The sale of shoes online has come a long way since the dawn of eCommerce – and footwear continues to help drive innovation in the retail space.
The importance of this area of retail was recently underscored by a move involving a Google veteran. Former Google exec Alessandra Domizi will take the digital helm of Italian shoe and leather company Tod’s on Oct. 14, Reuters reported about a week ago. Domizi, previously fashion and retail lead at Google, will develop Tod’s digital communication and online sales, a key component of the brand’s new “Factory” business model. Headquartered in Marche, Italy, Tod’s said it appointed Domizi as its chief digital and innovation officer in a bid to streamline the company’s ongoing digital transformation.
Digital communication and online sales are a pillar of Tod’s new business model, aimed at attracting younger luxury shoppers. Dubbed Tod’s Factory, the new strategy was launched in late 2017 to reverse falling sales and refresh the group’s namesake brand. It offers new products and more frequent collections, backed by significant marketing investment.
The Right Fit
But that’s not all that’s happening in the brave new world of footwear, one of the most robust areas of retail.
The challenges of finding the right fit motivated Shamil Hargovan to create a new experience for consumers to purchase customized insoles. Instead of forcing them to leave the house to visit a doctor or a store, Hargovan helped to build a system that allows consumers to scan their feet from their smartphones for a custom fitting. They can then order the insoles from the app.
The advantages? “You can buy as many pairs as you want,” Wiivv CEO and Co-Founder Hargovan told PYMNTS in an interview. “[And] you can scan yourself from the convenience of your living room.”
Here’s how the service works: Consumers download Wiivv’s app and then take four pictures: two of the top of their feet and two of the sides of their feet. “That gives us all the data we need to make a custom insole for your foot,” Hargovan said.
Recent innovations in footwear have also come from direct-to-consumer (DTC) shoe brand Atoms. The company, which offers sizes in quarters instead of halves and also lets customers buy different sizes for each foot, has raised $8.1 million in a Series A funding round.
Atoms said offering shoes in quarter sizes instead of regular sizes wasn’t as hard to accomplish as people might think. “We thought it would be challenging, and it wasn’t unchallenging, but the good thing was that many manufacturers were already starting to think about this,” noted CEO Waqas Ali. “Think about it – there has been almost no innovation in shoe-making in the last 30 or 40 years.”
Nike and Voice
The hot area of voice retail is also playing a role in shoe commerce, and likely will grow further during the holiday shopping season and beyond. Nike’s new Adapt Huarache shoes work with voice commands on Siri and Apple Watch, allowing owners to adjust the fit and lace and unlace their sneakers.
This redesign of the 1991 Nike Huarache uses FitAdapt self-lacing technology, similar to the Nike Adapt BB shoes that were announced in January. The latest iteration of FitAdapt allows for more personal preferences, environments and situations.
The new shoes have various presets for the optimal fit for different foot types and activities, which are chosen by selecting an LED light on the sole. They feature the same neoprene bootie and supportive exoskeleton as found in the original 1991 Air Huaraches. The technology is controlled by a multi-faceted Nike Adapt app and runs from a midfoot motor, the company said in a blog post.
Nike also launched Nike Fit in North America, a new service within its app that will scan users’ feet to determine their correct shoe size. The company said it sees a real need for the service, because at any given time, 60 percent of consumers are wearing the wrong shoe size, which can lead to discomfort and even injury. The service launched in the U.S. in May and reached Europe this month. It is available within Nike’s mobile app and in its stores.
Customers can scan their feet using a smartphone at home, then will receive precise shoe recommendations down to the millimeter. In addition to helping its customers find the right fit, Nike plans to use the data from the Nike Fit scans to stock a better mix of sizes at its stores.
Look for more innovation and disruption in this area of retail in the months to come.