An Algorithm for Bras


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?

26 thoughts on “An Algorithm for Bras

  1. Lucille Black Rabbit

    I like this idea of on line bra buying because of the simple fact that I feel embarrassed and violated when im in a department store and the sales lady starts feeling and prodding me. I would much rather have some one far away from me tell me how and where to measure by myself and in the privacy of my own home. The measurements would be more precise and more honest for the simple fact that you are doing it on your own and no body is looking at you or judging you with their eyes. You are more apt to get something that you will be satisfied with because if you put false information on the application than obviously your not going to get the right size. It also asks the style you want to wear and you can be specific about that information since they have many styles at their disposal and also give more than one choice to choose from in case you may like another style and don’t know it. Some people are ok with having a sales person touching them but also too some people don’t like that sort of thing so no it will not replace the brick and mortar stores for the simple fact that there will always be people who don’t want to do this sort of thing by themselves and they are the ones that will always go to the department store and get measured and fitted.

  2. Helene

    The algorithm that True&Co uses would be valuable such as retail. When the article mentioned shoes, I thought of online retailers such as which has a short style quiz and it seems to a type of algorithm to assist in letting a customer know which shoes are handpicked from their stylists. So, probably adds value to the customers and the company for I am not surprised that shoes, eyeglasses, and now bras are in e-commerce. I do not think this e-commerce application will replace brick and mortar stores right now but I do think e-commerce will eventually be more popular. Going to an online site and ordering saves time and money. People’s habits are trending towards saving money and shopping online saves money. Some people do like shopping at brick and mortar store for different reasons such as the experience dealing directly with people rather than using the computer or phone. Not only does shopping online save people money but also saves money for the company. Costs associated with having to pay for a physical building or paying rent, and utilities. The article mentions that the customers buy an average of 2 bras chosen by the algorithm so it is bringing in money. So, if it is bringing in money why not use it.

  3. Sherry Lu

    The kind of algorithms in clothing retail stores is common nowadays, in fact in everything we shop for our daily life. People go online to shop for desire goods, because many of them do not have time to go in store to shop in person, or are too tired to spend hours of time in fitting room trying to find the perfect clothes. In my opinion, due to these circumstances, I think the e-commerce business is doing a pretty good job and it will keep on growing. As more people shop online, many physical stores have online store for people to shop, and the procedure to order online and the sizes and scales are listed online, which will be easy for both customers and supplier. Although I do preferred going in store to shop, one good thing I really like about shopping online is that they send it right to my door, which saves me time to picking up in store.

  4. Mitch

    There is no doubt that e-commerce businesses have changed the way we shop and have expanded because of this, but there is also a limitation to e-commerce that will stop it from completely taking over the shopping experience. Some people simply still enjoy the social aspect of going to a mall and having the convenience of several services within their grasp and knowing 100% they are comfortable with the product they are going to leave with. This is evident as malls are still booming, as evidence think about the last time you tried to park at Chinook Mall in Calgary. Further, walking around the mall is crowded, there are lines at tills. These people could buy the exact same products online but they are still at the mall and in the store. There still is no way of knowing exactly how something is going to fit and many people are faced with the problem of re-selling something they ordered online because it did not fit they way they had hoped. This is a problem that will never be completely fixed by e-commerce and for that reason it won’t completely take over.

  5. Michael Scott

    Any clothing can be done with measurements and preferred fits. For men, finding suits that fit doesnt usually happen when shopping off the rack, you can find something that fits close, then get it tailored to your personal size/preference. I doubt that brick and mortar stores will entirely disappear as individual fittings like this are very hard to do. Algorithms can help to guide people to things similar to what they need or what they are looking for, but I doubt that they will entirely allow people to bypass the brick and mortar stores one hundred percent of the time.

  6. Debbie Payne

    I can relate to Michelle’s bra shopping experience. I would always go to a trusting department store, like Sears or the Bay, to purchase my bras. One day I thought I would go outside of the box and try shopping at a specialty store, which came highly recommended by a friend and fellow bra wearer. It was the most embarrassing experience I have been through! I am not much of a shopper, so if there is a way that I can I shop for bras in the privacy of my own home and not have to worry about sharing the dressing room with a total stranger, I am all for it. Unfortunately, women do come in all shapes and sizes, so I am not convinced that the algorithm used for online ordering is as precise as it claims. So, you receive five different bras in the mail. What happens if none of them feel right? You have the hassle of returning them and starting over. Call me old fashion, but until the brick and mortar stores completely disappear, which I doubt they will, I will continue to shop for my bras a trusting department store where I am not required to “share” my dressing room. It is very important to have a comfortable fitting bra, so being able to walk into a store and take all the time needed to select the “right” one, will keep me going back to the bricks and mortar time and time again.

  7. Tyson

    These types of algorithms could be used extensively in the retail sector of the market. Online shopping has become a massive revenue stream for many retail clothing companies and the more personalized a company can make the online shopping experience, the more revenues will increase. This being said, algorithms are often more of a rough estimate, rather than an exact personalized match. In some sectors, say men’s suits, it is safe to say most men would not buy a suit online unless there was some sort of free return policy paired with a high percentage chance of a 1st try fit. Therefore, I don’t believe that this type of Ecommerce will replace traditional in the near future, however, with 3D printers on the rise, it’s not totally unrealistic to believe that Ecommerce may become the largest supplier of consumer goods. With 3D printing, consumers could customize each individual order to cater to their unique differences. This would exceed shopping at the actual store, where products are often broken down to 4 or 5 different sizes. The possibilities of this type of customization would greatly benefit both consumers and businesses alike, as well as open new economic business opportunities within the market for revenue streams such as consumer designed products.

  8. Kirsti Osowetski

    The best an algorithm does is help to narrow down through questionnaires and databases what size and style would fit a woman best and what would be best for them and their lifestyle. Not all bra’s are made the same and I can honestly say that if I had to choose between La Senza or Victorias Secret I would choose VS every time because I have bought both and not only is the experience of VS better, their bra’s are also much more comfortable and I have found that they are not made as cheaply as La Senza’s bra’s. However I have never ordered a bra online even from Victoria’s Secret because even their bra’s are not all made the same and its a bit of a hassle to order something wait for it to be mailed to you only to have to mail it back when you find out it doesn’t fit like the rest of the bra’s you already have. For this reason I do not think that this e-commerce business will ever fully replace brick and mortar buildings because even when you’ve already bought something from one specific company there is always a chance that it will not fit the right way or the way your other items fit and this will allow the physical buildings to remain in business even if there customer experiences continue to suck.

  9. Evan

    despite the algorithm it is not the holy grail, clothing items such as bras are not made the same by all companies that make them. The best an algorithm does is point out to which size you are likely to be based on a questions & database of other customers, at the end of the day bras still require a human to correctly see if a bra is correct for you to wear. Any app can spit out numbers but it is humans that tell if it is a proper fit for that particular person. If a person fits clothes that are typical then perhaps bras from this algorithm would typically fit them.

  10. Yifan Han

    nowadays, customers would like to online shopping and they enjoy it. people do not have much time to go out for shopping. males do not like to shop for three hours to get a shirt, and females usually finish their job and tired so they would not like to go out to the stores to shopping and try on. due to those situations, the e-commerce business will develop very well. customers would like to shopping online everywhere such as at home or company if they have a smartphone or a laptop, and the online sales will increase in the future. now this is the technology time. i think this particular kind of algorithm would be valuable in the clothing and accessories marketplace. it is convenient for customers having a clear measurement in their minds. and algorithms can help customers when they are shopping online. and it will have a data collection of size and style what customers would like.

  11. kaylie neisz

    As a female, this type of algorithm helps to solve a lot of issues that women in society have with bra fitting and thus would be valuable to the market place. Especially in this industry because every women is shaped differently depending on their size and build, not all retail stores like victoria secret can accustom to the needs of everyone. And for most women a bra is in fact a need. However this type of algorithm would not work for all clothing stores mostly because there would be no need for it and without the need for it, using it would be time consuming and in the long term cost ineffective. Certain stores wouldn’t need this algorithm because it all depends on what the brand of the store is built around. If for instance a clothing brand is built on affordable clothing, they would not be concerned on the perfect match to customer’s bodies but whether their clothes are meeting cost efficient representations that they promised.

    This application will not replace brick and mortar stores because it does not consume the whole market. It rather targets individuals whose needs are not met by brick and mortar stores, while peoples whose needs are met by them will continue to use them. E-commerce has a major disadvantage in clothing because you cant try the clothes on, regardless of the return or exchange policies it is more efficient to be able to go to a store and decide on the purchase their rather then continually ordering things that don’t fit properly or that do not match the tastes you had in mind upon purchase. However, E-commerce has made it available in this industry for women who find it impossible to get the proper bra to actually get one that is efficient and effective for its purpose.

  12. Zhiyao Guan

    Applying algorithm in measuring the size of clothes that are most suitable for customers really benefit both customers and sellers. Taking clothing store as an example, consumers can obtain the clothes that fit them through algorithm analysis. Sellers, on the contrary, make benefit by selling clothes. It’s a win-win method. Therefore, it’s necessary to apply algorithm in the clothing marketplace.
    Although e-commerce brings quantity of benefits in our daily life, it won’t replace tangible stores. The reason for this is that tangible stores do have certain advantages that can’t be replaced by online stores. Tangible stores provide try-on service for customers. In the case provided above, customers can compare and try on bras of different styles or sizes in order to choose the one that fits them most. However, as for online stores, most consumers intend to select the one that is most suitable for the model instead of themselves. In my point of view, consumers can try on the bras in the brick and mortar stores at first. After being clear about the size of underwear that fits them, they can try shopping through online stores. Generally speaking, a good combination of online stores and tangible stores facilitates the whole company running smoothly. Both online stores and brick stores are connected closely with each other. Therefore, it’s vital to operate both intangible and tangible stores at the same time. Brick and mortar stores won’t be replaced by online stores.

  13. Alan Iwaasa

    I believe that eCommerce will continue to grow and expand, especially by doing things like True&Co where consumers can have the ability to physically compare products. The convenience of shopping from home and being able to do that shopping when it fits in a consumer’s schedule is a huge advantage. I do think that with all these advances in online services traditional shop and retail jobs will be reduced. However, I don’t think that those physical locations will ever be fully obsolete. I think there are still people who prefer the option of having face to face interactions as well as being able to physically compare products with their competitors. However, there does seem to be a major movement to conform to these new services. I believe that millennials are somewhat divided on their comfort levels with eCommerce, however, generation Z is full of people that have dealt with this system their entire lives and only have an idea of some of the nuances and potential benefits of personal retail. Personally, I buy things online all the time, but it is usually as a result of poor service from physical store locations or cheaper prices online. However, my limit knowledge of certain sites and concerns over data security keep me going back to physical locations.

  14. Danielle Anvik

    I have experienced ordering online with swimwear. This is another personal clothing item where it is difficult to find a good fit and style. Despite size charts, it is inevitable that each brand and model will fit in a slightly different manner. I used Swim Outlet, and was happy with my shopping experience. They had a great return policy, although I had to pay return shipping unless I was willing to have store credit. I was able to order a variety of suits, try them on and return the unwanted items. I would welcome the idea of Swim Outlet adding a few extra suits based on an algorithm, especially if they were willing to pay the return shipping. I can see how they could design a quiz to determine body type and style preference.

    I also used a mail order coin collecting service a few years ago to order a few specific coins for my collection. I was surprised when they sent me 7 extra coins on spec, which I could return in their prepaid envelope or pay for and keep. I generally was not interested, but I did end up purchasing a few of these unsolicited coins before cancelling the service.

  15. David Zhang

    Algorithms are now commonly applied to our everyday lives, from common additions and subtractions, to governing algorithmic trading in a range-bound stock market, to pushing the boundaries of theoretical physics with complex mathematical equations, and yes, it is even used to discover the perfect bra. Algorithms, as with any analytical tool, hold the most value in the hands of individuals who can use it effectively. Linda the Bra Lady seems to have a masterful handle on the bra algorithm, and it has taken her retail business online where she sells twice as many bras today as she does in her stores. This story shows the value of algorithms in the marketplace. Referring back now to the use of algorithms in the stock market, fast pace trading is no longer being done by humans, it is all done by computer programs base on their underlying algorithms created by mathematicians. Albeit some supervision is required just in case the market goes beyond the range in order for the algorithms function as intended, but algorithms have revolutionized day trading. Traders with faces and emotions are being replaced with machines who only deals with numbers. Algorithms’ applications in the marketplace is both vast and impactful, from selling bras, clothing, and eyeglasses, to being an essential cog in the entire financial market.

  16. Shiqi Wang

    Nowadays, shopping on line is becoming more common in people’s daily life especially the young people. Though the development of trend, old people who used to going to brick and motor stores accept the universality of the popularity of shopping online. More and more areas of retail choose to perfect their online service at the same time. However, it will be a long way to explore for e-commerce if they want to take place brick and mortar stores in people’s daily life. From the survey of comparing the customers between online with brick and mortar stores, 61% of consumers shop in-store, compared to only 31% who turn to the internet. This is good news for brick-and-mortar businesses. One of the largest drivers for in-store shopping is the ability for customers to receive the product immediately. Until e-Commerce can find a less expensive solution for same-day or 1-day delivery, in-store shopping will continue to win on this point. For brands, the e-Commerce route can have many benefits over a brick-and-mortar store. They don’t require expensive storefronts; instead, more cost-effective warehouses are used to hold inventory. With multiple warehouses, brands can ship products quicker via online orders, and moms can receive products faster than ever before. The convenience of shopping online is arguably the greatest benefit, as consumers can select a product and purchase it within minutes. Ecommerce is a rapidly growing industry, but until the Internet can provide all the benefits of in the in-store experience, physical stores will continue to be in demand.

  17. Narinder

    E-commerce business is expanding in the market place. The younger generation are more advanced in the use of technology that they order most of their things on line saving money and time. E-commerce makes shopping and day to day transactions easier and can be done in the convenience of your home. I believe the traditional Brick and Mortar stores will eventually be replaced by e-commerce due to the advancement in technology. On line stores allow people to compare prices and save time and offer variety of choices to choose than traditional stores. In this fast past world we are so busy convince is the name of the game.

  18. Karla Carcamo

    I think being able to find a pattern and outline which body type sells more of a particular something will be beneficial in this sort of algorithm. For example, the information gathered from the bra sizes could potentially be used to find out what dress, shirt or even pant size would best fit a certain body type – or the body type that dominates so manufactures can create a more “personalized” fit, rather than relying on s/m/l etc.

    Brick and mortar won’t disappear entirely but they will shrink in size going forward. Like the article ends on, feel and touch are still important to the consumer. Online shopping satisfies instant gratification but will never replace the experience of shopping in stores where people can try on their clothes and walk out instantly with that they have purchased. I do feel like debt will likely increase since people find themselves doing both…a lot (myself included, oops).

  19. Kurtis Hawkins

    Algorithms like the one noted here are becoming increasingly popular for niche and specialty clothing stores. There is now a mens suit company that is able to take your measurements with an app and have a complete custom tailored suit delivered to you within 6 weeks. These new algorithms eliminate a huge barrier to entry for new start up firms that are targeting the higher end clothing market which is a traditional brick and mortar store.

    I see a big opportunity for the construction and home renovation market. If its not out already we will soon see an app that that will allow you to take a picture of old run down deck for example, and the app will be able to tell you what the new cost of a replacement deck will be. As a former roofer I know that some companies use satellite imagery to measure and quote a roof without having to pay 2 or 3 employees to measure roofs day after day.

    However, with these high price items customers are often weary of shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars over a computer or phone. To solve this, referral systems are of utmost importance as referrals are to be some of the most trusted sources.

  20. Yichao Jing

    In my opinion, even though more and more people choose E-commerce application and shopping online in recently years, E-commerce will not replace brick and mortar stores. According to this article, people can buy bra online. With doing an algorithm test, customers can find a bra which more suitable than the ones they select themselves. However, some people cannot find perfect bras even though there are 2000 body types in the algorithm. Therefore, many people need to go physical stores and touch and try those clothes by themselves. What is more, some customers love to go shopping in physical stores rather than look through E-commerce application. Customers can buy some commodity online, but it is not convenience for customers to buy something which should choose size, such as shoes, bras, even pants and jacket. Once consumer feel not suitable about what they bought, it is not convenience as physical stores for consumer to return or change another one. In a short, E-commerce application will be popular because it is convenience and sometimes have better deal with prices, but it never replace physical stores.

  21. Jiani Z

    Obviously, the number of businesses that use e-commerce will keep increasing because the trend of network’s globalization, and there are many benefits of e-commerce. For example, companies can sell their products globally easier; that is, customers have more choices and they can buy international products without going aboard. However, I do not think e-commerce will replace brick and mortar stores because customers can see real products and they have more visual views of products. Compared with e-commerce, brick and mortar stores are more reliable, and customers can access products directly so they have a more correct view of the product. What is more, checking out in brick and mortar stores is safer than online since many website now keep the card information automatically. E-commerce defrauding is more common and it is harder to avoid. Personally, I will buy products which I have used before through e-commerce, and for some non-differential products like socks and glass cups online; besides, for some furniture like sofa, tea table, and chairs, I would like buying them online because it is more convenient and it is not necessarily to change if there is small problem. However, for some products like clothes and make ups I still prefer to buy them in mortar stores because I can try them before purchasing, which can avoid dissatisfaction efficiently.

  22. Nisali

    E-commerce business will definitely increase for the simple reason that people are lazy. Delivery businesses thrive for a reason. If you can get something you want without ever leaving your house, most people will jump at the chance. Add in an algorithm that’s pretty spot on for finding exactly what you want, tailored to fit the customer and you got yourself a pretty stable business. Granted the algorithm that the company uses now has some setbacks like having to be sent 5 bras to try and having to send the ones you don’t like back can be sort of a hassle. Eventually, someone is going to come up with a computer system that is fool proof. You can already order prescription glasses online made to fit your face and your prescription delivered to your door within a week so it would only be a matter of time before e-commerce businesses expand and develop globally with the help of new technology.

    In the long run it will not replace physical stores because people in general are very sensory and ordering something online that you can’t touch and get a feel for can be risky. Even with easier return policies, it’s a hassle. That being said online shopping has increased exponentially in the last 10 years and doesn’t seem like it’ll slow any time soon.

  23. Sadie R

    E-commerce businesses will and have already evidently increase the marketplace. Many individuals who have any kind of problem stopping their ability to actually go to a store now have their entire market open them online. Many stores that haven’t expanded to both the US and Canada can use online stores to open their markets to individuals in both countries but using international shipping. There is no E-commerce stores will completely replace physical stores. Some of the busiest areas in the city are around malls and downtown shopping centres. This attraction bring business to surrounding companies, i.e.moxies. Taking away physical stores completely could slow the economy for other businesses. Almost all large stores have an online store and almost all cities are made up strongly of stores where customers purchase things, so shutting down physical stores would also lessen the appeal of the city. Having algorithms in the marketplace would be very essential and in many cases already exist. Algorithms are proceeds to flow in order to solve a problem, so essentially business plans for success and back up plans if a company encounters failure. Algorithms keep the marketplace organized and efficient.

  24. Cecile Chan

    E-commerce is certainly growing bigger and bigger in the marketplace. With advanced technologies, customers no longer needed to go out to search and shop for daily essentials in which could be done with a few clicks within 10 minutes on personal computers, or even smartphones. As long as you have access to the internet, there is nothing that you could not find. High rents and taxes, low expenses, and no labour needed are reasons why more people are moving towards E-commerce in recent years and this concept has developed so significant and successful in present marketplace. However, I do not think E-commerce will replace brick and mortar stores due to the fact that online shopping takes days of shipping to get to customers’ hands, and if the product does not meet the customer’s expectation, it takes even longer to process a return and refund. Online shopping does give us a lot of convenience and variety of products to purchase but it will always be better if we could have the product in our hands to compare and decide with other available options.

  25. Matthew Sentes

    E-commerce will continually expand especially with the way technology is so readily accessible today. Brick and mortar stores may decrease in areas such as this, but they will not completely disappear. Companies like True&Co`s make it very easy to be able to try bra`s on. They also make it potentially more comfortable for individuals to try these items on, as they get to try them on in the comfort of their own home, as opposed to having to be waited on. There are many advantages to going completely the e-commerce route. However, there are also reasons that the brick and mortar stores will not go extinct. For one, with True&Co`s, you have to fill out the survey and then wait for the bra`s to be shipped to you. Then you have to ship the bra`s that you do not want, back to them. That requires a lot of shipping as well as having to wait for them to get to you. If none of the bra`s fit the way you would like them to, you just wasted that much time waiting for them. As opposed to being able to go to a physical shop and trying them on and knowing within a much shorter period whether you will be going home with a bra or not. In case of emergency situations such as spilling something on your attire may require you to go and buy a replacement clothing item quickly. If everything is e-commerce, you will not be able to solve that situation as where a brick and mortar store will be able to service that situation.

  26. Amy Giesbrecht

    I think e-commerce businesses will increase online selling through even further technology in the future however I dont think they will replace physical stores completely. People still like to try on and see products in person and can later buy online. Even the website True&Co sends gout bras for the customer to try on before they commit to buy which may sometimes be more of a hassle than just going to a store to buy in the first place. Algorithms can help in many situations where companies want to find out info on target markets and bringing new products to market, by asking questionssuch as age, sex, buying habbits etc to help with decision making.


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