Shoes in online space: An opportunity to reckon with

I often get asked the question – why SHOES? Isn’t that a touch and feel category – is there really market adoption for this segment in India already? Being in the thick of this segment, I must say that the answer is an overwhelming YES, and definitely a long way to go! What if we told you that arguably India buys an estimated 8,000 pairs of footwear online each day, and that is projected to double within the next year or so! (Staggering isn’t it!)

A host of vertical and horizontal fashion players in the ecommerce space across formats like flash sales, deals, etc caters to the online demand of footwear. According to a recent study released by ASSOCHAM, the Indian footwear industry is currently pegged at 22,000 crores INR and online shoe shopping currently accounts for about 8% of the overall industry and is expected to reach about 20% by 2015. Currently, the Indian footwear market is dominated by the men’s segment that accounts for about 55 per cent followed by ladies’ and kids’ segment which account for about 30 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.

A tabular representation of some key aspects of the Footwear vertical and what ecommerce providers are attempting to bridge the gap:-

 Men are from Mars and Women from Venus (gender based buying trends):

An interesting aspect across research forums in the past year, suggest that majority of women are more concerned about style and looks than comfort and endurance. They are not that brand conscious and throng local markets more often for what they need. While nearly 50% per of the men prefer buying branded shoes, as they are more concerned about quality, price and strength of the product. Men are opportunistic while women impulsive in terms of online purchase behavior.

There are several ‘SMART’ reasons why users are increasingly shifting to buying shoes online:

  • Return policies: are flexible and build an element of trust and seed in a comfort factor.
  • Easy Payment terms: Cash on delivery allows a consumer flexibility to check his order once it comes to him/her and then pay.
  • Bargain deals: the value for money proposition where online retailers are able to pass on discounts to customers across brands throughout the year – opportunity buying & opportunity selling.
  • Variety: the kind of variety you get online is actually staggering as you get all categories be it sports, casual, lifestyle, home wear, formals all on one domain. This is the real value proposition as it saves buyers time, effort and cash.
  • Technology: Refined search, Custom profiling, Personalization, Product comparisons across brands, Smarter showcase views…are all part of the evolving improvements in the visual experience and user interface that promise to engage customers at a smarter level.

The market –

Being a player in the online fashion segment, believes that engaging the customer socially on Style can be viral…fun, witty, topical interactions via Facebook, Blogs & Twitter. The personalization model is one such step that differentiates itself from all other ecommerce players as it’s a unique and answers the customers ‘basic question – “what’s in it for me”! That coupled with an unparalleled level of customer experience is the secret sauce that will be the key value proposition in building a sustainable business model. Players across the globe have evolved to transcend from a mass volume based experience to a recommendation based curated experience that promises to offer more to its loyal customers over a longer period.

At an industry level, the long-term challenge staring in our faces is the opportunity to build a business on grass root principles of profitability and value proposition. In all the hullabaloo of this space, somewhere these basics are getting lost and the cost of acquisition has reached astronomical levels by burning cash and expecting magic over the lifetime value. The fact is that magic does not happen, at least very rarely so. Looking forward to differentiation and delight being the hinges around which the ecosystem evaluates existing and new ecommerce providers. Innovation in payments, supply chain, inventory models will also evolve and those that adapt & integrate their offerings faster will derive greater value. May the best men win and the good ones survive……….

Navin Joshua is currently the Founder at, along with Sumit Agarwal. Prior to this entrepreneurial venture, he was the Executive Director at vCustomer. Navin can be reached on

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