Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Six Components Needed to Develop a Beautiful Website

Why Your Website Matters

Casual, dress, men’s, women’s or kid’s – no matter what type of product line you carry, there’s likely a customer out there who wants to buy it. Today, nearly 81% of customers search for products online – before they make purchases in a physical retail store or online. Customers conduct their searches across multiple online channels. Their journey includes online social platforms such as Fancy, Pinterest, Instagram, and ShopStyle, as well as department store e-commerce sites and promotional fashion aggregator sites. On average, consumers visited five unique places (at least three online merchants and two brick-and-mortar stores) before finally making their purchase.

Brands face the challenge of not only attracting people to their products, but also compelling them to make purchases. Thus, it’s important that brands develop their own websites with the necessary information and content in order to help their brand be discovered and accessible to buyers and consumers alike. Below we’ve created a list of six successful components of online websites:

Make Your Brand Accessible to Consumers and Buyers

In order to drive customer awareness and demand for your footwear line, whether it be from your buyers or consumers, your product and brand information must be readily accessible online. Footwear brand websites should provide customers with information on where to find, how to connect with, and how to purchase a brand’s products. Your website acts as a window to your brand’s world. It tells your story, showcases your uniqueness and product capability, and gives you credibility.

A great example is Jessica Simpson’s website. The brand, licensed by The Camuto Group, lists the retailers currently selling Jessica Simpson products and connects the brand’s base to relevant social media platforms. The most important part of this site is that it provides specific contact and acquisition information for all types of customers.

Develop A Mobile-First Mentality

Did you know that as of May 2014, 83% of global shoppers who use mobile devices plan to make a mobile purchase in the coming year and that 34% those users are not using some other device (such as a desktop or laptop computer) to access the internet? That’s right, their only way to access information is through their mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). Mobile devices are becoming the single most important way that customers shop.

While it may seem advanced, your footwear website should take into account mobile access. You must understand how and where your customers access retail information. Plain and simple, mobile matters and it’s crucial your website adapts to mobile searching and purchasing habits. Creating a website that only looks good when surfing the web from your laptop or desktop computer is no longer sufficient. Your web pages and e-commerce sites should be designed with responsive elements in order to make them mobile- and tablet-friendly. As you build your websites and overall digital strategies, make sure you adopt a mobile-first mentality.

Invest In Quality Photography

Since customers may not be able to visit your brick-and-mortar store to try on your shoes and closely examine every detail, quality product photos are crucial. Not only should the photos be clear, but the more photos, (from a variety of angles) the better. Allowing customers to zoom in on specific parts of a shoe, see the shoe in all of its available color variations, or view an outfit example all help customers get a better idea of how a shoe would look, feel, and fit in-person.

Beyond demonstrating how the product looks, quality photos also reflect on your brand itself. Higher quality photos in terms of lighting, resolution, and design layout reflect a higher quality brand. Providing lifestyle shots also helps customers understand how to wear a product, as well as put that season’s collection into context with trends that they may be looking to buy.

A great example of a footwear designer that highlights their products well is Dolce Vita. In the image above, Dolce Vita uses lifestyle photography to highlight a key shoe for its A/W 2014 collection and further builds out the shoe’s details with crisp product shots (see below). The pictures illustrate the shoe from a range of angles, set against a clean, white background, to help customers picture how the shoe might wear in-person. The photography on the site is clean, fresh, and aesthetically-pleasing, with minimal text that complements the photography style.

Social Media Is A Connective Tool

Social media is the ultimate tool for providing customer experience. As a footwear brand, it’s important to establish a presence on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for the sake of owning your brand identity and driving traffic to your website. Since 2006, we’ve seen brands flock to social media in droves. Now, in 2014, the use of social media has become more important than ever, as social platforms allow you to connect and engage with customers directly. This direct form of connection, especially through Facebook or Twitter, creates an open line of communication from the brand to the customer and the customer to the brand. If a customer is searching for something, has a question or other need/issue, most often they’ll seek a brand’s social channels in order to expedite a resolution.

People follow brands on different online platforms, depending on the information they want to know or communicate. They’ll follow an Instagram feed to be inspired or follow a Pinterest board to find trends. This ease of access has raised the bar for brands. Don’t just create a Facebook or Twitter page and leave it blank. Instead, use these pages to create a consistent and continuous dialogue with your customers and elevate their brand experience. If they’re tweeting about how much they love your product, acknowledge them. Tweet back and thank them for their support, and maybe follow up with a question to continue the conversation. If they’re posting on your Facebook page about a terrible in-store retail experience, respond in real-time. Acknowledge the mistake, take responsibility, and create new incentives for them to try your product again.

Through creating a great dialogue, you can also utilize your platforms to communicate with customers about promotional deals, discounts, and new product offerings. Do so frequently and consistently across social platforms to help translate social followings into actual customers - and sales!

Merchandise Your Line To Drive Interest and Excitement

Merchandising your site is one of the best ways to highlight your products and enable product discovery. Often, customers do not know what they want until they’re presented with options. Remember that old adage that we tell consumers what they want? Whether you are selling your products through your site directly or simply using your site to showcase your product offerings, merchandising or organizing your products in a fresh and exciting way will create incentives for customers to search, click through, and buy your products.

Gilt Groupe, for example, highlights products in categories such as “Shoe Guide: Shop by Category” and “The Summer Essentials Shop.” Re-organizing products on your site and grouping them into new categories helps showcase your products in a new light, adding freshness to your site.

Create Relevant and Meaningful Product Descriptions

Product descriptions should be both relevant and meaningful to customers. In a retail store, consumers can try on a shoe and get a feel for the fit, color, texture, materials, and other key design elements. The same information applies to buyers. Both the buyer and end consumer care about how and where a product is made. Assume customers want answers to these questions immediately when perusing your site and make these answers easy-to-find and concise on product pages.

Hunter, for example, provides a detailed description of the size, fit, materials, and care of its boots on all of its product pages.  In bullet point format, product information is easy to read and helpful for the customer to know. Hunter also provides additional resources including a size chart and a video on how to clean your Hunter boots.

Getting Started For Online Success

By incorporating the above six components, you’re off to a great start in developing your online marketing strategy. The next step - building your site. When choosing what services to use for a custom website, medium to larger brands with e-commerce initiatives often look to Ebay’s Magento or Amazon to expand their online businesses. Other solutions exist that can become quite pricey, but Amazon and Magento offer solutions for all sorts of brand sizes. If you’re a smaller brand, however, and are just getting started with taking your business online, below are three hosted website services that are worth exploring.


Wix is a free, customizable cloud-based web development platform that allows you to create mobile- and Google-optimized web pages. With hundreds of HTML5 template designs from which to choose, Wix allows users to create aesthetically-pleasing and user-friendly web pages. Beyond its free offerings, Wix also allows users to upgrade to subscription-based plans on a monthly or yearly basis (between $4 - $30 per month). Subscriptions offer features such as e-commerce, allowing users to sell goods to customers through their website, as well as web domain purchasing and web e-mail boxes. Two standard footwear web page templates can be found here and here.


Squarespace is a slightly more robust platform for brands to use that offers more specialty features. The platform is mobile-friendly (responsive design), offers hundreds of template designs, photography layout options (by product categories and collections), SEO, social integration, and online metrics. It also allows you to integrate e-commerce into your site. Beyond its customizable, hosted website service, Squarespace offers guides on topics such as how to integrate with third-party providers (PayPal, MailChimp, Etsy, etc.) and connect your social media accounts to your website, as well as offers free video workshops on how to best build your site. Squarespace costs $8 to $24 per month.


Unlike Squarespace, Shopify is primarily an e-commerce platform. Using Shopify’s easy-to-understand content and product management system, footwear designers can easily create an amazing site online without a lot of technical knowledge. For retailers, Shopify offers in-store options for smaller retailers and boutiques, acting like a POP system, while also powering a retailer’s small site. For designers and brands, Shopify can power just about any type of e-commerce site.

If you want to use Squarespace as your primary website and Shopify for your e-commerce site, add custom domain mapping to do so. Shopify also gives you more robust marketing tools such as analytics to reduce shopping cart abandonment and other tools to help you manage payments in up to 70 countries, set shipping rates, and even integrate with Amazon’s fulfillment center to help streamline your e-commerce operation. A great Shopify example is Greats, a company that seeks to be the Warby Parker of shoes! Shopify pricing starts at $14 per month and goes up to $179 per month with transaction fees.


In today’s ever-evolving digital age, it’s important to meet the needs of your footwear brand’s target audiences. A great web presence is the first step in establishing long-term business success. These six tips and the resources found in this article are a great starting point. Have you had success with establishing your online presence? Tell us in the comments below.

Images: Jessica Simpson, Gilt Groupe, Dolce Vita, Bergdorf Goodman, Hunter, Wix, Squarespace, Shopify

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