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How New 3D Shoe Fitting Technology Minimizes Online Returns

Walk by any suburban front porch or urban apartment lobby, and there’s a good chance the piled-high shipping boxes contain lots of footwear—both inbound purchases ordered in extra sizes for home try-ons, and others returning to sender, rejected for their faulty fit. Could this inefficient system, with all its wasted time, packaging and environmentally damaging shipping emissions, be alleviated?

Easier said than done, as brand sizing varies widely, and the e-commerce surge circumvents the store associate with traditional measuring tools. But foot scanning technology leader Aetrex, which entered the foot scanning business in 2002, aims to revolutionize the shoe fitting process in-store and online with the introduction of its newest scanner.

Called the Albert 3DFit, the smart 3D scanning technology is laser-focused on footwear fit and is more accessibly priced than competitive scanners on the market. The all-in-one Albert 2 Pro, which Aetrex launched last year, is geared more toward fitting both orthotics and footwear, collecting 3D measurements and pressure data via a pressure plate. The Albert 3DFit, delivering this fall, combines accurate 3D foot measurements and AI footwear matching technology, helping consumers find their best fit for fashion, sport and everyday footwear. “The combination of 3D fit measurements with AI shoe fit technology can provide dramatic improvements in offering recommendations that truly fit,” says Larry Schwartz, CEO of Aetrex Worldwide.

In store, the customer stands on the scanner and has his or her feet scanned in under 10 seconds. The system captures size nuances—with accuracy up to 1mm—into a 3D scan that retailers can email and store digitally. On the spot, the store can use the data and AI technology to make footwear suggestions to the sales associate, which in turn speeds up stockroom search time.

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Schwartz explains how consumers benefit from the technology outside the store as well, offering them the omnichannel experience they’ve come to expect. “From this point on, whenever that customer logs onto that retailer’s website, they’ll be able to have a customized shopping experience based on the 3D reconstruction of their feet. We call our AI platform FitGenius, and it assigns a FitGenius score to each shoe a consumer looks at on a participating retailer’s website.”

Service with experience

The Albert 3DFit scanner adds a level of interaction and high-tech geeky fun to the in-store experience, at a time when consumers are demanding experiences. “The user interface and user experience are seamless,” says Schwartz. “Our tech development team is the largest in the industry and includes computer vision and AI engineers. These are the type of tech developers that work in robotics and on driverless cars.”

Aetrex benefits from an Apple-like engineering model where the development for both hardware and software is executed by one team. This brings many advantages to the product line such as an integrated, seamless product experience.

The technology isn’t designed to be self-service in stores, notes Schwartz, but the product’s Learning Center is consumer facing. “It’s designed to help answer questions that a consumer might have about their feet, the technology or about certain shoes,” says Schwartz. “We put a lot into the interface and experience to make this an engaging experience. The technology can be easily operated on the store’s iPad, taking up less space in store.”

Benefits beyond the scan

Brands and retailers can use the foot scan data from Albert 3DFit to create highly targeted digital marketing messages, for example, pushing out footwear styles designed for people with a low instep height to the appropriate customers. “Since the system collects consumer emails with the scans, the retailer can conduct smarter and more effective marketing,” says Schwartz.

The information collected from the scanner can also be used for research and development. “There’s a lot of interest in 3D scanning from the R&D side of footwear design,” says Schwartz. “Suddenly, designers aren’t in the dark anymore.”

The scanner also boasts voice activation software, a convenient way to help service customers in-store, using the Albert character’s voice. The 3D animated Albert character really comes to life in the Learning Center where he can answer any questions on foot health or a customer’s foot scan.

One of the more substantial benefits of consumers learning their 3D foot measurements more accurately is it can mitigate returns, one of the largest thorns in retailers’ sides. Money saved right there helps with ROI on the scanner.

“At a price of $1,995, it’s the first time that this level of technology is affordable to all retailers,” says Schwartz. A monthly SaaS fee of $150 per month includes in-store training, ongoing field service, support, and more.

To learn how Aetrex offers retailers the future of foot scanning with the Albert 3DFit, click here.