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

Volumental aims to modernize the shoe shopping experience by helping customers find their exact shoe size and recommending the right shoes. Because shoe standards are so inconsistent, shoe returns are a huge headache for the retail industry, with 44% of shoppers saying they have returned shoes and over 70% returning shoes for a fit inadequate. Volumental has helped its retail partners reduce returns by 20%, the company said.

Alper Aydemir, co-founder and CEO of Volumental, said the technology, called FitTech, matches consumers with perfectly fitting shoes using computer vision, shopping data and artificial intelligence, which it has “learned” from 30 million shoe scans. 3D feet from clients like Under Armour.SAU
New Balance, Fleet Feet, Red Wing Shoes, The Athlete’s Foot, Stride Rite, and Road Runner Sports, among others.

With a background in technology, including a Ph.D. in machine learning and AI, Aydemir worked in NASA’s robotics department and was part of GoogleGOOG
Augmented Reality Initiative.

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

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

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

Clothing is on Aydemir’s mind, but the application of Volumental technology to clothing is not imminent. “Product development is near and dear to us,” he said. “Some shoe companies, based on the scans, have renewed their entire line. If we reach them, it will be by making products that fit better. Instead of giving me the sixth color of the shoe, why don’t you create wider? Women need to wear one size up and sometimes it doesn’t fit them well.

“We are driving the conversation with some of the biggest footwear brands,” added Aydemir. “Currently we are just footwear, but we want to address apparel. I firmly believe in doing one thing really well. I really want to do vertical footwear well. We deliver a lot of value to a lot of people. We can take those lessons and apply them to clothing.

FitTech starts by scanning feet, collecting shape and size data from millions of people around the world. This database of 3D foot scans is combined with FinTech purchase data from Volumental’s retail partners. Advanced algorithms process the numbers to produce size and style recommendations. Because shoppers have the opportunity to create a profile based on their 3D scans, they can be quickly onboarded into loyalty programs and email campaigns.

Alex Tollman, director of retail experience at Fleet Feet, said 75% of the retailer’s customers are scanned when they visit stores. “Consumers are realizing that their true shoe size is different than what they thought all along. We understand very much. 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.

“After we go through the scanning process, we show them that,” Tollman added. “They can wear shoes that fit better with a wide option so they don’t trip on the toes of the shoes. One of the biggest insights we got was that there is such a missed opportunity in width, so we significantly increased what we offer in width shoes.”

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