It can be difficult to buy a pair of shoes online, and if you have a high instep, wide feet, or a bone spur, the problem is exacerbated. It is common for customers shopping online to buy two sizes of the same model so they can try them on at home and return the pair that doesn’t fit.

The size of the problem is considerable, with half of all shoes bought online being returned. The primary reason for these returns is a poor fit or wrong size — a staggering 75%!

There is a significant cost to these returns. In Europe alone, 330,000 tons of CO2 emissions are created every year by people returning shoes. Returns and re-shipments cost the industry €10 billion annually and cost customers a cumulative 275 million hours — an average of 32 minutes per return — per year. And this doesn’t account for the amount of waste that is generated, including the additional packaging involved and items that are returned but cannot be resold.

On the customer side, some people only discover a pair of shoes doesn’t fit well when they wear them out for the first time, after which they are unable to return them. What happens to these shoes? Some will be listed on peer-to-peer secondhand sites but others will sadly go to landfill, where 22 billion pairs end up each year.

The global online footwear market is thriving, with a market size valued at US $99.1 billion in 2021 and a predicted growth rate of 6.8% from 2022 to 2028. According to a study by Quantis, the footwear industry currently responsible for 1.4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Additionally, 77% of people believing the shoe industry should do more to reduce its level of waste. The market is crying out for an innovative approach to scale down waste.

Enter German startup Footprint Technologies. The company has stepped up to the challenge of reducing waste in the footwear industry through the development of an innovative solution that benefits the customer, the planet, and the industry as a whole.

Using technology based on artificial intelligence (AI), shoppers can now scan their own feet to a high degree of accuracy and match it to find the perfect fit model and size of shoe.

Web-Store Plugin Reduces CO2 Footprint of Online Shoe Shopping

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Web-Store Plugin Reduces CO2 Footprint of Online Shoe Shopping

How Does It Work?

Once you have found your new kicks online, at the point of selecting your size, you click to access the new sizing tool, where you will be guided through a process in a few short steps using your smartphone. The tool is free for customers and completely seamless with no app to download. Through partnerships with shoe manufacturers, the tool knows the inner dimensions of each shoe on the website precisely. A sophisticated algorithm compares the scan you take of your feet with the exact dimensions of the shoe. Combining this data, the algorithm then provides you with a recommendation for the best fitting size in a matter of seconds.

The whole process takes between two and three minutes, which, compared to the average 32 minutes spent returning a pair of shoes, is a considerable time saving for the customer too. The user experience is state-of-the-art and in addition, customers can save their data so they only need to scan once.

Footprint Technologies began by launching the tool for children’s shoes, where it deemed the need was greatest since their feet are growing and evolving all the time. This allowed the startup to prove the efficacy of the tool with a 90% accuracy rate and work on the remaining 10% by considering other geometric measurements.

The adult module went live with German eco-brand Tanner’s in early November and is set to go online with multiple footwear brands in 2023.

Founder Dr. Matthias Brendel shared, “We have proven that comfort is measurable. With our technology, brands have already seen a clear reduction in returns and we’re receiving great feedback from customers who love the user experience too.”

Committed to Climate

Footprint Technologies is committed to helping reduce the footwear industry’s climate impact. Its overarching goal is to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions related to returns and re-shipments in the footwear industry specifically due to improper fit. Its mission is to encourage customers to invest “three minutes for the planet,” which can result in preventing 850g of CO₂ emissions each time a pair of shoes is returned.

The company’s work supports three of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs): Goal No. 3: good health and well-being; Goal No. 12: responsible consumption and production; and Goal No. 13: climate action.

The measurement tool is financed on a transaction basis by the footwear brands, which recognize the value it brings them, both in terms of reducing their return and re-shipment costs as well as their carbon footprint. Additionally, Footprint Technologies believes that with increased customer satisfaction from receiving perfectly fitting shoes, the likelihood of repeat purchases is increased.

Supported by SAP

After participating in the Sustainable Future cohort at SAP.iO Foundries Berlin and Munich in 2021, Footprint Technologies is a partner in the SAP PartnerEdge program and part of the SAP.iO Rising Stars program. SAP PartnerEdge provides startups with the enablement tools and support to facilitate building high-quality, disruptive applications focused on specific business needs — quickly and cost-effectively.

As a result of SAP’s support, e-commerce businesses utilizing SAP Commerce Cloud have direct access to the digital shoe size consultant tool as a web shop plug-in, making it easier for online retailers to try it.

For more information on how SAP helps companies record, report, and act on their sustainability goals, visit www.sap.com/sustainability.