Nike Unveils Nike Fit: Will AR Initiative Help Retailer Combat Returns, Drive Mobile Sales?

This summer, Nike will roll out its latest augmented reality (AR) initiative, Nike Fit. The feature, powered through the shoemaker's mobile app, will use a smartphone camera to take a detailed scan of a person’s feet. In less than a minute, Nike will be able to recommend ideal shoe fits and sizes for each individual.

Assuming this works, there is potential for increased sales via the app and website, as well as in-store, where associates will be equipped with the technology.

While Nike Fit is a move toward independence and away from wholesalers, it could also help the shoemaker combat high shipping and return costs. But will shoppers actually embrace this AR tool?

The feature is meant to tackle common pain points of online shopping: accurate sizing and the hassle of returns. The clothing and accessories category is the one consumers are most apprehensive about buying online, due to an onerous return process, according to a November 2018 survey from from Radial.

Per a February 2019 survey from inRiver and Savanta, 37% of consumers say they purchase items with the intent to return, and this number jumps to 57% when looking at those ages 16 to 24. Additionally, more than one in 10 consumers are most likely to return footwear and accessories following a digital purchase, according to a November 2018 report from Navar.

With Nike Fit's capabilities, the company may be able to convert app users to buyers, as well as cut down on returns. Consumers will be more likely to purchase only one shoe instead of multiple styles in different sizes.

Nike generally targets a younger audience and is likely to benefit from its adoption of AR, which is also used by competitors like adidas—a company beloved by millennials. According to an April 2019 survey from eMarketer conducted by Bizrate Insights, 42% of US digital shoppers are at least somewhat interested in using AR/VR while shopping. And that figure climbs to 52% among 18- to 34-year-olds.

“The ideal use case for AR is getting the right fit for apparel. Customers are happier, and retailers maintain their margins by minimizing returns,” eMarketer principal analyst Andrew Lipsman said. “Nike is smart to try to get out in front of this trend by starting with shoes, where outfitting feet is a much less complex equation than outfitting body type.”