How E-Commerce Can Reduce Both Shoe Returns And Environmental Effects



A mobile 3D foot scanning app can help solve some of the biggest e-commerce challenges for footwear brands: the online fitting experience, the dreaded returns, and the resulting environmental waste.

During the 2020 pandemic, many trends that were already taking place in retail sped up and benefitted shoppers by making their experience more convenient and safer. Trends like appointment scheduling, curbside pick up, and contactless payments, to name a few.

Yet, one negative uptick for online consumers, retailers, and the environment - fit-based returns due to inconsistent sizing and free return policies. Both fit-based and free returns created a perfect storm of an unsustainable return culture for online shopping.

How did the return culture emerge and become a significant factor in environmental waste?

Free returns coupled with inconsistent sizing, said Susan Cullinane, a professor at the University of Gothenburg's School of Business, Economics, and Law.

According to Cullinane, "almost no-one dares to charge for returned goods." In her report, Substantial Environmental Impact From Returned Goods, the return culture started because of free return policies and inconsistency in sizing, both harming the environment."

For example, an avid sneaker buyer with size 9 feet understands that receiving a comfortable fit could mean ordering several sizes while relying on free returns. These extra orders are sent back using the free return policies contributing to extra transport and boxing materials.

How To Solve Footwear Fit Inconsistencies?

"Shoe fit measurements are a challenging task," says Ales Jurca, VP of Footwear Research at Volumental. Shoppers often try on at least five pairs of shoes before finding a comfortable fit."

That's correct, five pairs of shoes because of the sizing inconsistencies between brands.

Online shopping, inconsistent sizing, and free returns have turned homes into private fitting rooms and contribute to environmental waste. The average e-commerce return rate is 2-3 times higher than in-store. However, bracketing and free returns are not sustainable solutions for the environment, customer confidence, or a brand's reputation. Brands who understand this have already started to implement fit technology into their shopper's journey.

The good news is one survey revealed that 88% of consumers are interested in purchasing from companies that have sustainability initiatives. 

But how much does the retail industry contribute to environmental waste?

Shoe recommendations for millions of shoppers by leveraging a combination of 3D foot scans, retail purchase data, and AI.

Can A 3D Mobile Foot Scan App Solve Fit for E-commerce?

Yes, it's absolutely a game changer to implement a mobile fitting solution.

Brands that can deliver an accurate online shoe fit can help reduce returns and ultimately contribute to sustainability initiatives and shopper confidence. 

Standardizing shoe sizes is nearly impossible with the myriad of complex manufacturing processes. Instead, brands are implementing and raving about how AI technology helps shoppers with fit recommendations.

"Retailers can apply digital technology to help customers make better choices while shopping," says Cullinane.

Accurate size recommendations using a digital foot scan can help retailers:
  • Reduce shoppers from bracketing,
  • Reduce packaging waste, and
  • Reduce drive time for returns

If you want to increase the value of your existing customers offer them trust in fit and your sustainability initiatives.

To help bring an in-store FitTech™ experience to online shoppers, Volumental developed a 3D mobile foot scanning app using computer vision and artificial intelligence to solve fit recommendations. When brands implement digital technology, shoppers can have more confidence finding their exact fit in each brand and style and help reduce online returns while helping to reduce environmental waste.