How Xero Shoes have consistently grown at 80%+ for nearly 10 years. With Steven Sashen. (episode 188)

Steven Sashanis the co-founder and CEO of Xero Shoes. They launched in November 2009 and have consistently grown at 80%+ per year and in 2017 achieved sales of over $5.5m.

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About the business

xero podcast
  • eCommerce Business Structure – Online Only, B2B and Wholesale
  • Product Range Scale – fairly niche
  • On Woocommerce
  • Based in the USA, selling worldwide

Listen to learn how Steven got started in eCommerce.

Xero Shoes started by accident. When Steven got back into sprinting after a long hiatus in his mid-forties, he was consistently getting injured. When a friend suggested he try running barefoot to figure out the problem, the first prototypes of Xero Shoes were born. Similar to the tire sandals made by the Tarahumara people in Mexico, Xero shoes offered a modern answer to the barefoot running phenomenon.Originally conceived as a DIY sandal kit, customer demand drove the development of more products and is the foundation for the extensive line today.

Focused Comfort

Steven’s top priority for Xero Shoes has always been human comfort. Sandals like those offered by the company have been around for thousands of years, but the development of a modern version was the catalyst that built a devoted clientele. The team developed the shoes knowing that big manufacturers weren’t focused on comfort as much as tradition and aesthetics. Because feet have a significant percentage of the body’s bones and joints, they are especially susceptible to pain and injury. By allowing the feet to flex and touch the earth, Xero Shoes eliminate discomfort and as Steven says, are ‘addictively comfortable.’

Listen to learn how Xero Shoes utilizes WordPress with WooCommerce.

From Humble Beginnings to Big Growth

Xero Shoes started in the spare bedroom of the house Steven shares with his wife, who also happens to be his business partner. The first website was built in a single evening using WordPress and the company continues to use the platform. For the eCommerce component, they use WooCommerce on top of WordPress and attribute their success primarily to smart SEO strategies. Because WordPress was never conceived as an eCommerce platform, Steve and his team rely on a number of widgets and plugins to keep things moving smoothly.

Favorite WordPressStrategies, Plugins and Widgets

  • Appropriate page caching and using HTML up to the actual cart.
  • Algoia to speed up back-end product searches and front-end site searches.
  • for collecting reviews easily. Stamped is as powerful as well known products, but less expensive with great customer support.
  • ShipHero for warehouse management software. The team needed to optimize warehouse optimizations and found ShipHero to be the best solution. They are working with Canvas Technology to integrate the software with a responsive robot cart to make the warehouse more efficient.

Listen to learn how Xero Shoes competes with bigger brands.

Combinations for Growth

The key to a successful business, according to Steven, is simply putting one foot in front of the other every day. One thing the company is keeping a laser focus on is that online footwear purchasing is expected to grow from 20% to 50% in the next five years.Understanding the nuances of digital marketing allows smaller businesses like Xero Shoes to stay visible in the online marketplace. Besides hard work and time, Steve shares a few events that have helped the company speed up its growth.  

  • Xero Shoes appeared on the program Shark Tank in 2013 which made a big impact on brand awareness and drove growth for the company.
  • Steven made one particularly strategic hire from a social connection. The retired footwear designer from Crocs came on board to help with design and development.
  • Selling on Amazon—no small feat in a closed category—accounts for 25%-30% of the company’s overall sales.

eCommerce Book Top Tips

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Using as a research tool for SEO. Steven recommends looking at what customers are asking, answering those questions and then spreading and repurposing that content across all mediums.

Tool Top Tip

  • 8’ x 5’ White Board
  • 8’ x 5’ Cork Board

Growth Top Tip

  • Figure out how to master paid search. If you can’t get in front of people who don’t know you exist, you won’t make it.


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