Putting your best foot forward: Wiivv Insoles on integration, creative control and the personalized economy
Our FUTURE OF BETTERMENT Global Trend Briefing, released in April 2016, featured Custom Fit 3D-Printed Orthotics (formerly known as BASE) - customised fit orthotics designed by Wiivv. Consumers use the Wiivv app to take five pictures of their feet, and Wiivv then use the images to design insoles that perfectly fit the contours of each foot - something that the company's co-founder, Louis-Victor Jadavji, believes is set to revolutionise the industry.
We caught up with him (pictured left, below) to talk biomechanics, integrating your brand's solutions into real-life activity and the importance of the personalized economy.
What was the inspiration behind BASE?
The orthotics and insoles industry has been problematic for consumers for a long time. It’s a shame because proper footwear can benefit many people - I experienced this first-hand after a high-jumping injury led me to use foot orthotics.
At Wiivv, we put our brains together and came up with a very innovative solution that takes minutes (not weeks) to get fitted, is built on sound principles of biomechanics (not one person’s opinion) and, at $79, it doesn’t break the bank. It’s 100% digital - you just need your smartphone! I don’t think I’d be exaggerating when I say this is one of the biggest leaps for custom footwear technology in many decades.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced while both developing the idea and establishing yourselves within the market?
The industry itself is highly fragmented, and we had to learn a lot about the diverse preferences and methodologies used. After we had spent over a year fulfilling through certified pedorthists who loved our product for its accuracy and repeatability, we learned how to make BASE and the Wiivv App a superior product and measuring experience.
It's during this period that we developed unique design features, like our patented hole-in-the-heel to rest the foot in a neutral position without the discomfort caused by a raised heel. The materials we used were also carefully chosen to address the need for rigidity for some parts of the foot and flexibility for others. We even found that before 3D printing, we could adjust the material properties of the insole in software so that it would move more dynamically with the foot.
The industry's fragmentation required a standalone solution to make buying and getting a custom orthotic easy - like we always intended. We do not rely heavily on doctors, manufacturers, distributors, and so on. We own our channel, production, design and technology! That’s a big step for us ;)
What is your top tip to other professionals who seek to better understand, and stay ahead of, consumers’ changing expectations?
I would encourage other professionals to try to build vertically-integrated solutions. Nowadays, it’s not enough to solve one piece of the puzzle. Consumers expect to be held by the hand throughout the process of accessing a service and getting a product...with the same hand! It's also nice to know that we're in full control of our product experience. We pinpoint the cause of any dissatisfaction and crush it in short order.
You’re featured in our briefing, falling under our CALIBRATED HEALTH trend - looking at how expectations created online are converging with those created by new health tech to drive demand for health and wellness products, services and experiences that are personalized around the individual. Where do you see this strand of consumer behavior and expectation heading?
We’re in the thick of an on-demand and highly personalized economy for services. If health and wellness products can't catch up, then I see consumers just avoiding some product categories altogether. If you think of foot orthotics, they are often the solution of choice for foot, leg, back, and overall body pain - that's a big opportunity! Then you look at the size of the industry and realize that it could be much much greater if we prioritized the customer experience.
What was your favorite recent innovation and why?
UnderArmour’s 3D Architech. There’s been a lot of news on large footwear companies, like UnderArmour, adopting 3D printing technologies. This new direction excites me because it's a sign that more mass-scale 3D printed product applications are on their way. 3D printing is no longer a prototyping technology.
I’m also excited because for Wiivv it means that our customization engine (what allows us to generate fully custom products in seconds) will be sought after by these companies. I think that we’re on the cusp of several huge breakthroughs that will make custom footwear the only kind of footwear you’ll want to buy.
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