This is the first installment of FN’s new weekly column, Tech Tuesdays. Each week, FN will take a closer look at one area of digital innovation and explore how these technologies are changing the way footwear operates. The shoe industry is known for combining heritage craftsmanship with the latest advances: This column will examine that intersection.
Confusion over accurate sizing has been a consistent problem for the footwear industry, one that many companies have tried to solve. Following innovations in scanning hardware, which enabled shoppers to have their feet comprehensively measured in-store, there comes a new range of smartphone-based scanning apps that are making sizing technology more accessible than ever.
“Fit is by far the most important factor in footwear purchases, so people are super enthusiastic about having the power to obtain their correct shoe size via their cell phones,” said Ronen Luzon, CEO of sizing solution MySize. “Even as businesses and cities reopen, there are consumers who will now prefer to shop online, and they’re embracing technology that gives them the ability to determine their correct size at home.”
Hardware solutions from companies like Aetrex and Volumental have been popular pre-pandemic, due to the added experience for the consumer, as well as the advanced amount of data collected for the retailer. But with shoppers commonly choosing the convenience of online over in-store, software-only applications have begun to emerge as a valuable sizing alternative.
For one, the barrier to entry is lower than a visit to a physical location; for both MySize and new sizing app Xesto, the consumer can download a designated smartphone application and gain access to scanning and their foot profile from anywhere. MySize also offers an option to integrate their solution into a retailer’s existing e-commerce presence, minimizing the need for a separate application altogether. Xesto will launch a similar offering in the coming months.
“We are soon releasing a tool for brands and retailers to integrate Xesto Fit into their e-commerce channels,” said Sophie Howe, founder of Xesto. “This will be a direct-from-website sizing experience that will provide shoppers their ideal fit through the 3D AI analysis of the dimensions of their feet and the footwear they are purchasing. The Xesto Fit experience does not ask customers for comparable brand sizes – we make recommendations based on their accurate individual foot profiles and each product’s information.”
This is a critical piece of foot scanning technology, for both hardware and software: mapping the data to existing shoe specifications. MySize partners with brands and gains access to the dimensions of individual styles, which it then compares against the consumer’s foot data in order to suggest the right size. By partnering with the brands themselves, MySize can ensure accurate product data and recommend the right fit – while also benefiting their retailers.
“It’s a definite win-win,” said Luzon. “The retailer gets the obvious benefit of cost reductions (far fewer returns) and increased customer loyalty, but also the lesser discussed, yet incredibly valuable benefit of data. This includes customer location, favorite shoe type, and their shape and size. That information can help them target their customers with more relevant deals, enabling cross-selling and up-selling that would otherwise be impossible.”
At Xesto, the focus has been on the consumer angle first, with retail partners being onboarded in a second wave. Originally, the app included products that had accessible sizing information and that could be easily integrated into the software. There was also a focus on brand discovery: Howe explains that while the company wants to support the entire footwear industry, “we especially want to work with emerging brands with diverse founders and sustainable mandates.”
As the company expands its retail partnerships and gains access to manufacturing sizing data, it believes its recommendations will only become more accurate. This will position it well to support consumers buying for themselves, but also buying for others. Gifting shoes can be a risky endeavor, due to the additional challenge of getting the right size.
“We realized last summer that shoes, an iconic wardrobe piece, are often left out of the gift game because they are so difficult to buy for yourself, let alone someone else,” said Howe. “If someone is shopping for another person, they need to have a very strong understanding of a brands’ typical sizing system. This both limits brand discovery for new brands and does not instill the confidence in the buyer that the item will be a good fit.”
With sizing apps, this uncertainty could be eliminated. Both MySize and Xesto are working to expand their user base among both consumers and retailers; the more partners and products on the platform, the more benefit there is for shoppers.