As Nike change their strategic business model and move more towards a Direct to Consumer proposition, they’ve started to encounter an issue that’s hit retailers as part of the move to online selling – high return rates due to poor fit. So how are they adapting their business model, products and services to address this issue?
Footwear has always been a particularly difficult field when it comes to getting the fit right. Your feet are probably the most complex part of the body to put something on, due to the both the varied 3-dimensional size and shape of the foot, and also the way that it moves and bends and flexes. We’ve all bought a pair of shoes in theory are the right size, but just don’t feel right on your feet. And when so much movement and stress goes through your foot in the day, particularly if you’re taking part in exercise or sport, this can be amplified further.
To counter this, and following their acquisition of Israeli tech firm Invertex in 2018, Nike have introduced the Nike Fit functionality to their app to allow their consumers a better chance to order the right sized shoe for their feet. The tech allows the purchaser to use the app on their phone to take a 3D scan of their foot, which is then analysed within 15 seconds and the correct size for the sneaker that has been selected is presented. Depending on the shape of your foot, and the shoe that you want to buy, this could be up to 2 sizes different from what you believe your usual size to be.
We’ve seen Nike allow their customers to personalise their products through the likes of Nike ID, but this provides an additional layer of personalisation without having to introduce high costs into the supply chain, actually stripping costs out by reducing returns due to the wrong fit being purchased AND increasing brand loyalty and repeat purchases with improved confidence in buying the right size.
Interestingly, this is not a new concept. Companies such as Start-Rite shoes have had this technology for several years. Their app requires you to print out a 2D grid to put under your foot to calibrate distance. With the advances in mobile phone cameras, particularly dual cameras that can now sense depth and therefore create accurate measurements, the requirement to use anything in addition to a phone is no longer required, further reducing any barriers to adoption.
Looking further back, Clarks shoes deliberated long and hard about selling kids shoes online around 10 years ago. Having always prided themselves on their proposition of measuring kids feet in stores to maintain foot health in growing feet, to suddenly move to selling shoes online was somewhat at odds with this ethos. Rather than miss out on the online opportunity, common sense prevailed and Clarks moved to selling kids shoes online, but in order to ensure that consumers would order the right size for their children’s feet, they developed a small shoe measuring device that customers could order online and have delivered to their home. They figured that if the consumer couldn’t Clarks shoes for their children online, they’d order from somewhere else.
Taking this to the next stage and to continue to encourage store visits, Clarks introduced the iPad gauge in stores, both to bring their customer proposition up to date, but also to actually allow them to start to collect footwear measurements that could then be fed into the development process and eventually the buying process. With multiple lengths and widths of shoes, this meant that shoes were developed to the right shape, and purchased in the right quantities across the size range. Whilst this only collates data only in 2 dimensions, length and width, this data would have historically not been gathered through the previous manual gauges in the store.
So whilst Nike’s new Nike Fit capability is not a new concept, they have innovated on existing ideas and are taking it to the mass market to meet the needs of their evolving business model.
From a customer point of view, the increased confidence in getting the fit right first time will drive customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and repeat purchases.
For Nike, they’ll also improve their margin through lower ecommerce returns and be gathering huge amounts of data to improve their development process, buy the right size curves for each shoe, and create even more personalised experiences for their customer.
In terms of a business model, a definite win-win