A U.S.-based startup called Neatsy AI makes use of the iPhone’s depth-sensing FaceID technology to predict comfortable sneaker fit for customers via 3D modelling.
Shoe Sizing Issues
Shoe shopping can be pretty difficult when different brands and different locations use different sizing methods. Rather than trying to standardize the entire system, Neatsy has chosen to solve this problem from a different perspective. They have decided to personalize the system to the customer by incorporating a more individualized fit system into their shopping experience. 3D printing has been booming in the shoe industry. We’ve seen shoe-focused initiatives by Feetz, New Balance, and OESH, and an interview with OESH’s Dr. Kerrigan among many other shoe-related stories.
Online retailers face huge costs to handle sneaker returns. This amount is estimated by Neatsy to touch $30 billion annually for ecommerce outlets, when factoring in the costs of logistics and factors like damaged boxes or missing sneakers.
Artem Semyanov, the CEO and founder of the startup, says:
“All in all, shoe ecommerce returns vary among products and shops between 30% and 540%. The most common reasons for this category are fit and size mismatch.”
He explained the issue to TechCrunch:
“According to Zappos, customers who purchase its most expensive footwear ultimately return ~50% of everything they buy. 70% online shoppers make returns each year. Statista estimates return deliveries will cost businesses $550 billion by 2020.”
“A 2019 survey from UPS found that, for 73% increase info shoppers, the overall returns experience impacts how likely they are to purchase from a given retailer again, and 68% say the experience impacts their overall perceptions of the retailer. That’s the drama here!
Retailers are forced to accept steep costs of returns, because otherwise, customers won’t buy Vs. us who want to treat the main reasons of returns rather than treating the symptoms.”
This startup was founded in March of 2019 and has raised $400K in pre-seed funding from angel investors to begin marketing their iOS app. Neatsy’s app was soft launched for iOS back in November, launching officially in December. The app is available now in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Canada, and Russia. Neatsy notes that “3D scanning and customized fit ratings are only available on iPhone X and newer (excluding SE).”
It works by asking the user some simple questions about their sneaker fit preference before providing instructions to the user on how to capture a “3D scan of their feet using the iPhone’s front-facing camera”. This scan is meant to provide the user with a customized fit prediction for a variety of sneakers that are offered for sale in their app. An “individualized fit score (out of five) in green text” is displayed next to each sneaker model.
The App Store explains the functionality:
- Find your size & fit
“Every foot is unique, and sometimes, certain sneakers fit better than others. Using our AI sizing technology, we’ll recommend what size to order for any sneaker you choose, giving you the perfect fit and comfort you deserve.”
- Discover the best fitting shoes
“We track the most popular sneaker releases to suggest the best styles for your particular foot shape and size, ranking comfort using a customized fit rating.”
- Few simple questions to get started
“We’ll ask you to tell us about your favorite pair of sneakers, take your measurements, and provide personalized recommendations for sneakers you’ll love.”
- 3D scanning for exact sizing
“Improve sizing accuracy and discover the most comfortable sneakers for your exact foot shape and size! It only takes 30 seconds, just follow the instructions inside the app.”
Neatsy uses a specially designed machine learning model to interpret the foot scans that users take and provide predictions for a comfortable fit across many different major sneaker brands like Puma, Nike, Jordan Air, and Adidas by scanning the insoles of sneakers, according to Semyanov. He continues to say that the algorithm is being improved consistently based on the feedback they receive from users and the startup claims that it has “secured a US patent for its 3D scanning tech for shoe recommendations”.
The efficiency of their algorithm was put to the test this summer through some commercial pilots. Neatsy reports a “2.7x reduction in sneaker return rates based on size and a 1.9x decrease in returns overall, for a focus group with 140 respondents.”
Other Responses So Far
Larger ecommerce companies like Amazon often choose to address the issue of returns by directing focus towards logistics, the reduction of friction in the delivery process, and speeding up deliveries and returns to reduce hassle faced by the customer, startups have tuned in to the 3D printing side of things. Tons of startups have turned to 3D body models and smart sizing mechanisms to come up with a solution that works for everyone.
Neatsy is going down the same road to solve the sneaker fit crisis by leaning on the iPhone’s sensing hardware that’s easily available. Although the scan only needs to be done once, users must pay attention to specific details (such as the fact that single-block colored socks must be worn during the scanning process).
When Semyanov was asked by TechCrunch about the intentions behind this innovation, he commented:
“Neatsy app is our fastest way to show the world our vision of what the future online shop should be.”
He continued to say that:
“It attracts users to shops and we get revenue share when users buy sneakers via us. The app serves as a new low-return sales channel for a retailer and as a way to see the economic effect on returns by themselves. Speaking long term we think that our future is B2B and all ecommerce shops would eventually have a fitting tech, we bet it will be ours. It will be the same as having a credit card payment integration in your online shop.”