer is an individual. That means every single shopper that visits your website has their own specific needs when shopping online. The question of whether they actually buy from your brand will be determined by how well you meet their particular expectations and needs.
As you might guess, trying to tailor your offering to suit each and every visitor to your store is completely impractical. It’s lucky for you, then, that most customers will fit broadly into four groups of shoe shoppers: the first time buyer, the veteran shopper, the unanchored wanderer, or the size seeker. You might not be able to give every individual special treatment, but there’s certainly plenty you can do to make each general shopper type feel as pampered as possible.
Today, we’ll take a look at these four online shoe shopper types, and clue you in about what they need from your website to guarantee that sale.
The four online shoe shopper Types: what do they need?
When it comes to these categories of shoppers, each is different, has particular needs, and will require specific approaches to make them feel reassured, relaxed, and ready to buy. The only way to encourage them to make a purchase is to understand what makes them tick.
The first-time buyer
The first-time buyer is optimistic, excited, and wants to purchase new shoes. They’ll be willing to take a risk - either in style selection or size - if they’re confident that your policies will allow them to return them later if they don’t suit. These buyers are full of potential, but their easy-come, easy-go attitude can land you with an increased likelihood of returns and, as we all know, returns are bad news in the footwear business.
Make the most of the first-time buyer’s willingness to buy by ensuring that they are unlikely to even have to think about returning - work on exceptional product descriptions and photography, to remove doubts about color or style, and implement sizing technology to ensure they buy the right size, first time, every time.
The veteran shopper
The person who has bought from you before and is willing to do it again, confident that their style and size choices will be correct, is your ideal customer. They’re unlikely to make up your biggest segment of buyers, but they know what they want, trust your brand, and will go straight to the sale (hopefully, time and time again).
Another benefit of this shopper type is that they are likely to recommend you to their friends and family. Since they offer a smorgasbord of benefits, you need to do all you can to keep these shoe shoppers on your side. Show them how much you value them with personalized messages, ambassador programs, special events, or referral bonuses.
The unanchored wanderer
75% of store visitors leave without making a purchase. These people are the wanderers - they’re just having a look around your site, checking things out and, if they buy at all, it’s more likely to be in-store. This behavior - you could also call it window shopping - probably makes up a large portion of your traffic, but a small portion of your sales.
Don’t worry, they’re not a lost cause. Studies show that they’re actually shopping fans who are enjoying the process of browsing - they’re not lost. The key is to make purchasing really easy, so as not to undermine the feeling of relaxed pleasure they’re getting from wandering around your shop. Take the same precautions as you would for the first-time buyer but, most of all, refine the checkout process so that it’s so easy, it’s almost imperceptible. This super-smooth journey will encourage wanderers to buy.
The size seeker
The size seeker is our last category and one of the least relaxed buyers on our list. They’re a small percentage of your visitors, but under the right circumstances, they’re very likely to buy. Their biggest concern is shoe size - the size seekers lack confidence in sizing (they may have been burned in the past) and this is what is holding them back from adding those shoes to their basket. Their shopping expedition is need-based, which tends to make them nervous and focused. It’s hard to upsell to these nervous shoppers- they need serious reassurance to make a single purchase.
When a size seeker lands on your website, the visit will normally play out in one of two ways:
Result 1: The size seeker takes a chance
The less nervous of these shoppers will take a gamble and buy a shoe size they think might fit. As we’ve seen before, this is a risky strategy if you’re still using old-school sizing tech like charts, manual measuring, or some kind of proprietary tool. In this situation, there’s a high probability of the dreaded return, since the chances the shoe will be “just right” are pretty low. If the shoe doesn’t fit, it’s draining your overheads: the logistics associated with returns are pricey!
Result 2: The size seeker won’t take the risk
The most nervous of these consumers will deem the whole process simply too risky, and they won’t buy at all. They’ll leave your site, and possibly never return.
Most footwear brands and retailers ignore these size seekers, instead opting for a cross-your-fingers-and-hope-for-the-best approach with the old-school sizing methods in place. That leaves these shoppers entirely untapped: these people would buy if the sizing wasn’t a barrier - they just need a little extra encouragement.
Tech like ShoeSizeMe recognizes these size seekers, reassures them, and pushes them through the funnel, boosting conversions and giving brands the highest probability of keeping a sale (or in other words, ensuring the lowest return rates and associated costs). It’s the little bit of extra encouragement they need! When we analyzed independent case studies, we noted that by unlocking access to this otherwise untapped shopper type, companies can increase footwear revenues by up to 8%.
Every group of online shoe shoppers has their pros and cons and, unfortunately, not all visitors to your website are going to be veteran shoppers, loyal to your brand and dying to share their discovery with their friends!
Even so, don’t lose heart. There are a number of simple UX and customer service fixes that will help you scoop up as many buyers as possible. If you do nothing else, make sure you:
- Improve product photography and descriptions
- Smooth and optimize the checkout process
- See what you can do to reward your best and most loyal customers
- Retargeting campaigns
- Sizing technology
Even when it comes to sizing, the biggest conversion killer, you can make major inroads by using a tool like ShoeSizeMe.
But don’t take our word for it - check out what happened when Lloyd's updated their shoe sizing tech. Lloyd is a premium, award-winning German shoe manufacturer that desperately wanted to reduce their return rates by improving customer service. When they started using ShoeSizeMe, they saw a 16% drop in return rates and even more astonishing gains in average spend and conversion. Read the case study to find out how they did it.