Shoe customization technologies

Part
01
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Part
01

List of 3 Technologies for Customizing Shoes (Part 1)

In the shoes and apparel industry, companies are using disruptive technologies like 3D printing, smartphone cameras and apps, and algorithms to change the way that custom products are made. Successful companies in this space include SOLS Systems, Feetz, MTailor, and Proper Cloth. I've created a spreadsheet with all of the requested information, and you'll also find highlights of my research below.

findings

3D Printing: Companies like Feetz, Nike, and SOLS Systems are using 3D printing to create custom, perfectly-fitted shoes on-demand. SOLS Systems has an annual revenue of $57 million using this technology.

Smartphone cameras: Custom clothing companies are using photos and videos generated from smartphone to virtually measure customers for tailor-made clothing. MTailor, one of these companies, is highly-rated by customers and has $4 million in revenue.

Algorithms: Online clothing companies are using algorithms to determine a customer's size and ideal fit to tailor-make clothing. Proper Cloth has earned $10 million in revenue in this space.

conclusion

To wrap up, shoe and apparel companies are using 3D printing, smartphone cameras, and algorithms to revolutionize the process of manufacturing and selling custom-made products.
Part
02
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Part
02

List of 3 Technologies for Customizing Shoes (Part 2)

Three technologies disrupting the shoe and apparel customization space are digital mirrors, 3D knitting, and virtual fitting rooms. You'll find all of the details on these technologies in the attached spreadsheet, and I've also included a brief summary of my findings below.

Findings

Digital Mirrors: These in-store tools allow customers to see themselves wearing a garment without actually trying it on, and then the customer can personalize the garment by changing features like the color and size. This technology is being used by such major retailers as Gap, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom.

3D Knitting: These machines can knit a custom-designed sweater or other knit garment on-demand. This technology has earned companies like Knyttan millions in revenue.

Virtual Fitting Rooms: Companies like Billabong and Tesco are using this technology to allow online customers to "try on" clothing through the website. One builder of this technology, Zeekit, has $10 million in annual revenue.

conclusion

To wrap up, three technologies being used for customization of shoes and apparel are digital mirrors, 3D knitting, and virtual fitting rooms.
Part
03
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Part
03

List of 3 Technologies for Customizing Shoes (Part 3)

E.A.R.L. (Electro Adaptive Reactive Lacing)

Nike's E.A.R.L. is a self-lacing technology. It was initially developed as a nostalgia product mimicking the movie Back to the Future 2, which portrays a fictionalized future world where shoes tie themselves.

Nike brought E.A.R.L. to the consumer market with their HyperAdapt 1.0. The line is targeted at athletes and sportspeople, who often complain about their laces untying during training, however, it may also have potential to aid people with disabilities. The technology uses a sensor in the heel to detect when the foot is in the shoe, and then tightens the laces automatically. The shoe has buttons on either side so that the wearer can adjust the fit easily.

Given the HyperActive 1.0's price of $720, E.A.R.L. may have a limited market appeal, at least until the technology can be produced at a lower cost. Nike has not responded to requests for sales figures on the HyperActive 1.0, but Flight Club, a retailer, has reported that the shoes had sold "extremely well," and buyers are reselling the shoes on eBay for multiple times the retail price. E.A.R.L.'s value to Nike is more about marketing than sales figures, helping portray the brand as more innovative than its competitors.

Smart Fabric

Smart fabrics integrate clothing with technology. There are different classifications of smart fabric, depending on the technology involved, and the manner in which the technology is operated.

The initial offerings in this area have been largely driven by the success of the wearable health and fitness technologies. Products include t-shirts that can monitor heart rate, and sensors embedded into the insoles of shoes that can detect and record information on the wearer's running technique. Other smart fabrics require some human input, such as Google and Levi's Jacquard clothing range, which can detect input in the form of hand gestures.

According to Transparency Market Research, the global smart fabrics market is expected to grow from the US$2.2B it was worth in 2017 to US$5.5B by 2022. So-called "passive" smart fabrics, requiring no human input, are forecast to hold the largest portion of this share at US$2.2B.

Augmented Realty

Augmented reality is another way that companies are integrating technology into shoes. For example, High Beam Shoes have produced a range of sneakers aimed at children that integrate with Pokemon Go. The shoes light up and play music when a Pokemon is nearby, which further immerses the wearer into the Pokemon Go game world. Nike, Adidas, Lacoste, Vans and other have also developed augmented reality shopping experiences, in which wearers can look into a mirror and see how different styles of shoes would look on them.

Despite an extensive search, the sales figures or market estimates for augmented reality as adapted for footwear could not be determined, although, one estimate suggests the augmented reality market size overall will grow from its valuation of US$6.1B in 2016, to US$215B in 2021.

conclusion

Self lacing technology, smart fabrics and augmented reality are three technologies that are changing the face of customizing shoes and apparel. These technologies are being used by some of the biggest names in apparel: Nike, Adidas, Lacoste, Vans and Levi's.
Part
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Part
04

List of 3 Technologies for Customizing Shoes (Part 4)

With athletic shoes making up over 30% of shoe sales, technological advancements in this market have the potential to produce large impacts and high success yields for companies that choose to explore such innovations. The three technologies that will be detailed below are knitted shoes, virtual reality, and Internet of Things technology. Each technology offers significant growth potential within the footwear industry. Using researched material, I’ve included information on how the technologies are used, how the use has affected company development, and challenges surrounding the use of a certain technology where applicable.

KNITTED SHOES

Nike and Adidas are two companies that have pioneered the knitted footwear technology, which has heavily increased the “sustainability and walkability for these shoes. According to an article published by CityLab, knitted footwear is produced by machines that knit a single length of “fused yarn” into the woven “upper” of a shoe. Previously, shoes would be cut, often by hand, into pieces that were then sown together to form a complete upper that could be attached to a sole. Knitted shoe technology offers the ability to not only use less waste, as noted in CityLab’s article, but to provide wearers with a seamlessly comfortable shoe that conforms to the foot. This technology is different from Nike's E.A.R.L. because it focuses on shoe production rather than self-lacing technology that tightens shoelaces. Nike marketed the technology in 2014 with its Mercurial cleat worn by World Cup soccer players like Cristiano Ronaldo, pushing the knitted cleat concept into the mainstream athletic shoe market.
Success
In the year that Nike introduced its knitted shoe to the athletic footwear market, its net income was reported to increase by 24%, with running shoe brands like Freeknit showing “growing demand.” One of the most important profit driving features of the knitted shoe can be seen in the material waste saving component of the knitting process. As Adidas creator, James Carnes, was quoted to say, “with leather and mesh, you can't roll it up and use it again. You end up creating waste, using thread, glue, and so on.” Knitted technology allows manufacturers to “start with a single thread,” only using “as much yarn as you need.”

VIRTUAL REALITY

Footwear and apparel retailers like Toms and Aimiqi are using virtual reality to customize the footwear buying experience for their customers with notable success. Head mounted display sets and enhanced user to computer interfaces, introduced by developers like Ivan Sutherland and Myron Krueger, are being used by footwear and apparel companies to enhance buyer experiences, develop more informative data on customer needs, and even to offer customers greater insight into company values.
Success
Toms first began using virtual reality in 2015 with the addition of “Samsung virtual reality headsets” to 100 of its stores. The technology allowed customers to not only better engage with products, but with the company’s own philosophy. Each headset allowed customers a 360-degree view “of children at a Peruvian school receiving free shoes as part of Toms’s one-for-one brand promise.” Virtual reality technology is being used in this way to engage customers’ ability to identify with the footwear company beyond the product itself, allowing buyers “to see firsthand the actual impact” a “Toms shoe purchase had on a child.” Building a brand heavily marketed on its charitable giving has been a massive feature of Toms founder Blake Mycoskie’s vision. Incorporating virtual reality into stores has proven a successful element as the company was able to grow its revenue to $392 million by June 2016.

A 2017 article published by Digital List Magazine noted that shoe company Aimiqi has been able to gain valuable customer insights “using digital R&D machine learning.” Its customers can “design personalized shoes with the desired color and the right fit, then virtually test the product and place an order.” Bringing in this valuable customer engagement element resulted in 25% and 40% reductions in respective design times and overstock for Aimiqi, which will translate to a 30% increase in profits.

INTERNET OF THINGS

In 2016, Under Armour began using Internet of Things technology to introduce its own brand of “smart shoes” to the footwear market. While most users are already familiar with fitness trackers worn on a wrist or around the arm, Under Armour’s SpeedForm Gemini 2 running shoes “have the tracking hardware built directly into the shoes themselves.” Incorporating a battery made to outlast the shoe itself, the Speedform can keep track of data on total running “time, distance ran, and split times.”
Companies like Athos have also used “smart” technology in athletic wear. The technology involves each garment having “built-in sensors which measure muscle activity using electromyography.” Information collected by the garment is then transmitted to what the company has called the “Ironman Hub,” an app designed to chart and analyze user performance to ultimately result in the perfect workout.
Success
While Under Armour’s Speedform shoe technology has brought in positive product reviews from purchasers, the company has shown stunted revenue growth in recent years, particularly in the footwear market. Much of the stunt in growth has been attributed to design and manufacturing costs coming in much higher than the product’s investment return as Under Armour experienced a relatively low 9% increase in revenue between 2016 and 2017. With this outcome, the need for incorporating new technology that still allows for competitive product pricing has become a significant consideration in how technology may be incorporated by Under Armour and other footwear and apparel companies in future years.

CONCLUSION

Knitted footwear, virtual reality, and the use of Internet of Things technology have each offered tremendous advancement to how footwear is purchased and used by consumers. The technologies have been used to solve problems involving cost effective production, ease and comfort of use, allow for developed fitness tracking and user performance enhancement. Additionally, companies themselves, as is the case of Toms and Aimiqi, have been afforded avenues for gaining and offering greater insight into customer needs and company values through technological advancement.
Sources
Sources

From Part 04