By Emma Wanjiku Buying shoes online can be downright tricky. In fact, many online shoppers have an array of disappointing accounts and experiences. Buying shoes for babies and toddlers online, gave me the most trouble. In several instances, I got the fit totally wrong. When the fit was right, I was not happy with the design quality and shoe material therein. Negative online shoe experiences are not uncommon. I have found that the best way to buy the perfect shoes online is to do some due diligence. With proper homework, you can avoid common pitfalls and buy the right pair. To get you started, I have compiled 20 must-know guides and tips. These pointers for buying shoes online highlight the most important considerations - before you cart your favorite pair.
1. Brand-memory rarely disappoints
Consider the best shoes in your collection right now and analyze them a bit. You will discover that there is a brand or brands that really deliver every time. From high quality material to impressive style and design, you most likely have a shoe brand that fits the bill. To this end, use brand-memory to determine your next online buy. There are so many new shoe brands entering the market; however, you have to be careful before trusting them. The best shoe brand is one that gives you the right variety, quality, style and price. Therefore, if you have been disappointed by a shoe brand before, there is no need to take chances. Go for brands that you can fully trust.
2. Beware of the cheap-shoe syndrome
A huge chunk of online shoe shoppers suffer from the cheap-shoe syndrome. This chronic condition manifests whenever you see a pair of shoes on offer at a greatly discounted price. Just because it is cheap, many will buy and this is not the best way to purchase. Cheap shoes have to meet all your needs first. They must be of good quality, appealing in design and style and fitted perfectly to your size. Many times, we buy cheap shoes over the Internet and never get to wear them after that. If you are not planning to buy shoes, avoid looking at the offers. If you are in need of buying, consider all the important elements first before looking at the cost. They say that cheap is expensive and most of us learn this lesson the hard way.
3. Do some background reading on new shoe brands
As alluded to above, new shoe brands have to prove themselves to you first. If you really want to buy a new shoe brand, you have to get more information about the company behind the product. Look at their attributes and how professionally they are operating. Go a step further and contact them through social media pages or on phone. New brands should be quick to answer queries from prospects. Get all the information you need about product materials, quality, authorized retailers; among others. Also, look at customer reviews to see what people have to say. If you find very limited or negative information, you may want to avoid the brand.
4. Update your shoe size before buying online
Did you know that your shoe size is not static? Your feet may not grow longer but they can grow wider or thinner depending on your overall body weight changes. In this respect, measure your feet to update your size. If you have a Brannock, measuring your size is a piece of cake. You can also use a ruler and a flat surface to get the most accurate reading. Use the flat surface to place your foot and then use the ruler to measure from the tip of your longest toe, to the end of your heel. Some people assume that their longest toe is the big toe; and this is not always the case. Measure your width as well to get the right results. You can have a narrow, standard, wide or an extra wide fit. Your online retailer will provide the grid in which you can compare and determine the perfect fit.
5. Determine the purpose of the shoes you want to buy
Shoes serve a myriad of purposes. In light of this, you may be looking for causal shoes, official shoes, sports shoes, flats, heels; among others. If you are looking for causal shoes, you may consider boots, flats, sneakers and more. In other words, you have to narrow down your search so that you can uncover the best shoe type for your needs. Some shoppers make up their minds as they savour the attractive shoe galleries online. Impulse buying comes about this way. Therefore, put your money to the best use possible by knowing what you want first.
6. Choose your online retailer wisely
Many shoe brands will not sell directly to the customers. In this regard, online retailers will take up the task of distributing various shoe brands. Choosing the right online retailer is critical. To begin with, they must have in stock a variety of shoes that will interest you. The user-experience at the online store must also be satisfactory. This literally means that their webpages and online interfaces must be clear and easy to navigate. I personally like neat and attractive layouts where online retailers are concerned. This way, you can scan through shoe galleries with ease.
7. Product information is everything
Online retailers and shoe brands that invest in providing comprehensive product information build more trust with customers. When buying shoes online, you need all the product-specific information you can get. This ranges from key shoe features, materials used, style, actual color, size guides, reviews and many more. The weight of the product is important together with what to expect in the box once the shoe arrives. Through this information, you are able to demystify in-depth regarding the type of shoe design and style; among many others. Some online sellers will go a step further to give you recommendations for wearing and so on.
8. Never buy online shoes before checking out user reviews
Reviews on the shoe you zero-in on are a-must read. Whether you read a single review or several, getting a feel of what others think will greatly inform you further. Thankfully, online retailers have incorporated a review section for each product. Therefore, you can just read some of the available feedback on the same page. If you are not convinced, do your own online search and uncover what others are saying about the same product. This way, you get independent feedback on the product.
9. Compare prices at various online retailers
Chances are that you will find the same brand of shoes on various eCommerce platforms. You should never pay more for a pair of shoe than is necessary. Some people assume that all retailers will sell the product at the same price. Do your homework and you will discover a better deal on the same product. This comparison plays a major role in keeping these online sellers competitive with pricing.
10. Take your time with shoe galleries
The best thing about shopping online is that you can take all your time looking at the images of various shoes. These images are meant to give you the best idea of how the shoes looks like in reality. Never buy shoes that do not have enough pictures to convince you. You should view the shoes from every angle. In many instances, your computer screen can disguise or misrepresent colors. Solve this by reading the actual shoe color from the specifications provided.
11. Look at the related products options
Online retailers will give you other options of shoes; similar to the one you are interested in. Here, you can discover even better styles and designs. Some shoes will be cheaper versions. Therefore, take time to look at the related products tab that will be visible while you view a particular shoe. You can also search manually for related products. I have found that many online retailers have a humongous amount of shoe stock that needs to be uncovered.
12. Only choose a fairly-priced shoe
If you are counting your pennies, buying shoes online is an opportunity to save money. In this respect, choose a price tag that you can afford. Some people spend way too much than necessary. For example, you can forgo certain features to save money. Also, you can look for a discounted pair instead. Using coupons is also a great way to shop. If you are not totally happy with the price, chances are that you are looking for a cheaper shoe. Do not go out of your budget and taking time before buying can help.
13. Compare shipping charges
Some online sellers will have exorbitant shipping charges. In this case, cheap or discounted shoes may turn out to be very expensive. Compare these charges at various online shops. For those who offer free shipping, make sure there are no hidden costs. Chances are that you are paying for the shipping with the actual product price. Find a common ground where shipping charges are concerned before ordering.
14. Never ignore the shipping time or duration
Some people will buy shoes online with great urgency. You may be looking to wear the shoes at a wedding or party that is coming up. Before you buy, look at the shipping duration and make an informed decision. We all love short shipping times. Sometimes, unforeseen situations extend this shipping time. Therefore, be open minded and avoid buying shoes with urgency.
15. Know the return policies
If the shoe you order does not fit properly, can you return it? If it is damaged or is the wrong order, what are your options? These among other concerns constitute return policies. Some retailers are better than others. Once you receive an order that does not please you, know all your options regarding returns. You must be very prompt to meet the deadlines. Some digital sellers may not refund your money but they can allow you to choose another pair of shoes.
16. Doorstep deliveries or pick up points?
Once you make an order, your online retailer may have the option for doorstep delivery or pick up point delivery. Consider the financial implications first. Having the product delivered right to your door could be more costly. Then again, going to pick up the shoe at a pick up station may have implications as well. For retailers that have these options, choose what works for you best. I personally prefer doorstep delivery in Kenya because the hustle of picking up the product removes from the convenience of online shopping.
17. Be extra careful when buying children's shoes online
My biggest lesson on this is that when in doubt, always buy a bigger size. The good thing is that children grow up fast and a larger size can be used later. However, the best thing is to follow the size guideline above to take accurate measurements. Take into account the shoe brand and where it originates. For example, shoes made in China are relatively smaller than similar African shoe sizes. Therefore, buy one or two sizes bigger to make up for the difference.
18. Not sure about shoe size? Avoid buying shoes online as gift items
The biggest anticlimax is surprising your husband with a new cool pair of shoes. When the reality hits that the shoes can barely fit, you become devastated. Shoe fitting can be very intricate, especially when you are buying them for someone else. However, if you have done due diligence and are sure about the fit, style and quality, go right ahead and buy them as gifts.
19. Take advantage of shoe discounts and offers
You can save money during clearance sales, special offers and other deals. Just make sure you are not buying on impulse. Buying shoes after holidays could save you money as well. For school children, buying before the back-to-school season starts could give you better prices.
20. If you have limited resources, buy shoes you need not the shoes you want
The female shoe obsession has created a multi-million dollar shoe industry globally. This may be good news to sellers; but it is bad news for those who always spend more money than they have to buying shoes. New, adorable and sexy shoes are no doubt therapeutic. However, everything in moderation.