Shoe Buyer Journey: Women, Families

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Shoe Buyer Journey: Women

Although direct insights that reflect the customer journey of female shoe buyers at independent brick and mortar shoe stores in the U.S. were not found to be readily available, we were able to break this demographic down into its individual silos and analyze them independently in order to locate relevant findings that collectively help to address this topic. With the exception of locating data about independent shoe stores specifically, we were able to learn the following regarding the customer journey of female shoe buyers at brick and mortar shoe stores in the U.S. by using the triangulation process noted above:
  • This demographic likely shops for shoes using a multi-channel approach, for example, browsing the available selection of items before visiting in-store to make a final purchase decision, or purchasing a product online and then going in-store to pick it up.
  • This demographic is likely to learn about retailers and their available footwear products via word-of-mouth, paper mailers, and digital advertisements.
  • Before deciding to make a purchase, this demographic is likely to evaluate the design and form of the shoe (especially the top, sides, and toe of the shoe).
  • This demographic may use a digital device for price-comparison research before making a purchase decision for footwear, such as a mobile device or smart speaker, and may sometimes do so while in-store.
  • Some purchase triggers for this demographic include fit, comfort, style, necessity, product innovation, cost, keeping up with trends, sports, and special occasions.
  • This demographic appears to prefer shopping in-store for shoes due to the ability to try a product on to ensure a proper fit, see it, touch it, take advantage of in-store only promotions, and to interact with customer service associates.
A deep dive of our findings and methodology are provided below.


  • According to Gregoire Barent of The ALDO Group, footwear customers "move fluidly" from one channel to another: 70% browse a store's selection online before visiting in-store, and 25% pick-up in-store after purchasing online.
  • In a 2016 U.S. survey conducted by Body Labs, 36% of women said they only shop in-store for footwear, while 29% said they shop in-store more than online, and 14% shop the same amount in-store and online. Additionally, a survey conducted by King Retail Solutions found that 50% of female shoppers to make digital purchases like to do in-store pick up for these items.
  • As of spring 2019, footwear consumers in the U.S. are finding out about retailers and their products via word-of-mouth (33%), paper mailers (11%), TV and radio advertisements (10%), Google ads (9%), email advertisements from retailers (7%), Facebook ads (6%), Instagram (4%), or other sources (20%).
  • According to a 2018 academic article published in the Journal of Textile and Apparel, an eye-tracking study of female participants found these consumers spend "more time viewing the top, side, and toe of the shoes rather than the back and ankle", from which it can be logically assumed that women spend time evaluating the design of a shoe before making a purchase.
  • Another 2018 academic study on the topic of how emotions affect shoe buying, it was found that the form of a shoe has a significant impact on a female footwear consumer in terms of creating an emotion upon first sight, even more so than the materials and color the shoes are made from. This suggests that women are likely evaluating this aspect of a shoe before making a purchase.
  • According to a 2018 survey of women's general shopping habits, 31% said that they use a mobile device to compare product prices while physically in a store.
  • A little over 40% of women surveyed stated that they have used a smart speaker to research the price of shoes before buying.


  • According to a 2018 academic article published in the Journal of Textile and Apparel, an eye-tracking study of female participants found that "fit and comfort are the two most important factors for footwear evaluation," and that these factors are also closely related to style.
  • A 2018 Mintel report notes that 'necessity' and 'product innovation' are driving strong sales in the U.S. footwear market for men and women. This suggests that necessity and product innovation could be considered as purchase triggers.
  • There is an increasing demand for comfortable shoes in the global women's footwear marking, which could signify that comfort is a purchase trigger for the buyers of women's shoes. A report published by NPD corroborates these findings, stating that comfort is driving sales in the U.S. footwear market overall.
  • Among U.S. footwear consumers in general, the following reported reasons to purchase new shoes as of spring 2018 were as follows: necessity (37%), cost (30%), variety (11%), keeping up with trends (5%), and other reasons (6%).


  • There is an increasing demand for athletic footwear in the global women's footwear market which is being driven by a growth in the participation of sports. This could potentially signify sports participation as a purchase trigger for athletic shoes.
  • According to Gerald Storch, CEO of retail advisory firm Storch Advisors, although women are gravitating largely towards comfortable styles of shoes as opposed to high heels, they are still choosing to "wear high heels for fancy events", from which it can be assumed that special events are a purchase trigger for women to buy high heel styles of shoes.


  • When shopping for any types of products in general, women survey respondents cited the following as their main driver for choosing an in-store shopping experience: see and touch the product (33%), take the product home immediately (27%), in-store promotions (10%), overall better prices in-store (about 17%), store associates that can answer questions (about 2%), the ability to return products more easily (about 4%), and for the overall experience of in-store shopping (about 7%).
  • According to a 2018 academic article published in the Journal of Textile and Apparel, a study of female participants found these consumers "do not feel comfortable purchasing shoes online without trying them on". It can logically be assumed that this factor impacts their decision of whether to shop in-store.
  • Among U.S. footwear consumers in general, the primary reason they like shopping in-store is that they can ensure a proper fit (50%). They also note that they like the customer service and assistance they receive in-store when it comes to finding and trying on shoes (22%), the convenience of shopping in-store (20%), and getting to see new trends (7%).


  • This 2009 academic report titled the 'Primary Factors in Consumer Purchase Decisions of Women's Footwear' was uncovered during the research. Although the data from this report was not included in the sections above due to being significantly out-of-date based on Wonder's standards, a link to the report been added here, as it is likely to be insightful for further reading.


Extensive research on the topic of the customer journey related to women's footwear in the United States, specifically as it relates to in-store shopping revealed that up-to-date information on this exact topic is largely lacking within the public domain. Although a number of academic reports were located that zero in on this topic, these reports were found to either be significantly out-of-date or commonly locked behind a paywall, such as this 2009 report titled 'Primary Factors in Consumer Purchase Decisions of Women's Footwear' and it was found that much of this out-of-date info would help to more directly answer this request, it was ultimately determined that this information would be unreliable due to the tendency for consumer attitudes and behaviors to change over time. Although the abstracts and overviews of many academic reports were able to provide some high-level insights concerning this topic, it was difficult to attain a detailed and comprehensive look at this topic given the scarcity of recently published and specific insights. Similar issues were encountered when attempting to locate other types of resources such as market reports, surveys, and trusted media articles written by industry professionals.

One reason why this information appears to be lacking is due to the fact that publicly available information on this topic largely tends to focus on the different elements of this request in a more segregated manner. For example, while there are numerous reports about the consumer journeys of women in general and many surveys about footwear consumers in the U.S. overall, reports that specifically address the intersection of these two are lacking, and becomes even more scarce when the remaining research criteria is applied, such as narrowing down insights to in-store purchasing more. As a result, we were unable to find insights that address all these factors specifically as they relate to independent brick and mortar shoe stores.

Next, we attempted to analyze the customer journey for the consumers of women's footwear in the U.S. at independent brick and mortar stores by researching available insights of the specific customer journey at independent brick and mortar shoe stores where women commonly shop, such as DSW, and then cross-compare these insights with general insights about the consumer journey of women and U.S. footwear consumers. However, this strategy ultimately failed as the available case study data regarding such establishments was found to be highly specific in nature and detailed the more unique and innovative aspects of these stores' specific consumer journeys, rather than providing insight that could logically be assumed to be applicable to independent shoe stores in general.

Since this triangulation attempt failed, the last option we had available (given the overall lack of data on this topic) was to break this consumer segment down into different silos and analyze it through its independent lenses in order to collect bite-sized pieces of related data and information that could be pulled together in order to help collectively illustrate the overarching consumer journey concept of women's footwear consumers in the U.S. who shop in-store. In doing so, we collected any insights that were relevant to customer journeys in any of the following areas: female footwear consumers, footwear consumers in the U.S., and female consumers in general, and female and/or footwear consumers in-store. We also avoided including any insights that are specific related to online shopping (except for a few insights which address the shared overlap in journeys between online and in-store shopping). Although this result did not focus specifically on independent shoe stores due to the issues noted above, we feel the insights collected could logically be applied to this segment as well.
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Shoe Buyer Journey: Families

After searching through numerous credible sources, we were unable to provide information on the typical customer journey families take when buying shoes. It is possible that the requested information is unavailable in the public domain.


  • Both apparel and shoes have transformed from modest products into authentic status symbols for U.S. consumers. Hence, they allocate a sizable portion of their discretionary income to these items. During 2017, the amount of money that the average American shopper spent on footwear was $379.
  • According to Statista, the average annual expenditure on footwear per consumer unit in the United States in 2017 was $165.59 (women), $127.13 (men), $47.97 (boys), and $38.29 (girls).
  • Athletic footwear and clothing have recently become fashionable in the United States, and the segment has undergone steady growth in the area. Athletic footwear produced around $19.6 billion in revenue for the U.S. economy in the year 2017. The average sale price of athletic footwear, as of 2017, is about $58.16.
  • Regarding the purchase of footwear, more than two-thirds (70%) of U.S. consumers select product quality as the feature they care about the most. Also, Nike serves as the most preferred footwear brand among U.S. consumers, and the company claimed the highest share of the footwear market in the United States (17.9%).
  • Some of the prime attributes observed by U.S. consumers while purchasing shoes, especially work shoes, include comfort (34%), style (26%), durability (24%), degree of formality (8%), and safety features (7%).
  • As per Statista survey data published in 2019 (for 2016), physical stores are the preferred retail channel for purchasing footwear among U.S. consumers, and around 67% of customers purchased footwear from brick-and-mortar establishments. Merely 9% of U.S. consumers favored an online medium for buying footwear, while 18% had no retail channel preference when purchasing footwear.
  • As reported by Forbes, around 20% of U.S. consumers conduct online research before making an in-store purchase for shoes and similar categories like men’s and women’s clothing.
  • The typical consumer journey for purchasing from a footwear brand like Nike involves various stages. These stages include Recognition followed by Information Search, Evaluation of Alternatives, and Actual Purchase. The final stage of the consumer journey is typically referred to as Post-purchase Evaluation.


  • Among U.S. consumers buying shoes, around 70% bought performance or casual sneakers. Meanwhile, 17% purchased fashion/dress shoes (e.g., men's oxfords, heels, or flats), and at least 13% wanted to buy a different item.
  • The 2018 survey corroborated the preference for brick and mortar stores to buy footwear. More than two-thirds (66%) of shoppers intended to buy footwear at a physical location and about 35% intended to purchase online.
  • Out of the 66% that wanted to shop at a physical store in Spring 2018, more than half (53%) desired to visit a local chain establishment like outlet or DSW stores, while a paltry 4% preferred local family-owned shoe shops. Additionally, 18% planned to shop at a big-box retailer (e.g., Target or Walmart) while 15% wanted to go to a department store such as Sears.
  • Among U.S. footwear consumers in general, the following were the reported reasons to purchase new shoes as of spring 2018: necessity (39%), cost (39%), variety (11%), keeping up with trends (5%), and other reasons (6%).
  • As of Spring 2018, the primary source of details for U.S. consumers concerning a retailer and their product offerings that influences them to frequent their store include word-of-mouth (33%), paper mailers (11%), TV and radio advertisements (10%), Google ads (9%), e-mail advertisements from retailers (7%), Facebook ads (6%), Instagram (4%), or other sources (20%).
  • "Customer service/help with finding and trying on shoes" was the most liked feature about the in-store shopping experience by 22.2% of U.S. consumers buying shoes in stores. This was followed by convenience/location (19.8%), seeing new trends (6.6%), and "Ensuring proper fit and comfort" (49.6%).


Our research began by scouring through research reports, white papers, and academic journals from McKinsey, Deloitte, Research Gate, Market Radar, Academia, etc. that focused on the footwear market in the United States. These serve as potential sources where various consumer behavior studies and research are published. However, no appropriate information was available. All the information we came across concerned the general processes and steps involved in the consumer buying behavior while shopping for footwear brands. We did not identify any insights into how families in the United States go about making shoe purchase decisions.

Next, we reviewed media articles from Forbes, Business Wire, WSJ, Bloomberg, Reuters, LIve Mint, etc. We also explored for surveys, which typically contain data on consumer behavior and insights, from sources such as Pew Research and Deloitte. Additionally, we consulted specific footwear bodies like Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) and blogs and sites pertaining to the U.S. footwear market such as World Footwear, Footwear News, and Retail Networks. All these, especially surveys, are potential sources where information related to customer purchase behavior, triggers, and, decision points are available. Though we were able to locate some useful insights through this approach, such as the general consumer journey while making shoe purchases, there was no specific information related to families that could be located. We found a survey from FDRA that provided useful insights on U.S. consumer preferences, in general, while purchasing shoes, their preferred destination to purchase, and the various decision-making attributes behind the purchase choice but no information specific to American families as a whole could be found. However, we included them as part of our findings.

In our third strategy, we searched through websites, reports, and blogs of some leading footwear brands such as Reebok, Nike, and Adidas. Usually, companies publish articles and reports on how customers and families engage with their brand, and the typical customer journey while conducting a purchase. We wanted to use these examples to triangulate the information at the household level. However, we did not come across any applicable data. All the information we found catered to the various methods these brands deploy to enhance customer experience, along with the broad stages a consumer endures while making a purchase decision involving a brand like Nike.

We then searched through credible consumer and statistical databases such as Statista, Nielsen Consumer Database, and American Consumer Culture Databases. We wanted to see if any of them have conducted consumer research on the shoe buying behavior of U.S. families as they undertake research on various topics dedicated to consumer behavior. Nonetheless, we were unable to locate pertinent information related to the shoe purchasing journey of families in the United States. Again, general U.S. consumer data points around shoe purchases were available. Also, we tried to search for alternative data points such as parents' shoe buying journey for their children's shoes, but no information as such granular level data was available. All the data pertained to American consumers in general.

Finally, we broadened the scope of the research beyond the standard Wonder's two-year source timeline rule. With this approach, we hoped to find slightly outdated yet useful information in any past surveys or analysis related to the subject, which we could use as a proxy. We wanted to utilize previous research highlighting any shoe buying journey for American families. However, we could not locate relevant past surveys or research reports addressing the topic. Hence, this strategy was ineffective.

Due to the absence of available data, we were unable to provide insights into the typical customer journey families take when purchasing shoes. The primary reason for the unavailability of information could be its niche nature, which may explain the lack of surveys or research studies. Most of the surveys were conducted at a consumer level, and no household level surveys were available to compile/triangulate the requested information.