There Is an Algorithm for Everything, Even Bras

Description: THE two and a half miserable hours that Michelle Lam spent in a fitting room, trying on bras, one fine summer day in 2011 would turn out to be, in her words, a “life-changing experience.” After trying on 20 bras to find one that fit, and not particularly well at that, she left the store feeling naked and intruded upon


Date: Feb 23, 2013


Professional bra fitters have also moved online. Linda Becker, whose family owns two bra stores in New York, says she sells twice as many bras online today at as she does in her stores. Some of her online customers have previously visited one of her shops and been fitted in person. But new customers take their own measurements and work with customer service representatives on the phone. She says only 10 percent of online orders are returned.  But some customers turn out to be extremely hard to fit and it’s hard to tell why, Ms. Becker says. “That kind of customer will be impossible to fit online because the problem is unseen. There’s no way of figuring it out over the phone.”  Read Rest of Story 

Definition of algorithm: a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end especially by a computer.

 Questions for discussion:

1. What applications of this particular kind of algorithm do you think would be valuable in the marketplace?

2.  Will this e-commerce application replace brick and mortar stores for this application?  Why or why not?


19 thoughts on “There Is an Algorithm for Everything, Even Bras

  1. Logan Reiter

    I think this algorithm can be very useful. Collecting more data of the customer’s preferences can be very useful when determining what to sell to them. Each individual has preferences as to what they want, and this can help a company to narrow it down automatically. I think that this is very for many people, but I don’t think that it will take over brick and mortar stores, because there will always be people who enjoy shopping in person. Not only that, but some people do not want to wait for their products to be shipped so shopping in person allows for instant delivery which is often preferred.

  2. Navreet

    No matter how much digital the world gets, there are some things that cannot be classified in this manner by using a certain algorithm. Even though the data base includes a lot of different body types for bra fittings, there still might be variations. I also don’t think comparing bras with buying shoes is a right choice. Although this might not be entirely a bad idea as it is a well-educated guess. Selling these online does have various implications and the return policy definitely makes sense. It will most certainly eliminate the embarrassment and frustration of trying different bras to find the right size. I still think that they are priced a bit more than usual but if guarantees quality then maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all.

  3. Brendan Schlossberger

    Algorithms like the one used in the bra article that help people determine what size and style of a product they will find comfortable has obviously been successful. The article stated only 10% of purchases are returned which is very good for a product that traditionally required an in person testing to see if it works. This kind of success will only lead to increased usages of these algorithms among other online products that require correct sizing and comfort for a purchase to occur. The added fact that True and Co sends out five test bras increases their chances that they will be successful in finding at least one that works for a customer. The more that a consumer can try the better they will feel also because they know that they have had an ample sample of the product. This type of e-commerce will not replace the brick and mortar stores that these type of products are traditionally sold in. Some consumers will prefer the stores and in person testing of products that the e-commerce cannot provide. Even True and Co itself said there are some sizing problems that cannot be resolved online. I myself cannot buy those type of things online because I need to try it on and feel it. The hassle of receiving the product in the mail and the having to ship back what I don’t like also deters me from shopping online.

  4. Brandon

    By applying this algorithm to the bra market, this click and brick shop has taken off. Potentially, once the company has decided who its optimal customers are, they may wish to close down the brick and mortar store in favor of the e-marketplace. Although, there are benefits to having a traditional store, for example having customers come in and be fitted properly. This alone does not make keeping a physical store the best option. In her company, since most of her business comes from her online store, her money might be better spent developing that marketplace. By closing down her store she would be losing sales, however, she still might make more money. By closing her store she would have less fixed and variable costs, therefore she would be able to make more money off each item sold. Also, because she offers a pretty reliable measuring scheme the company has a low amount of returns. Couple the low amount of returns with increased net income and this business might wish to close down the brick and mortar storefront. Personally, I like the ability to walk into a location and shop for something specific. I might not be into buying bras, but I do like shopping at a store. However, with more people shopping online, the end of the large inventory store front might be finally here.

  5. Dallon Martin

    This algorithm seems to be doing awesome, and is very useful for women because they don’t have to feel uncomfortable or pressured in a retail store trying on bras. They now have time to try it on at home in a comfortable area for them. As e-commerce is becoming more and more popular it is also a great idea because people are doing more online shopping and so it is becoming very convenient that a women can just shop all in one place now. I don’t think that this algorithm will replace brick and mortar locations because i think its good to have both online and the physical store because there are always going to be old fashion people that just hate technology and so its important that you still have the brick and mortar location for them or even somebody who just wants to go bra shopping. This algorithm would be useful in many areas of clothing retail such as jeans, or even suits. its always hard to find that perfect fit of jeans but if they new the jeans that you had loved in the past and could set you up with something similar that would get rid of the headache of trying on tons of jeans.

  6. charles chow sau pui

    I believe both algorithms, store operating and e-commerce are valuable nowadays because both operations have advantage. I wouldn’t assure e-commerce can completely replace the traditional store selling. It is because e-commerce cannot give out suggestion for every unique customer. Customers cannot have cordial feeling, and the cordial feel from salespersons can help the sales.However, the e-commerce is so convenient since the smartphone took market space. We can do the online shopping anytime anywhere. If i consider both algorithms which one is more valuable, i believe e-commerce is more valuable. It is because e-commerce can get small corp turn to globalization and everyone can shop online. It can increase the total sales.

    I don’t think the technology nowadays cannot totally replace the mortar store because the e-commerce cannot get the customers experience the feel shopping in store. Also, it depends on the acceptance from the market. Nowadays, not every and the traditional mind’s customers trust the online shopping that the way cannot touch and feel the product before purchased. However, the e-commerce can take over the traditional store if the e-commerce could get the general acceptance.

  7. Colin Stevenson

    This particular type of algorithm could be useful for many different types of clothing or apparel. Women and men to some extent have the same trouble finding the perfect pair of jeans. Any type of algorithm that can make the process of finding the perfect pair of jeans would be highly valuable. Algorithms are only as good as the variables used to program them. In the case of clothing, or any type of garments there would have to be an extensive amount of variables included in the program to achieve the best results. Any algorithm that can match a customer with the right product and increase sales for a business would be considered a success. Bras are a difficult product to match perfectly at the best of times so with time the process will most likely be refined and the success of sales should flow from that.
    I do not believe that this type of e-commerce application will completely replace brick and mortar stores selling Bras. Many customers even today still have to physically be there to touch and try on these products. It is difficult for many potential customers to believe that an algorithm can develop better results than if they were physically at the store trying on the bras themselves. For those who do try this type of application, the success or lack thereof with the outcome will determine if they are repeat customers. If one person has a good experience they will tell others to try it. If someone has a bad experience with the application they will also tell others not to try it. This application should find a fairly successful niche market.

  8. Abraham Sarthak

    This article shows us how e-commerce has become an important part of our business world and how it is changing our shopping expeirence .Earlier people thought that products like shoes , bra,glasses could not be sold online .But today the trend has change and people are even buying them online .The sellers earn more profit that they earn in brick and mortar stores .The sales have also gone up .People prefer comfort and what else would be better to have a shopping mall at home.With developement of e-commerce people can buy stuff sitting back home which saves their time , gas and even makes them less tired .Often due to the use of ecoomerce for selling bras it is shown that everything can be sold on the internet you just need the right algorithm .The more you make expierence easy for people the more they would be attracted to e-commerce .Products like shoes,bras etc are really difficult to sell on internet as the choice may vary from person to person.So designing an algorithm can be a really difficult job and it can sometimes be very complicated to .So if we can have easy interface for the user then i see no reason that we cant be successful.

  9. Ollie Sherwood

    i think that this type of algorithm would be better suited to something when it comes to purchasing larger item, maybe the car marketplace. This type of e-commerce business should not replace traditional brick and mortar building due to the lack of connection between the product and the consumer. Companies need a traditional store front to have a connection to their consumers, create the image that their company stands for, and help display the vast majority of product that they sell. Bras are also more of a specialty item that women want to see, touch, and most importantly try on. The traditional brick and mortar building can be replaced by an e-commerce system with standardized item however this would not be the case for bras. Another reason it would work is that not all people own a credit card and more people feel that online shopping is still unsafe and may put their information in jeopardy. I believe that this type of algorithm can increase how effective and successful a e-commerce company is, but just not within this marketplace that needs a consumer to see the product in person. Overall though e-commerce site are great for both the consumer and the business because it allows smaller organization to be more competitive will remaining cost effective.

  10. yuxuan.hou

      1 I do not think this kind of algorithm would be valuable in the market place. I do not think some day E-commerce can not take place of real shop shopping, never. There are many reasons to prove my conclusion. First of all, customers can not fulfill of online photos. E-commerce provides products’ photos online rather than like entity objects in the brick and mortar stores. Actually, there are lots of difference between entity objects and online photos. Some E-commerce business men always use technologies approach just like photoshop to make that photos more beautiful.Sometimes, customers get their goods from E-commerce is not the object they want to buy, and the object they have seen online. One of the most important advantages of traditional brick and mortar stores is customers could easily touch and identify. One of the most important advantages of E-commerce is online shopping, customers who do not want go out can stay at home, they just need have internet, Online shopping help them save much time. It is easily and free. Customers also do not need to worried about some Emergency situations such as steal. Therefore, E-commerce and traditional brick and mortar stores are complementary rather than replacement.1 I do not think this kind of algorithm would be valueable in the market place. I do not think some day E-commerce can not take place of real shop shopping, never. this kind of algorithm have to consider matching factor,

  11. Mohadese

    Regarding the description of the algorithm for buying a bra is such as a woman who has a dressmaker in her home to help her for fitting her own bra. True&Co. with this algorithm shows how much it appreciates customers’ time and satisfaction. I think this kind of shopping would be more convenient and faster than shopping on stores. Moreover, the accuracy of the measurements and well defined steps of this of algorithm would be useful and valuable for other sensitive products such as clothes, furniture.
    Although, this e-commerce applications are convenient and fast they would not replace brick and mortar stores; because people would go to stores not just for buying materials. They would go shopping on brick and mortar stores for having fun, and socializing, enjoying their times or even wasting time. Buying in stores is more browsing than shopping. It would be very boring to seat front of computer and look at the screen and buy materials without everything seeing and talking with people or touching products. For instance, customers through online shopping furniture even with high quality algorithms would not experience the enjoyable feeling that they would have in IKEA stores.

  12. Antonia

    I think this algorism can be very useful. Collecting more data of the customer’s preferences can be very useful when determining what to sell to them. I think that this type of e-business is very useful for people who like the convenience of shopping online, but I don’t think that it will take over brick and mortar stores, some things must be viewed in person. I am the type of person that needs to try things on, to see the quality of product and I would find it a pain to have to send the product back that I tested.

  13. Kristian Rochon

    This E-commerce model could definitely be modeled by many other businesses in order to increase ease of shopping and satisfaction among customers. Being a click and brick business, physical stores locations will still provide to those customers not comfortable with online shopping an alternative. Customers are increasingly becoming more adept to online shopping, as highlighted in the article even an industry that may be a sensitive topic. The sensitivity issue in fact enhances the e-commerce model. Customers now have the security of their own home and do not feel intruded. Customers most likely already know their exact specifications whether it is bra fitting, suit fitting, or shoe shopping. As highlighted in the article, the algorithm brought success to the company saying only 10% of online purchases were eventually taken back. Of course there will always be specifications that cannot be solved over an algorithm or online survey, but statistics show this is a small margin of error. This brings to light however that traditional brick and mortar stores will still have to exist, however they will transform into a click and brick business, utilizing both e-commerce and traditional commerce advantages. E-commerce will never fully wipe out the traditional business model, but work in unison to enhance it.

  14. Crystal Smallface

    The steps taken to fill out orders online is what makes this e-business more successful than the brick and mortar store. The ability to carry out the same practices online than in person and the convenience that is provided to consumers is the valuable component of this type of transaction. Bras are a Private and Confidential topic for most women and when one has to shop in person for one there is barely any privacy in the store. The store attendants measure you in a back room, sometimes if front of other customers and yell out your measurements to other clerks when they are looking for the right size. This is intrusive and can be embarrassing to most women. To shop for one can be tiring, bothersome, and downright difficult to find the perfect fitting bar. This is why Linda the Bra Lady has had so much success online because women can shop from the privacy of their own home with no one around to know what they are shopping for and become satisfied repeat customers because they are treated better. I believe that online shopping for this type of e-business will exceed the brick and mortar stores but will not totally replace it because then again there are some women who like that type of setting. And I think that another type of e-business could have been used as an example than women’s bras. Great topic Mr. C.

  15. Katie Guccione

    I think that this e-commerce application will only add convenience and simplicity for women who wish to shop online as compared to driving to a store. I think that application will only downsize the number of stores that are required from the stores itself, this will overall save the company money allowing them to use that money on the production of bras. I do agree that it is likely extremely frustrating to have saleswoman who do not understand how to fit a bra properly, but I do not think that a simple algorithm can replace a sales person, or ones own personal knowledge. This is simply a process of elimination on the behalf of the customer, they already have a general idea of the bra size needed, so by going online and filling out this questionnaire they are really only going to a new bra store, and looking for bras that will fit them. It is the exact same process as when you walk into a store and purchase a new bra, but it adds the convenience of not having to go through the entire process of going to the mall and physically entering the store and trying on the bra. I think this is a great idea, but ultimately when it comes to finding a proper bra it is through the process of elimination, not through an algorithm.

  16. Josh

    I think that the e-commerce application of an algorithm formula could be very useful, like when the frog entered the thunder dome with Mel Gibson, but the grove in the myth with myself flying through the station was unreal. Tupac in the witness protection program gathering Big Data at Wal-mart for shelter from the storm. None of what I’m writing is making any sense, but I writing it because I wonder if anyone actually reads any of these posts and I thought that if someone actually was browsing through, that might get their attention. I like to read what other people have said, but because I’m the fourth person this time, there isn’t much to read. So, I went to earlier threads from other sections to see what they said about this set of posts. For all the articles and replies I’ve read, everyone pretty much says the same thing. This leads me to one of two conclusions: either everyone is reading everyone else’s to take their ideas, or no one is reading anyone else’s and we’re all blowing the same hot air for a few bonus marks. It actually doesn’t really matter which it is, I thought I’d just share a little bit of the observations or “data” that I’ve gathered over the last little bit. Just in case someone is actually is reading for content, I do have one comment. I found this article more boring than most. I actually did read it, and I’m not posting this to get out of anything. At least for other articles I can come up with some BS to write that is somewhat applicable, but I can’t think of anything that someone else hasn’t already said about how interesting bra algorithms can be.
    Goooooooo e-commerce!

  17. ibrahim.akinola

    I believe this e-commerce application can’t replace brick and mortar stores because viewing a picture of a product on a catalogue or a website is different from when you try it on or feel it. Based on a recent experience, I was doing an online shopping; searching for a winter coat, I then came across a website that sells them; after going through a list of coats and purchasing the one I liked from the website specifying the size and colour, to my expectation when the coat arrived it was not what I expected; looking too big and the color wasn’t as bright as I saw it on the website.
    It is true that e-commerce is a convenient way to shop online, but it is still lagging behind in some areas and there are some products that needs to be felt and tried on before purchased. Although the e-commerce hasn’t completely taken over the shopping section, it has however taken over the electronics section, and some company such as apple as adopted both e-commerce application and brick and mortar stores so as provide customers with different experience for shopping because everybody has different way of shopping.

  18. Marc

    1. This kind of algorithm – matching clothing to body shapes and sizes – can be valuable in any tailoring situation, such as tuxedos, wedding dresses, vehicle seats, etc.

    2. Not in the foreseeable future, no. I certainly wouldn’t think to buy a pair of shoes online because I like to try them on, buy them, and leave within the day, without having to wait for shipping times. I guess bras must be more difficult to shop for… I haven’t had to do that.

    I was hoping this article was about an algorithm for how to unhook bra straps.

  19. Brogan Mueller

    I think this algorithm is less of a mathematical formula and more of a mix between trial and error (which women can do at the store) and expert suggestions based on past experiences and knowledge of the item. I do not think this e-commerce application will be able to completely replace brick and mortar stores, however it may cut down the amount of location a company has, or size of the stores. I can imagine women get very frustrated and discouraged going into a store and trying on countless bras with an unknowledgeable/unhelpful sales associate, and leaving with nothing. This process a lot of time and money. The e-commerce application allows the company to reduce the number of bras a women needs to try on (which reduces frustration) based on a successfully proven algorithm and allows her to try them on in the comfort of her own home, i.e. less stress. However, companies will still need a brick and mortar store to connect with their customers, have their own image and brand, provide convenience, and broaden their range of customers; not everyone has a credit card, or feels comfortable buying online. I believe this algorithm can make online shopping much more effective and successful.


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