The Footwear Industry’s Next Frontier in the Eyes of an Insider

 

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Have you ever thought to yourself - or heard someone say - the phrase, “I love these shoes”? It must happen millions of times a day around the world in dozens of languages. There’s a reason that certain items in our wardrobes become those “go-to” pieces. Part of it might be aesthetics or fashion, but I would argue that it’s mostly about the way these things make us feel. And how they feel has a lot to do with how well they fit. 

But as an industry, we’ve somehow managed to commoditize the function of “fit” and relegate it to mostly a problem to be dealt with, rather than an opportunity to surprise and delight our customers. 

I say the following things with conviction because, over my career, I’ve served in such roles as VP of Global Marketing for Foot Locker, Director of Marketing for Adidas America, and CMO at Fleet Feet, America’s largest chain of Run Specialty stores where, full disclosure, I was also an early customer of Volumental. 

In most retail stores today, we ground the footwear fit experience around a 100-year-old metal contraption - and ever-present tripping hazard - called a Brannock device. Among other limitations of this ancient tech, it only measures two dimensions of a fully 3-dimensional object, the human foot. 

Let’s put that in perspective -We’re flying helicopters on Mars and beaming back videos of the terrain (I know this because our co-founder and CEO, Alper Aydemir, worked at NASA/JPL on this project), but here on earth, we’re mostly measuring feet with a hunk of metal, or worse yet, asking shoppers, “what’s your size?” This is, of course, madness.     

And online, the situation is even worse. In an attempt to avoid fitting confusion, we resort to inaccurate sizing labels and charts. And we handle the problem of wildly unreliable fit recommendations by offering unlimited free shipping and free returns. Also madness. 

The ecological footprint of returned shoes alone has hugely negative impacts on the environment. And let’s not even get started on the impact to our fiscal bottom lines as we ship what could otherwise be productive inventory (in a supply-chain constrained world, I might add) back and forth, around and around. Madness, I tell you! 

But the good news is that there is a better way. 

At Volumental, we’re already solving these problems for omnichannel early adopters worldwide, and you can learn more about that HERE. And now, we’re beginning to scale our full stack of FitTech solutions to those brands and retailers who are either unaware of the possibilities or have been hesitant to bring their footwear shopping experience into the modern era. 

We are actively leveraging computer vision, AI - and the kind of big data that is available within a retail ecosystem that serves millions of customers all over the world - to deliver amazingly fast and accurate footwear recommendations, both in-store and online.  

We hope to educate, motivate and empower you to tackle one of the most important “last frontiers” of customer experience that can truly make a difference to both customer satisfaction and  your bottom line!  

Just as I began this article, we all know that we humans naturally gravitate to those products that truly “fit” us. At Volumental, we’re passionate about the concept that, if customers love their fit, that love translates to more trust and equity for the brands and retailers who can deliver it. After all, like our mantra says, “Fit is not a size, it’s a feeling.”

 

Published by Brent Hollowell, CMO, Volumental


Check out Volumental CMO, Brent Hollowell, in the latest OmniTalk Retail Spotlight Series episode. 

Together with OmniTalk Retail Co-Founders, Chris Walton and Anne Mezzenga, Brent discusses:

  • The value of the foot scanning technology, both for the customer and the associate
  • Where Volumental plans to take the technology next
  • And, most importantly, why the idea of fit tech in a mass market shoe buying experience could end up being retail marketer’s dream!