It looks like footwear retailers should prepare for another returns-heavy holiday season.
That’s what a recent online survey from foot-scanning technology company Volumental appears to indicate. Of the 538 individuals it questioned, 338—or 63 percent—said they plan to buy shoes online during the holiday season; 147 of those said they expect to purchase more than one pair of the same shoe in order to figure out which size fits best and then return the others.
Though plenty of respondents, 41 percent, said they feel extremely or very confident when purchasing online that they will select a pair that fits, 21 percent said they were not so or not at all confident. Thirty-nine percent said they were somewhat confident.
A majority, 57 percent, said they have bought shoes online before and had to return them because they didn’t fit. A full 81 percent said they’d be more likely to shop online with a brand or retailer “if they had technology that could determine the perfect fitting shoe/sneaker for you.”
Volumental CEO Alper Aydemir told Sourcing Journal the results underscore “the broken e-commerce model” in footwear today. “The fact is, online shopping, inconsistent sizing, and free returns have turned homes into private fitting rooms.”
Though Volumental itself has studied and reported on the pervasive issue of inaccurate and inconsistent sizing—of the 69 different Nike styles it looked at, Volumental found only two that fit Nike’s definition of a size 9—Aydemir does not think the problem will be remedied by solving sizing. “If the footwear industry could fix sizing through better design and manufacturing methods, they would have done it by now,” he said. Instead, he said the more realistic solution lay in Volumental’s specialty, fit technology.
“It solves real and relevant pain points for retailers and the shoppers they serve and at a cost/value relationship that is likely higher than just about anything else your teams could be working on,” Aydemir said. “The world doesn’t need you to integrate another payment solution on your website, you’ve figured out [buy online, pickup in store] by now, but a strong fit solution is a huge need both in-store and online.”
Though the in-store sizing solutions Volumental has built its name on will not necessarily help with e-commerce returns, the company has created an app-based version of its service. Unveiled in June but still in beta testing, the mobile application is powered by computer vision-backed 3D foot measurement capabilities combined with measurements and purchase data from approximately 10 million shoppers. An API of the app can be integrated into existing iOS apps for retailers and brands looking to leverage the technology, Volumental said.