An emerging e-commerce company hopes to do for bras what Zappos did for shoes and Warby Parker for eyeglasses, reports Randall Stross in The New York Times (2/24/13). Fitting bras clearly is a bit more complicated than fitting shoes or glasses, but True&Co is solving for that with a combination of an algorithm and “putting a batch of bras into customers’ hands so they can choose what fits best.” The process starts with an online quiz, which True&Co uses to select likely garments. “We have an algorithm that defines 2,000 body types,” says company founder Michelle Lam.
The retailer “does not make customized bras for each of those 2,000 body types,” but it sends a total of five choices to each customer “to try on at home, with no obligation to buy.” Most of the bras “are priced from $45 to $62.” Three of the choices are based on the customer’s style preferences, with the other two determined by the algorithm. On average, customers buy “two bras from each batch of five. The company says women end up buying more of the bras chosen by the algorithm than the ones they select themselves.”
Michelle got the idea for True&Co after a particularly grueling bra-shopping experience of her own on a summer’s day in 2011. “It occurred to me in that fitting room, as I was waiting for that saleswoman to bring me bras: Wow, this is the worst shopping experience on earth.” Skeptics, such as blogger Sindhya Valloppillil, say that an algorithm is no way to choose a bra, arguing that bras must be “touched and tried on.” Of course, the True&Co model enables exactly that opportunity, and supports the notion that, “as with shoes and eyeglasses … it’s love at first touch and try, even in the digital age.”