Volumental’s FitTech technology makes ill-fitting shoes a thing of the past

Volumental aims to modernize the shoe buying experience by helping customers find their right shoe size and recommending suitable shoes. Because shoe standards are wildly inconsistent, shoe returns are a major headache for the retail industry, with 44% of shoppers saying they’ve returned shoes and more than 70% returning shoes for the wrong size. Volumental helped its trading partners reduce returns by 20%, the company said.

Alper Idemir, co-founder and CEO of Volumental, said the technology, called FitTech, matches consumers with perfectly fitting shoes using computer vision, purchase data and AI that has “learned” from 30 million 3D scans of customers’ feet , including Under Armour
UAA
New Balance, Fleet Feet, Red Wing Shoes, The Athlete’s Foot, Stride Rite and Road Runner Sports and more.

With a background in technology, including a PhD in machine learning and AI, Aydemir has worked in NASA’s robotics division and was part of Google
GOOG
Augmented Reality Initiative.

“I guess my heart is in building scalable products and technologies that can solve real-world problems,” he said. “I’m in the fashion, shoe industry. I am solving an important problem. Our vision is to shape a future where everyone exists and what we do is connect people with products that will fit them perfectly. We want to occupy that emotional space. Size is not a number, but a feeling. How it fits and how it makes you feel.”

“This is the future of retail,” Aydemir said. “The first use case is brick and mortar in stores. Within four seconds, you can scan your feet. Then we move on to recommendations. When you incorporate this into email marketing, it doubles the amount of conversions.”

Volumental is now working to bring the experience to mobile phones. “It’s not a trick, you’re learning something about your body. Users open Volumental’s FitTech several times and use it online.”

Clothing is on Aydemir’s mind, but the application of Volumental technology to clothing is not inevitable. “Product development is near and dear to us,” he said. “Some shoe companies have revamped their entire lines based on the scans. If we reach them, it will be by making products that fit better. Instead of giving me the sixth shoe color, why not create more width. Women have to go up a size and sometimes it doesn’t fit.

“We’re having the conversation with some of the biggest brands in footwear,” Aydemir added. “We’re just shoes right now, but we want to get into apparel. I’m a firm believer in doing one thing really well. I really want to do the vertical of the shoes well. We deliver a lot of value to a lot of people. We can take these lessons and apply them to clothing.

FitTech starts by scanning the feet, collecting data on the shape and size of millions of people around the world. This database of 3D foot scans is matched with FinTech purchasing data from Volumental’s commercial partners. Advanced algorithms crunch the numbers to make size and style recommendations. Because shoppers have the ability to create a profile based on their 3D scans, they can quickly be included in loyalty programs and email campaigns.

Alex Tolman, director of retail experience at Fleet Feet, said 75% of the retailer’s customers are scanned when they visit stores. “Consumers are finding that their true shoe size is different than what they thought all along. We get this a lot. One of the most interesting things is that people don’t realize they have wide feet. They are used to wearing shoes that are too long for them, so they get that extra width in the front of the shoe.

“Once we go through the scanning process, we show them that,” Tolman added. “They can wear shoes that fit better with a wide option so they don’t trip over the ends of the shoes. One of the biggest insights we realized was that there’s such an untapped opportunity in width, so we’ve significantly increased what we offer in wide shoes.”

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