The global online sale of footwear and apparel are witnessing exponential growth if the research report of Euromonitor International is anything to go by. In 2015, the global e-commerce footwear and apparel sales showed an upward tick of 22%. Out of the total global footwear sales of $340 billion last year, equivalent to $41 billion, e-commerce accounted for 12%. In contrast, the total footwear market rose by 6% in 2016.Rising DemandVarious reasons can be attributed to the healthy e-commerce growth in footwear segment including rising preference of online shopping, customization, personalization, besides the burgeoning at leisure and healthy lifestyle trends triggering underlying demand for footwear. Cashing in on the rising trend, there is a perceptible increase in the number of exclusive footwear and apparel retailers entering the market in the last few years.
Pros and ConsAs far as the online business of footwear and apparel segments are concerned the pain points are fitting issues and the costs of the return of consignments. Thanks to the emerging technologies that are helping the online shoppers to find their perfect fit and eventually helping the e-commerce retailers to save money.Women ShoppersAccording to the survey conducted by US-based fit-sizing technology player in April 2016, it has been found that women indulged in online shopping for apparel and footwear more frequently than men did. Alsoofflinethe study found that women were more open to shopping for apparels and footwear online.Top online playersGlobally, China dominates the footwear and apparel e-commerce segments. China is not only the largest online market for these segments in the world, but China is also a nation with the highest proportion of footwear and apparel sold online. Last year alone, these segments clocked 21% sales of the total online categories. What is more, in 2015 too, China reported exponential growth rate in online footwear and apparel sales among the key global e-commerce markets.China is followed by Germany and the UK. The online apparel and footwear sales in Germany and the UK stood at 18% and 17% respectively, of the total global apparel and footwear sales in 2015.As per the Euromonitor study, athletic footwear is a major category within the global footwear e-commerce market. The global sports footwear sales rose by 14% in 2015, while the US athletic footwear market too increased by 8%. According to HKTDC study, China’s sneaker market is growing at 7% a year.CustomisationCustomization is the latest mantra in the footwear industry that is pushing the online sales in a big way. Besides aesthetic purposes, product customization is also helpful for customers getting the exact fit in terms of size and foot shape.3D PrintingThe latest fad that is making rounds at the footwear customization front is the 3D printing. For instance, bigger brands such as Adidas and Nike are using 3D printing enabling their patrons to customize. Of late, there are design customization options such as laser printing as well as airbrushing. Top sports footwear makers like Nike are offering customized design options through e-commerce, which are found in off-line stores. For instance, if you order online, you have the option of opting the patterns of your choice; choose your favorite colours and an even custom name and number stitching for few models.It may be recalled that back in 2015, Nike had reintroduced the NikeLab Bespoke ID Programme, where its patrons could meet Nike design consultants in person and customise footwear for up to $1000. Nike has studios in New York and London.Besides Nike, there are other players such as Adidas who are into 3D printing and customization of footwear. Furthermore, Adidas had also announced that its future stores would be connected to its manufacturing facilities, robots will churn out customized pair of sneakers in just about 15 minutes.