3D Scanning For Ecommerce, Part 2: Finding The Right Footwear

Charles Carriere
President & Co-founder
June 22, 2020

In our previous blog post, we looked at the way fashion ecommerce is evolving to allow AR and VR interaction with customers through 3D scanning apps. Today, we’re taking a closer look at one of the most promising categories for fashion retailers when it comes to 3D printing: footwear.

In the US alone, total online footwear sales are expected to reach $15.4 billion in 2020, and the sales volume has grown consistently year-over-year. Regardless, the footwear ecommerce market is hampered by some common yet seemingly intractable issues that keep us from exclusively buying our shoes online. Just as the nature of the wider fashion industry is changing, so too are major shifts in the way we buy footwear accelerating to meet demand. Here’s how.

A Mile In Your Shoes

One of the key advantages of online shoe stores is the ease of shipping. From boots to sandals to high heels and beyond, virtually every kind of shoe is designed to be durable, comfortably handling our weight and gait for months or even years of daily use. You may order a pair of shoes from a warehouse or store thousands of miles from where you live, yet the products almost always show up in pristine condition, with only a bit of newspaper stuffed into the interior.

The hardiness and easy shipping of footwear are some of the main advantages of selling these products. The key disadvantage, however, is size. Just because a pair of shoes is advertised as being size 8 doesn’t mean it will fit any better or worse than a pair of size 9s, even on the same feet. With thousands of brands and manufacturers, finding a pair to fit your unique foot size, width, and arch is essentially a gamble.

This difficulty is borne out in the data. Estimates on return rates for online shoe orders reach as high as 50%, and cut a substantial amount of profit from any company’s bottom line. So far there’s been no way to substantially mitigate this issue - shoe retailers like Zappos simply have to offer free returns as a matter of course.

The only real way to reduce this issue is to ensure a proper fit before the item is shipped. In a brick and mortar retailer, salespeople use Brannock devices to measure a proper fit. When buying online, 3D scanning serves a similar purpose.

Modern iPhone apps make use of a user-facing or world-facing sensor to properly outline one’s foot from heel to toe, creating an accurate representation of the shopper’s build. This scan can then be sent to the retailer to ensure the shoes offered are the right size for every customer, thereby reducing returns while expanding sales.

The Right Foot, The Perfect Fit

Custom orthotics are a popular choice among footwear buyers. These products require one or more in-store consultations, where a professional measures the dimensions of a customer’s foot to design a custom insole fitted to the wearer.

Purchasing custom orthotics online works similarly to the process of buying mass-manufactured shoes. However, instead of a seller matching your shoe size to their inventory, a retailer would instead have an entirely custom product created for far less than the current cost.

The in-store visits to get an orthotic today cost money and time, both for the designer and for the customer. There are overhead costs associated with renting a store in the mall where consultations can take place - these costs are eliminated via ecommerce. One study found that 3D-printed orthotics cost as little as $65 - a small sum to pay for shoes perfectly molded to your feet that can last for years.

These changes are up and coming and will add an entirely new dimension to the way we shop online. If you’d like to be part of the change for yourself,  sign up for our Roux SDK to start building today. For businesses without a software development team, our Formed app can bring 3D scanning tech into your ecommerce in less than a week, without a custom app, reducing costs and adding a level of service beyond your customers’ expectations.

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