Like Prince Charming searching for the right person to fit his infamous glass slipper, so shoppers today often search in vain for footwear that won’t leave them pinched, calloused and desperate for relief. And it’s worse for those who qualify as outliers with feet that are too small, too narrow, too big, too wide.
If fit and sizing are a thorn in the side of fashion retailers, then they’re a porcupine’s quill in the side of online shoe stores where consumers gamble on a sneaker or pump, crossing their fingers that it’ll all work out in the end.
It’s why Zappos is considered a pioneer for offering free shipping and returns as a means of encouraging shoppers to take the risk, without the consequences.
And those fit foibles are why foot scanning is all the rage these days, usually powered by computer vision, machine learning and all of those fancy tech terms. Most innovators in this space have focused their efforts on building high-tech 3-D scanning machines that offer footwear retailers the chance to bring a bit of theater back into brick-and-mortar stores.
But startup Find Me a Shoe is taking a slightly different—and somewhat more low-tech—approach to capturing consumer foot data. All you need, chief product officer Shibari Raje said at the New York Fashion Tech Lab’s Demo Day, is a standard sheet of printer paper 8.5” x 11” and a smartphone with the participating retailer’s app downloaded. With just three snaps of your feet (against the paper backdrop) uploaded to its system via the app, in 20 seconds Find Me a Shoe creates a complete profile of your individual foot so customers can shop in store or online with this saved personal data. There are 27 different types of feet, Raje said, but today most companies design for “maybe one or two.”
“Find Me a Shoe wants to redefine footwear with a virtual fitting service,” Raje explained.
On the brand and retail side, Find Me a Shoe uploads inventory product data into its system via “proprietary technology.” But the real magic happens, Raje said, when the company brings the consumer-facing and back-end together. “We have a patent-pending algorithm that uses style, construction, shape of your foot—the shape of your toes is really important, believe me,” Raje explained. “All of this, we put together and give you recommendations at a very detailed level.”
With all of this data, Find Me a Shoe said the value of its recommendations can eliminate 30 percent of the fit problems that happen when a customer isn’t encouraged to size up or down as needed. Its Fit Quality Score is designed with a True Size Dial indicating whether a shoe runs small, large or as expected. Plus, Find Me a Shoe displays each item’s Fit Probability and the Return Probability so shoppers know just how risky a particular shoe (or a particular size) truly is. Because sometimes a shopper needs convincing that she’s not an 8 as she has always thought, but an 8.5.
Granular data demonstrates to the customer how any given shoe would fit on them—good in the instep, for example, but maybe a bit too snug in the ball girth. Details that specific can be highly persuasive and give customers the confidence they need during the path to purchase.
Raje claims Find Me a Shoe can reduce returns by 58 percent, and to date clients include Vans, Flipkart, Margaux, Global Brands Group and Shoes of Prey. Brands and retailers can opt for the startup’s SaaS model or pay per shoe purchase.