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Black Mirror: Online Footwear Edition

Posted by Matthew Howarth on Aug 6, 2019 11:39:41 AM
Matthew Howarth

Shoes made from coffee? Virtual reality fitting rooms? Sneakers that can tie themselves? These aren’t outtakes from Black Mirror: they are today’s footwear trends, and there’s only more to come. 

Not only is new footwear tech growing at an exponential rate, but online footwear is also booming too. Growing at a pace of 10% year-on-year (brick & mortar footwear sales are increasing at a paltry 1%), retailers have every reason to continue plugging research and resources into new footwear tech, improved user experiences, and better online services for their customers. 

So far, the market has received new footwear tech - whether embedded within the shoes themselves or in terms of online customer experience - with overwhelming positivity. With high ROI potential, it’s no wonder that retailers continue to push forward in this domain. 

Need an example? Here at ShoeSize.me, our size-free shopping tech has seen awesome feedback. When our customers employ the tech, they see their customers completing more sales processes and buying more (and more expensive) pairs of shoes. When results like that are up for grabs, it’s no surprise that companies are doubling down when it comes to research and innovation. 

Let’s take a look at how the footwear industry is harnessing the power of technology.

Online Footwear Technology Trends Of The future

Size Free Shopping

When it comes to selling shoes online, sizing is the number 1 conversion killer. Why? All over the world, shoe sizing is random and unpredictable - and online shoppers don’t like the risk of new shoes not fitting.

Size Free Shopping offers a new way of buying footwear online. Customers no longer have to take their chances with anarchic sizing and boring charts: Shoesize.me’s Size Advisor tool can give them personalized size recommendations instead by combining customer input with machine learning technologies. It’s not just the customer that benefits from this tool: companies using it see, on average, a 9% increase in conversions and a 13% reduction in returns. The better the result for customers, the more shoes they sell - it really is that simple!

Image Recognition Technology

Ever stopped someone in the street to find out where they bought their shoes? This happens all the time online, but it can be strangely hard to track down models similar to the ones you saw on Instagram, rather than buying the very same shoes. 

That’s where image recognition steps in. Today, the combination of artificial intelligence and image recognition technology is creating tools so powerful that you can take a picture of any shoe that you spot online, in a movie, or even on the street, and they’ll immediately show you awesome suggestions for where to find it online. 

Virtual Fitting Rooms

There are lots of new ways to “try before you buy” being explored by online retailers right now. The virtual fitting room (think of the Sims!) is the latest concept and covers a broad range of different technological deployments - from systems where personalised 3D avatars, created with customers’ individual body measurements, “try on” various outfits, to AR-powered tools that, using a combination of cameras, project clothing onto the user’s real body as if they were actually wearing them. 

It’s fair to say that neither of these technologies has reached widespread adoption or achieved the smoothest customer experience yet. Even so, they have sown the seed and we can expect big changes to filter down to the average website pretty soon. 

Super-personalized Products

nike react presto personalization - online footwear trends - black mirror online footwear edition - shoesizeme-1

Hyper-personalization, especially when it comes to color and design, has seen serious improvements in recent years. Some of the most exciting changes have happened in the sports footwear industry, where brands like Nike have taken the lead.

Nike, and other sports brands, have always been strong on esthetic personalization but they’re now laying the foundations for fit and size as well. The Nike Presto X is a new shoe “silhouette” (not a model), which provides a base for customization using dynamic object tracking and projection systems. Right now, this tech focuses on design, but it won’t be long before it can be applied to other aspects of the shoe, like size or fit. 

New Ways to Pay

Footwear is not the only area facing innovation - traditional online payment systems are undergoing major disruption too. This disruption tends to be divided between payment methods and payment currency - and both areas are coming out with some pretty smooth ideas.

Today, voice control is becoming more and more important in the world of online payments. People use smartphone voice assistants, like Alexa and Siri, to do pretty much everything online. Indeed - if people are increasingly using Alexa to find their train tickets, it’s no surprise that they also want her to be able to pay for them too. 

As a result, banks are realizing that they need to start supporting voice payment: early adopters like Amazon Pay are already racing ahead and traditional banks understandably do not want to get left behind. And once banks are on board, even smaller retailers will be able to get in on the voice control action.

Customers are not only looking for more convenient and diverse payment methods nowadays: they also want to be able to pay in a range of currencies. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based payments, for example, may still be on the fringe of widespread adoption but they are increasingly being used for more standard, everyday payments. Big retailers - NewEgg, Shopify Stores, and Microsoft, for instance - now all accept Bitcoin payments, signaling that many other companies may follow their lead in future.

Drone Deliveries

drone deliveries - online footwear trends - black mirror online footwear edition - shoesizeme

Instant drone delivery is, admittedly, still in its teething stages but there are signs that it may take off (no pun intended!) in a big way pretty soon. When it does, it’s likely to revolutionize how online goods are delivered, particularly in terms of last-mile deliveries. 

While Amazon has been struggling to get its instant delivery drone service, Prime Air, off the ground (quite literally), Google has already started trialling its Project Air delivery services in parts of Finland and Australia. Zipline, the drone service for emergency medical supplies, has also been in action in parts of Africa and beyond since 2014. There are, of course, a huge number of little issues that still need to be ironed out before instant drones can become a ubiquitous delivery method - as Amazon’s struggle to officially launch the Prime Air service reveals. Now that Google has actually launched its service though and Amazon is (seemingly) about to, it won’t be long until almost any retailer will be able to offer “by drone” in their list of delivery options. Imagine how convenient online shopping will be then!


As you can see, the advancement of new technologies has produced developments that will revolutionize retail, including online footwear shopping. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of all this innovation is that although all of the technologies we’ve mentioned are new and interesting, none of them are mind-blowing, per se. 

This isn’t a criticism - the fact that all these ideas seem reasonable to the average customer means that they are very, very close to becoming mainstream. For most, only a few subtle changes stand between the tech and real-life use and, once we begin to see mainstream adoption, it won’t be long before the benefits spread across the sector and beyond.

The main benefit for customers is the opportunity to become more autonomous when buying online. Technology is moving retail towards a point where customers will be safe in the knowledge that their purchase will just “work”, rather than the state of perennial hope we live in today - hoping the shoe will fit, hoping the store will accept our payment, and hoping we’ll manage to be there for the delivery. 

Once hope has turned to confidence, there’ll be no more barriers for today’s online shoppers and the online footwear industry can superpower its journey from strength to strength. 

Size Advisor in Action

Our Size Free Shopping tool is already out there actively helping footwear retailers to avoid the shoe size conversion killer - the risk of buying the wrong size shoe. Aside from increasing sales, Size Advisor also has other positive impacts on retailers’ bottom lines: companies that use Size Advisor generally see a reduction in customer service inquiries, an increase in order value, and an overall boost in revenues of around 4 - 6%? If you’d like to explore how Size Free Shopping works, feel free to download our LLOYD case study, available here.


Download The Case Study

Topics: shoe shopper experience, online shoe shopping