Online shoe sales have increased dramatically of late – and the U.S. alone is on target to surpass $24 billion this year. However, with all of the style and size options made available online, finding footwear that actually fits, for many, is nearly impossible. In fact, when a consumer shops online for a new style, typically 30-40 percent are returned.
“Finding the right fit is a much bigger problem than you’d think. Online returns are a terrible experience for consumers, bad for the retailer’s bottom line, and awful for the environment,” says Sandi Mines, VP Corporate Engagement, FDRA & FFANY. She continues, “Think about all of the planes, trucks, trains going back and forth unnecessarily every day. As an industry, we need to do much better than this.”
Thanks to Aetrex, a brand widely recognized as a global leader in foot scanning technology, solutions for online fitting are now readily available. The brand’s Albert 3D foot scanners capture complete, accurate 3D data which is essential to helping consumers find the right fitting shoes online.
Aetrex explains the solution to fit all starts with a 3D foot scan. 3D foot data is critical for fit because feet are 3-dimensional – and so are our shoes. Measuring in just one or two dimensions – namely length and width – coupled with the inability to try shoes on prior to purchasing them, creates an urgent need for an online footwear fitting solution.
“The first step to finding the right fit online is getting your feet scanned with a 3D scanner. The second step is combining that 3D data with AI to help customers find the right fitting shoe,” says Kumar Rajan, SVP Engineering, Aetrex, Inc. “Our newest Albert 3D foot scanners capture complete 3D measurements of a customer’s feet— including girth, instep height, arch height and more. And, once a customer’s 3D scan is in our database, a retailer can use our online AI platform called FitGeniusTM to help shoppers instantly find the best fitting shoes, whether they are shopping in store or online,” Rajan explains.
“FitGenius uses a similar AI method to what you’d experience on Netflix, where it recognizes your viewing patterns and offers up recommendations based on other people with similar viewing behavior. With Netflix, you’ll notice the first time you watch a movie that the AI is not that smart. But, the more and more you watch, it learns your behavior. Over time it will match you with other customers who have similar viewing habits, offering programs and films that are the best fit for each viewer.”
Rajan added, “Like Netflix, FitGenius matches you with other consumers with similar 3D foot profiles. And based on their purchase and return histories, recommends the shoes most likely to fit you best. It uses a simple scoring system, like the one you had in school, where a shoe that rates an 85 or above is a great fit for you. And, a shoe that’s a 95 for you, could be a 65 for someone else, and vice versa.”
Designing Smarter Shoes
Aetrex’s global 3D foot data can have an even bigger impact on fit by informing the shoe design process with objective, scientific data.
Until recently, the shoe development process has remained largely unchanged. But with access to global 3D foot data, a better, streamlined, scientific process is available and bound to change the future of footwear development.
Thousands of Aetrex 3D foot scans are captured every day around the world and aggregated into one essential data portal for analysis. This central website is Aetrex’s newly launched Foot.com data portal, which gives participating footwear brands access to a plethora of anonymous global 3D foot data which can be filtered to their needs. Aetrex explains Foot.com helps footwear developers streamline an otherwise less data-driven R&D process. The objective for the data portal is to help brands create better fitting footwear with all of the data they could ever need about feet.
Foot.com marks an exciting time in the footwear industry, says Larry Schwartz, CEO, Aetrex, Inc. “Up until now, footwear designers and product developers have not had access to such accurate, detailed 3D foot data at their fingertips. The data portal was designed to help brands construct highly informed, anatomically correct shoe lasts for a better fit and enhanced performance. Footwear brands can view, review, and analyze global foot data in a central platform to help them design footwear that ‘truly fits’ their customers’ feet.”
Aetrex has identified and calculated 16 key measurements of the foot that are essential to the footwear design process. These 16 measurements are accessible on Foot.com for each foot scan, broken down by gender, shoe size, geography and more. But, Aetrex says these measurements are merely “a starting point,” because their newest Albert 3D foot scanners, namely the Albert 2 Pro and Albert 3DFit, create a highly accurate, 3D reconstruction of the foot from which any dimension can be measured.
As a footwear manufacturer as well, Aetrex can speak directly to the advantages. “We’ve seen the benefits of using 3D data firsthand with the development of our own footwear collections, and we are excited to share this insight with the footwear industry,”says Gregory Starr, Vice President of Product Development, Aetrex, Inc.
Looking ahead, Schwartz says, “As a technology company, we’re always looking to evolve and innovate. This includes enhancements with our hardware for our foot scanning technology, our software, mobile updates – and more.”