Volumental, FN Discuss ‘The Right Fit’ in Thought Leaders Lab

Swift, streamlined simplicity characterizes what customers seek from shopping experiences — and Volumental, a technology company that offers a fully integrated suite of 3D scanning and data tools to optimize fit, are leading that charge in the footwear segment.

In a recent “Thought Leaders Lab: The Right Fit,” Fairchild Studio’s executive editor, Arthur Zaczkiewicz, was joined by Alper Aydemir, CEO at Volumental; Mike VanGoethem, senior product director and GM at Red Wing Shoe Co.; and Rick Lania, senior manager, digital product management at New Balance, to discuss the primary challenges and pain points around sizing in the footwear segment.

Volumental aims to “reinvent the fit experience” through its scanning technology solutions for footwear, which includes its 3D Retail Scanner and complementary mobile app that enhances the customer journey and helps guide the shoe shopping experience for retailers.

Aydemir said that sizing in footwear is “a very complex problem and it’s kind of a mess, if I’m being honest. There are sizing differences between brands, obviously, but also within brands, and even sometimes within the same style.”

Lania added that returns, especially for online shoppers, is a significant problem industry-wide. “It does vary across the regions, but we have some markets in Europe that see really sizable bracketing — when people buy multiple sizes and then return the ones they don’t wear. It is a big cost factor for us that we have to try to minimize as best we can.”

Bracketing is a major pain point in footwear due to its commonality, and Aydemir said that it contributes to the further destruction of our planet. “We know that size and fit is the top reason for these returns,” he noted.

And speaking on behalf of the product side, VanGoethem said that there’s an inconsistency within the footwear industry in sizing standards, “even in how people build products, and where they build products, and it creates a lot of variability for the consumer.”

“There’s also some antiquated methodology, or technology, in terms of how we capture fit for a consumer,” he said (i.e., standard foot measuring tools such as a Brannock Device, the metal shoe sizer most are familiar with that can only measure length and width).

Volumental foot scan data being shown to a customer by a sales associate
CREDIT: Aurora Horwood / Volumental

“There are better options available to capture consumer fit,” VanGoethem explained. “A consumer’s fit, as it relates to their sizing, is not just length and width — you have to look at the whole foot and the variability within the foot. We’re trying to give the consumer a better representation of what fit actually means, and it’s the whole foot, and even the variability between feet.”

Added complexities are emphasized online, such as mere personal preferences for size or fit that cannot be determined without trying shoes on, Lania added. And nuances beyond fit, such as functional end-use, are baked into the consumer journey, VanGoethem said, as shopping for footwear intended for a particular purpose or type of fit is difficult to accomplish online.

It’s why Volumental’s solution is a panacea to the problem: When a full 3D shape of a foot is captured with less than a millimeter of error, you’re able to extract at least a dozen measurements that inform the fit. Algorithms learn what to recommend based on past consumer data, and they learn what to suggest for specific foot types.

Aydemir says that in terms of value propositions, the company considers three major things for retailers: acquiring customers, retaining them and continuously creating positive customer experiences.

“It’s not uncommon to see 98% of people who get scanned to leave their email address and create a profile. The value proposition is that you’ll get this 3D [image] if you create the profile,” and “it’s a very compelling piece of data,” he added.

As far as retention, it’s all about customized conversations with shoppers. After a profile is created, all communications are personalized to the customer, and Aydemir said that shoppers generally access the 3D scan of their foot about five times over the course of several months, and the overall experience is shareable and exciting. “Our job is to make this data even more useful to them,” he noted.

VanGoethem added that the data can be taken a step even further. “For us, on the product creation side, we’re able to use some of that scan data and segment it however we would like to influence future product design and development — which, from a circular standpoint, just goes back and benefits the consumer.”

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