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Success Story: How 2 Million Foot Scans Took Fleet Feet from Shoe Recommendations to Insole Personalization

Success Story is a Sourcing Journal feature highlighting innovative solutions across all areas of the supply chain. 

Three years ago, Fleet Feet sought to gain a better grasp on the foot measurements of its clientele by implementing Volumental’s 3D foot scanners  across its entire slate of stores. But in the time since, the footwear retailer has been able to build on these measurements to match the right shoes with the right shopper, while also improving the comfort of the insoles it offers.

Since establishing what it calls its “Fit ID” outfitting process, powered by the Volumental technology, Fleet Feet has collected biometric data from more than 2 million shoppers that have used the 3D foot scanners in its stores. In less than five seconds, the state-of-the-art scanner takes precise measurements of a shopper’s foot length, width and arch height based on 12 key data points, then creates a profile that store associates can match with a recommended shoe.

More importantly, Fit ID has enabled Fleet Feet to discover details that give them a more accurate understanding of overall shopper footwear needs. For example, the retailer determined that 20 percent of its customers have at least a half-size difference between their feet. The company also discovered that women, more times than men, require a more narrow or wider shoe than the average.

A Volumental 3D foot scanner.
A Volumental 3D foot scanner. Fleet Feet

This data discovery ended up being a major catalyst in the company’s decision to go beyond its static measurements to better personalize the footwear buying experience. In September 2020, Fleet Feet decided to dig deeper into the possibilities of the Volumental technology by integrating dynamic pressure mapping, which can measure the unique foot path and weight distribution of each foot.

Using the dynamic data captured in store, Fleet Feet could not only recommend shoes, but offer personalized ME3D footwear insoles from Superfeet as well. These 3D-printed insoles are sculpted to match the natural contours of the arches and heels of each individual user. Each individual insole has five independent zones tuned to adapt and respond to the way the foot moves.

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Static vs. dynamic

Inside Fleet Feet stores shoppers have a choice of measuring via the original static method, where they just stand on the platform, or the dynamic pressure mapping system, where they walk across a 3.5-foot-long force plate. Fleet Feet outfitters can capture that data in seconds before sharing it with the customer using an iPad.

“We now have the ability to capture both static and dynamic data points for each person’s feet and then to showcase both of those visualizations to our customers,” said Victor Ornelas, director of brand management at Fleet Feet. “That’s powerful information to use both in arriving at recommendations on products and identifying to the customer what we’re seeing and how those observations and points are informing those recommendations. This combination of 3D scanning and dynamic mapping is like a one-two punch that really allows our customers to ‘see their feet the way we do,’ and provides a level of transparency and detail that helps further establish our trust and credibility as a specialty retailer.”

“From a brand standpoint, the dynamic pressure mapping hardware itself allows for a robust conversation between our outfitters and customers in regards to the benefits of both personalized and trim-to-fit insoles for performance, comfort and pain relief,” said Ornelas.

Via its partnership with Fleet Feet, Superfeet uses the 3D and pressure mapping data gathered in store to 3D print each ME3D insole in its U.S. manufacturing facility in Ferndale, Wash., before shipping it out to the customer. The facility has prototyping materials, 3D printers and machines with the flexibility to manufacture from a single custom pair of insoles up to thousands.

Based on the data collected by Fleet Feet, each Superfeet insole has five independent zones tuned to adapt and respond to the way the foot moves.
Based on the data collected by Fleet Feet, each Superfeet insole has five independent zones tuned to adapt and respond to the way the foot moves. Superfeet

But Ornelas noted that the value of the partnerships with Volumental and Superfeet goes well beyond personalizing insoles, especially given the vast amount of product Fleet Feet hosts across channels.

“As much as it’d be nice for the bottom line to sell every customer a $150 personalized insole, that’s not in the best interest of our customers,” Ornelas said. “Our mission is to find solutions for our customers, and now we just have another solution to offer that also accentuates our existing in-store insoles.”

Ornelas acknowledged that the major opportunity for Fleet Feet is in “scaling what happens physically in-store, outfitter-to-customer, every day in 180 plus locations, and to the masses via strategic, omnichannel touchpoints.”

The “enhanced” version of Fit ID initially debuted at a time when shoppers were still hesitant to shop in stores or try on shoes due to Covid-19 exposure fears. But it appears as more consumers regain comfort with the fitting room experience, Fleet Feet stores stand to beneit. Not only are more shoppers returning to stores, but the Volumental tech promotes social distancing, giving Fleet Feet the option to reduce the level of contact between store associates and customers.

“Usage of Volumental’s 3D scanner as part of our Fit ID outfitting process remained a cornerstone of our heightened experience throughout, with enhanced measures around social distancing, high-touch area cleaning, and the implementation of appointment-based scheduling to help control customer flow,” Ornelas said.

Ornelas indicated that during the earlier stages of the pandemic, Fleet Feet’s digital and retail operations teams quickly helped the retailer roll out additional shopping services like curbside pickup and virtual outfitting appointments. Having the customer’s prior foot scan to reference during the appointment came in handy, especially as Fleet Feet seeks to increase loyalty among its consumers.

“All of this is wildly important in retention efforts and keeping customers engaged after their first purchase so we stay top-of-mind,” said Ornelas. “But it’s also really important in reaching new customers and defining what it is that Fleet Feet can provide—data-driven insights, personalized solutions, premium products and ongoing support and unique experiences.”