Who likes taking their kids shoe shopping? Likely not many, especially when they’re really young and squirmy and have little patience for the sitting and fitting required to uncover their correct size.
With their feet growing so quickly and their highly active lives, children need to be sized constantly to make sure they’re wearing footwear that fits properly.
According to one Swiss study presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 65 percent of 250 surveyed children ages 5 to 10 were found to be wearing the wrong outdoor shoe size. A larger study conducted by BlitzResults.com in 2017, garnered similar results, finding that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of kids sported ill-fitting footwear. Most kids 5 years of age and younger see their feet sprout a half size every two to four months. Multiply that by two or three children and parents have a headache on their hands.
And that’s the problem co-founders Eve Ackerley and Carolyn Horner set out to solve with the launch of their new iOS app, Jenzy, named for the “Generation Z” youngsters their tech is targeting.
While many footwear-sizing solutions today cater to the adult market and use sophisticated 3-D scanning, Jenzy takes a decidedly low-tech approach—for a good reason. Leveraging Jenzy’s “known reference model” framework, a parent can open the app and use the camera to take a photo of a child’s foot next to a small object of standard size—something credit-card sized, for example.
The app requires just a single snap to accurately capture a child’s foot measurements within half a size, or 4 mm, and from there, Jenzy’s proprietary matching technology recommends “developmentally appropriate” products from its curated brand partners, including Keen, Mini Melissa, pediped and Plae, with whom the startup has wholesale, drop-ship or hybrid relationships. Horner emphasized that the platform is choosy about the footwear brands that make the cut.
“The brands that we partner with are known for their high-quality shoes that have been designed for a child’s active lifestyle,” Horner said. “We look for brands that are comfortable, well-constructed, affordable and most importantly, kid-friendly.”
Jenzy also puts each new style through the paces when expanding its offering. “When we add a new shoe to our inventory, we take a series of measurements, carefully consider the materials, and then continuously test the fit of our shoes with real kids,” explained Ackerley, who manages the technical side of the Jenzy app. The data Jenzy collects through the new shoe onboarding process forms the basis for its sizing algorithm that helps parents know when their child is a full size in one brand or a half size in another, for example.
Armed with Jenzy’s sizing data for their kids, parents can shop online more confidently with those selected brand partners and skip the shoe-store outing altogether. “Shoe shopping for kids can be time-consuming and frustrating,” said Horner, who handles operations and brand partnerships. “There are few stores accessible that offer shoe-fitting experts and if purchasing online, sizing variability between brands and even within brands make it difficult to determine which size to buy.”
At its core, Jenzy, which serves infants through kids 6 years old (size 13.5), is about enabling a better customer experience for people who have to buy footwear for kids, and so far the numbers show that it just might be achieving that goal. An October 2017 beta test of 100 users converted 15 percent and yielded zero product returns, Horner said. Abandonment, another key metric, was non-existent. Since the app launched nationally about a week ago, Jenzy has been downloaded 100 times. Half of those new users have successfully sized their child’s feet, placing 10 orders—a 20 percent conversion rate, Horner added.
Jenzy plans to introduce three to four new brands for its forthcoming back-to-school collection and is mulling an eventual expansion into the adult footwear market. Ackerley said the company will observe customer feedback over the next months to determine whether to launch an Android version of the app or an interface for the web.