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Footwear Brands Need More Width Options—and This Is the Magic Number

Footwear brands and retailers aren’t offering enough width sizing options to fulfill the needs of the average U.S. consumer, footwear technology firm Volumental found in a new report.

The company, which specializes in 3D scanning and AI-driven footwear recommendations, based its research on scans collected from two million U.S. consumers at more than 600 stores between 2016 and 2020.

The data found the average footwear size of men (size 11) and women (size 9) in the U.S. is being underserved in terms of shoe width options—with only 40 percent fitting into a single width size. It’s an outcome Volumental credited to a lack of data-driven design among footwear companies.

“Retailers know the benefits of leveraging their customer data for personalization efforts from marketing to supply chain to inventory management,” Ales Jurca, vice president of footwear research at Volumental, said in a statement. “But many footwear brands are not incorporating basic data into the design of their footwear.”

There are two solutions to this issue, Jurca said, and the first is to simply produce more width options per size. Then, produce styles that specifically target narrow-width and wide-width consumers.

According to Volumental data, 69 percent of male consumers and 71 percent of female shoppers would find a better fit if offered just one more footwear width option. When five width options are available, 99 percent of American consumers would have a more accurate fit.

For an example of successful data-driven design, the footwear tech company pointed to frequent partner Karhu, a Finnish sports footwear brand Volumental said has implemented data from more than 100,000 scans into its design and manufacturing process.

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Karhu used that data to create another style of its Ikoni running shoe and recently added in subtle fitting design elements such as a more squared toe to provide for more shapes. Another style, the Ikoni HiVo, accommodates runners with large, wide and flat feet.

“Successfully running a footwear brand is more than meeting customer demand,” Karhu CEO, Huub Valkenburg, said. “We need to turn the page on traditional merchandising and embrace personalization.”

That Volumental’s technology allows the brand to incorporate data into its footwear releases, as opposed to “simply adding models,” Valkenburg added.

“The information not only helps us innovate on our existing products and create new dimensions, but it also allows us to revise production numbers for specific sizes and styles,” Valkenburg added.

Volumental is also making a move to further leverage that data with Volumental Engage, a new marketing personalization platform for footwear retailers.

The new platform features e-commerce personalization, personalized promotional emails, personalized promotions based on past purchases, a personalized home page and “shoe tags” that provide sizing advice when shopping online—each feature powered by recommendations based on a consumer’s foot scan data.

Considering the importance of retention in footwear retail marketing, retailers can use a platform like this to continue to grab attention once a purchase has been made in-store or online, according to chief technology officer and co-founder of Volumental Alper Aydemir.

“Volumental Engage provides a platform for footwear retailers to personalize marketing content at every touchpoint to reach their customers with confidence knowing that each recommended shoe will fit their unique size,” Aydemir added.