Bras, An Algorithm for Everything

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

Source: NYTimes.com

Date: Feb 23, 2013

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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 LindaTheBraLady.com 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?
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61 thoughts on “Bras, An Algorithm for Everything

  1. Shayla Mysek

    The algorithm discussed in this article, does offer a very convenient shopping experience for consumers. Most stores only have the option of you physically going to their store and looking around to see what they are offering and purchasing it there. Through this algorithm, the whole physical aspect of shopping may be eliminated all together. It really caters to consumers and what they want and when they want it. Through the use of this algorithm, consumers do not have to put in very much effort to get anything they want. Something the physical stores are unable to do. There is nothing about this algorithm that would be a bad idea, assuming all the physical stores use this way of doing business and do not go out of business as a result. This ultimately can lead to a large increase in sales, just based on it’s convenience. This will definitely enhance the consumer experience as a whole and thus is a great idea for many stores to adopt.

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  2. Jacie

    The type of algorithm used here in the form of bras could be a huge advantage in almost any type of marketplace. Being able to answer questions unique to yourself, and being sent multiple options to fit your needs to try without being forced to buy anything, is something that many people would find extremely helpful. It would end the frustration of having to go out to the busy mall or store and trying to do everything yourself, with minimal help from the salespeople. People would have a much higher chance of getting exactly what they were looking for, without ever having to leave their home. Even if the choices that come in the mail do not work out, it is easy to send them back and re-order whatever happens to be missing from the first order. Again, not having to leave the house makes that type of a situation way less frustrating than if you had made the effort to go all the way to the store, spent hours trying to find the correct product, and left the store with nothing.

    I think this type of application is a great idea and that many people would flock to it, especially those in the younger generation. However, much of the older generation would still like to go to an actual store and get the customer service in person as opposed to a seemingly “impersonal” experience online. I think of my mom and grandma who barely know how to check e-mails on a computer, so this type of e-commerce application would not be ideal for them. Going to a store and physically trying on the product and buying it all at once would be how they would rather do things. Therefore, I don’t think all stores will be replaced based on this e-commerce application, at least not in the near future.

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  3. Robbie Rutkowski

    The algorithm is an interesting concept and provides a competitive advantage in the industry. Every body is different and with just asking 15 questions they have managed to provide the customer with the best possible fitting bra. Not only is this an interesting, but is a step ahead of other companies. Basically creating a giant databases of all the brands and what size is meant for what person they have used technology to provide the customer with the best possible product and fit.

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  4. Brady Hoffart

    This sort of idea could lead to all sorts of advances in quality control. A customer could walk in a store and already know what size they need without a huge search involving several products and brands. It helps create a standard, as small shirts are some specific measurements unlike now. In the case of something with a specific fit a person could use their own measurements and match them against the inventory of a store, and even order clothes to their specifications. This would also extend to things like shoes, necklaces, watches, rings. This could all be done online without a person at the ready to assist you.
    This could entirely personalize your shopping experience right to your own home. You could us an algorithm to buy food for you online and deliver it right to your door to your specifications. What this could mean is an entirely different way to do business and we are already moving that way, as places like amazon can now be used to buy groceries and refrigerators can make you a shopping list.
    I don’t believe this will ever replace the brick and mortar buildings that we now do business in though. There is some added value in being able to access a service on your own, and to meet the requirements of a need you cannot define to a computer. Differences from the mean that aren’t often seen within an industry. Also it helps when you need someone to complain to a manager when you need one.

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  5. Minju Lee

    The algorithm that enables sorting 2000 body type into few categories is the most valuable in the marketplace. Basically 15 quiz questions make them choose three best-fit items and send them to customers with two additional variations. A weak point of selling goods through online is that customer cannot touch and measure the tangible item. True&Co got rid of the weak point by sending actual items to customers as a trial basis. This process is possible and successful because True&Co takes costs of shipping and handling, and plus risk of damaging item. Instead of worrying those minor incurring costs, True&Co was able to saw a bigger picture. It seems True&Co, with a confidence gained from well-designed algorithm, finally succeeded in reaching the summit of the Everest of online retail challenge.

    If a certain company comes up with specific algorithm that defines clearly what is customer’s tasks and needs, I would thinks it is not impossible to do so. Some visualized computer simulation might be required and detailed instruction is also needed. Personally I have never done any construction related job, so if there is a online site that show all variety of options I can choose and well explained instructions I would definitely use the site. If customers like me (totally having no knowledge) visit some brick store, basically having no idea what to ask and completely rely on a salesperson (who might be an expert or not). As well as, it would be more comfortable with visualized images, rather than verbal explanation at the shop.

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  6. Michelle McCaffrey

    The applications from true& co’s algorithm that would be valuable in the marketplace is the 15 question quiz they ask every customer to figure out what bras would work for them. With this quiz they pinpoint what the customer is looking for a fit a bra to their body shape and wants and needs. If store could use an algorithm to decide what their customer want and need they would be able to suggest certain products that a customer would be interested in. The problem with buying items online is you can’t try them on you have to physically go to a store to try the shoes on and then why wouldn’t you just buy it there? At least with true&co’s website you can try the bras on and then chose the ones you like and that fit best to purchase. Even though using an algorithm is a great idea I do not think it would ever replace bra stores. It is time consuming to answer the 15 questions and then have them ship bras to try on, then you have to pick which ones you like and then wait for yours to come in. It’s a lot more time consuming then just hoping in your car and going to the mall and having a sales associated help you decide which bra would be best for you. I think a lot of people are sceptic over if the bras would actually fit like they want and how precise the 15 question quiz actually is.

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  7. Taryn Gackle

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

    I believe this algorithm is extremely valuable in the marketplace. As a female I completely understand the struggle of finding a bra that fits right. If this algorithm was proven to work I believe many retailers would love to invest in it to increase business. I have been fitted before and it was a tad embarrassing having to do it in person. Being able to do this online by myself of even on the phone would be extremely convenient. If they were able to get this sort of algorithm in stores the market would definitely change. As the article states, females do like to look and touch before buying. Because of this, if they were able to be fitted in store accurately, they could easily find the perfect bra every time. I believe they should introduce algorithms like this in other clothing industries such as jeans. I would love it if it was that easy to pick out a pair of jeans and have them fit right every time. This article talks about different body types and sizes needing different styles. This could be useful to have in more than just the bra industy.

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

    Personally I do not think that this kind of e-commerce application will replace stores. I myself would rather try something on and decide if it fits right or looks good before buying. Though they do allow for this with their business, I feel like shipping times would bother me. What happens if my favourite bra breaks and I need a replacement right away? Sure I have others that I could use, but it just isn’t the same. I would rather go to a store a purchase one right away than have to wait for shipping and hope that one fits. Also with prices being relatively similar why bother going online to buy? I usually resort to purchasing products online because they are cheaper and more convenient when I may not have the time to go to a store and search for the product. However, bras are not exactly something that are hard to find. Sure its hard to find one that fits perfectly most of the time, but that is what retail staff are for. The personal experience and help finding products that you want is usually why people still shop in store. If e-commerce takes over the industry where will people get personal interaction?

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  8. Christian Blott

    As convenience of shopping online increases rapidly it only makes sense traditional retailers will move into this realm. With more major tech firms, such as Apple, getting into the payment methods industry it will make it even easier to buy online. As the article suggests many people originally thought moving glasses sales online would never work, but now it is the common way to purchase new glasses. Products that are standard in people’s lives, such as bras, glasses, and clothes are now simple to shop for online. Mathematical algorithms are merging with consumer tastes to find the exact product that will fit your needs. We live in the age of individuality and customization and I feel that online retailers will harness this technology to have your exact requirements already mapped out and only offer products that are suitable to you. Online retailers originally marketed themselves are having tremendous breadth as they did not suffer from huge overhead costs of running a retail location. This gives people the choice but at the same time they might be overwhelmed. This is why we such heavy targeted advertising online because of the tracking of past purchases. Many people are still hesitant to purchase clothes online because of the fitting issue and the long return times. As math and science are further incorporated into the buying process people will be able to get the exact measurements they need without any doubt that it may not fit or be exactly what they want.

    Reply

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