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Why Footwear Sizing Charts Actually Don't Work

Posted by Timo Steitz on Oct 14, 2019 7:09:00 PM
Timo Steitz

Are you still “helping” your customers to discover their correct shoe size by presenting them with size charts during their online booking process? Stop right there. Not only are charts some of the most unhelpful shopping tools around, but they can also cripple your UX, conversion rate, and brand reputation. 

Don’t believe us? Keep reading…

A brief history of traditional shoe size solutions

Size charts have been a foundational tool for online shoe shopping. Along with written guidelines and live chats, it’s a tool that can be found on footwear websites across the world. However, as we’ve discovered, they lack consistency and precision, with size charts often failing completely to explain and clarify shoe sizing for potential customers. 

Written guidelines give you more scope for explaining your sizing - but not that much. Research has shown that if your guidelines are more than 5 points long, or take more than 2 minutes to read, you’ll lose the customer’s attention completely.

Live chat is also an option, but the staff members manning live chat are likely to be your customer service team. It’s great they can help out in this way, but their main job is meant to be helping the people who have already bought your product - not potential customers who might. 

If you’re still using size charts as your main tool, it’s time to take a good look at how they’re working. In this article, we’ll examine how traditional size charts could be failing to help your customers, and failing your business too in the process. 

Size chart failure #1

Size information is outdated

shoe size chart - shoesizeme

Does this look like a modern solution? Definitely not! (Image source: Template.net)

When you base your sizing help on existing size charts and information, your customers will soon see that the information is archaic and outdated. The charts look cheap and basic and they’re not actually helpful in determining shoe size (we’ll talk about this in more detail below). Old-fashioned, outdated, and unhelpful - that doesn’t strike us as something you’re going to want to be associated with your footwear brand.

Size chart failure #2

Size charts are confusing

Think back to the last time you used a size chart. It can take several minutes to find the right measurement system and geolocation (centimeters and European sizes, please!). After locating a number of different size possibilities on the chart, you have to stop, find a measuring tape, take off your shoes, measure your foot and return to the chart, only to find that… you’re between sizes anyway. 

There are a few ways this confused customer problem plays out - and none of them are positive. Either the customer takes a risk (and buys 1 size, planning to send it back if it doesn’t fit), buys 2 sizes (with the intention of always returning 1 pair), or leaves the store entirely. Sure, they might then go to your offline store, but that undermines the point of having an online store! Finally, if they do go to an offline store, remember that, after all that, it won’t necessarily be yours...

Size chart failure #3

Modern shoppers expect more

We’re not in the early days of the internet anymore. Customers are sophisticated, and they’re used to great service and great UX. Size charts offer neither. Consulting size charts won’t help your users flow smoothly through your site from product to checkout. 

You can add this to the fact that modern shoppers already have other concerns. We already have to work hard to create a UX that inspires loyalty and trust in customers. Don’t go and ruin all that work by adding a size chart at the very end of a user journey - it could undo all your hard work in designing an attractive shopping flow. There are some amazing new footwear retail sites out there, but the dreaded size chart is dragging them down!

Size chart failure #4

Size charts do not actually work

shoe size charts do not work - ShoeSizeMe-1

Leaving aside concerns about how size charts affect your brand and disturb customer journeys, research has also shown that they simply do not work. More worryingly, customers have learned that they don’t work and are increasingly likely to be turned off by their presence. 

When we carried out our own research, we discovered that after opening up a standard size chart, the customer drop-out rate hit an astounding 90%. We also noticed that when retailers leverage size charts, they often also offer sizing advice like “buy one size up”, or “fits true to size”. That’s helpful in theory, but in practice, it doesn’t work. To “size up” or “fit to size”, you need to be able to identify your base size. That’s complicated by size, model, brands, scales, and markets, meaning this messaging will only further confuse and alienate your customers. 

So, why are retailers still using size charts?

That’s a very good question. There’s ample evidence that they don’t work and kill conversions as a result. Add that to the high cost of returns (another side effect of size problems) and it’s a bit of a mystery why some retailers still include them in their stores.

Though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why size charts still exist, some reasons could be: 

  • They’re cheap, and sometimes even free. 
  • Many other shoe retailers continue to use them (the herd mentality). 
  • Reluctance to change (the “that’s how we’ve always done it” mentality). 
  • Ignorance: businesses simply don’t know that a better solution exists. 

Is there a better solution?

Of course there is - ShoeSizeMe. We’ve created a tool that uses machine learning to understand the defining characteristics of a shoe that the customer perceives to offer a good fit. It then provides accurate sizing advice by analyzing user feedback from millions of other purchases. This creates a modern, fast and accurate solution for the online footwear sizing problem: Users simply have to select the shoe they want to buy, share a shoe model and size that fits them best right now, and our tool will inform them which exact shoe number they should be getting.

But don’t just take our word for it - we’ve got data that proves it works. When online retailers deploy our technology, they see an average conversion boost of 9%, an average reduction in returns of 13%, and an overall boost in average order value. These all add up to an increase in profits too - up to 6% according to our data- and a reduction in support tickets to boot!

Sound good? We think so too. Have a look at how Size Advisor works in real-life case studies. Leading retailers like Görtz and major shoe brands like Lloyd have seen excellent progress by using ShoeSize me - take a look at how they did it.

Download The Case Study

Topics: shoe size tool, sizing solutions, sizing charts, footwear size, shoe shopper experience, customer behaviour ecommerce, online shoe shopping