I was in LA on Tuesday visiting one of our new clients, an online shoe retailer. After meeting their President, COO, and team for the first time in person, this machine caught my eye. So, I asked their COO if I could try it out. This particular foot scanner is made by 3DFoot.com. I took off my shoes, positioned my feet on the scanner, and it quickly created a 3D model. Now I could go shopping online for shoes that had all been prescanned for fit. I have been surprised to see 3DFoot.com recommend a size 15 in some shoes, a 14 in others, and even a 13 in some. I could virtually try on shoes all day, with just a few clicks. Click here if you want to check out my 3d foot scan, but please turn off your smell-o-vision feature first. This makes tremendous sense, and it works. I have to admit that I have never bought a shoe online. I don't want to deal with returning a shoe that doesn't fit right. The non-tactile experience of shopping for shoes online stops me from converting. How many people don't currently buy shoes online because of this? The majority of the American Internet population is, like me, afraid of buying shoes online, or most apparel for that matter. Certainly a new brand or style of shoe is difficult because you don't know what the fit will be. Maybe buying a replacement shoe of the same brand and size is comfortable. Why am I blogging about this? Because I believe technologies like these are the key to "close the tactile gap" between offline and online shopping. Online conversion is only 2.6% according to Shop.org and Forrester Research's The State of Retailing Online 8.0. I think this is incredibly low, and it hasn't gotten much better over the years. When I ran my online sports nutrition store in 1998, my online conversion was 3.8%. And, for apparel retailers, returns due to poor fit can run as high as 40% of all online sales! Being non-tactile is very costly. There are many interesting technologies that help close the tactile gap between offline and online shopping, including:
- My Virtual Model – check out Best Buy's kitchen design center, Sears' Virtual Decorator, or Lands' End fitting room
- Scene7 and RichFX – check out the Lands' End Photo Viewer, Kia Amanti viewer, and new Cadillac Escalade site (I'm not sure if they are a client of Scene7 or RichFX, but I found this site to be tactile enough for my wife and I to take the time to test drive this SUV last weekend)
- And, of course, customer ratings and reviews – other customers authentically talking to each other about their real experience with products is a very tactile experience
At Coremetrics, we proved that these innovations work at increasing conversion. I find these technologies fascinating. It is only a matter of time before Neal Stephenson's virtual-reality vision of the online experience (Metaverse) in Snow Crash or William Gibson's vision of cyberspace (you can thank him for that word) in Neuromancer become a reality. Without a doubt, the next 10 years will bring about an amazing amount of change in online life. Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired magazine, wrote one of the most far-out articles on this topic. He looked back at the predictions made in 1995 on what the Internet would become and contrasted that with the reality in 2005. Then he projected 2015. I'm sure his projections are wrong, and he would tell you as much. But it's fun reading. To me, mind expanding. Maybe that 2.6% conversion problem is just a flash in the pan. A bump in the road to our eventual transition to an Always-On world. After all, the Web didn't become a commercial medium, in any significant way at least, until around 1996 (I started banking online that year) or 1997. For a little nostalgia, here is eBay in 1997. Now that's a home page that drove conversion…. away. It's all getting better, faster, quickly.