The Algorithm for Bras

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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68 thoughts on “The Algorithm for Bras

  1. Megan Thurlow

    I believe that this type of algorithm may work well in replacing brick and mortar stores to an extent. Although the algorithm may be near perfect customers who aren’t sure of themselves may not answer the questions accurately. For example, if a customer was asked of their own breast shape, they may answer incorrectly as they are not entirely sure themselves. In terms of myself I do not see this algorithm replacing going in and physically trying on a bra. Although the act of going into a Victoria’s secret can be painstakingly tedious, I much prefer to be able to see how it fits immediately (rather than ordering online, receiving the products weeks later, and then having to ship back the products that did not work out. In my own experience I may try on up to 15 different bras and still not find one that I love every aspect of, so I find it hard to justify buying online. Although that Is my personal preference I do believe that one day this may become commonplace for all women. Just as it used to be nearly unheard of for someone to purchase shoes online, I believe that in regards to bras this algorithm may prove to be extremely beneficial.

    Reply
  2. Cody Veltman

    I personally do not think that this type of algorithm will be able to replace brick and mortar stores. I am not a girl so I have no clue what bra shopping is like, I imagine it is substantially more difficult than simply buying a t-shirt and pants and even those two things are fairly difficult to get right when buying online unless a person has physically tried a certain brands clothing and style on before in a physical location. It would be impractical for bra shopping to be a solely online operation for this reason; all brands would fit differently and so would different style of the same or different brands and I imagine that it would be difficult to find even in store. Though I don’t think online bra shopping can be the only option I do think that it is convenient for some (especially if you have tried the bra on at a physical location and no exactly what you want), and I also think that this algorithm could help immensely with the online and instore shopping experience. It will prove nearly essential online but it would also give a woman that is new to that particular bra store an idea of what to start looking for. Using this algorithm as a selling point of the brand and bra shopping experience of a particular brand for both in store and online is what I could see bringing in the most customers and catching the attention of the public. If the algorithm proves itself I feel like a similar algorithm could be applied to other forms of online clothes shopping.

    Reply
  3. Jordan Slade

    Bras…reminds me of George Costanzas brief employment as a bra sales man. This particular algorithm reminds me of how my job at cobra golf offers hundreds of custom fitting options for our players in terms of equipment and at the online level this is key as the consumer gets the specifications needed and can input them for their online order, funny to think a bra algorithm has so many capabilities in some other real world applications.

    i get the feeling that this will replace brick and mortar with the overall ease of online shopping and the thousands of customization that online retailers now offer, i know from experience my family now exclusively shops online.

    Reply
  4. Michael Forster

    I believe the type of algorithm used for the fitting of bras in this case can be successfully translated to any type of retail product that allows for extremely wide variety. The first example that comes to my mind is footwear, as shoe manufacturers use extremely generic sizes that don’t correlate to the uniqueness of design in different brands. Ordering footwear online would benefit greatly if a simple algorithm was applied to the process. This will reduce returns in online shopping as well as attract new customers with unique body types that have struggled in the past.

    While this algorithm has many benefits, I don’t believe that it could fully take over from brick and mortar businesses in terms of popularity. Consumers trust their own judgement better than anyone else’s, and this means we often will want to physically try on a variety of products in person in order to find what we are looking for. The guarantee of finding the perfect product right in front of you is a feeling online shopping can never give a consumer, no matter how advanced our algorithms get. Human senses cannot be perfectly replicated by a quiz.

    Reply
  5. Todd Bullock

    This type of algorithm would be particularly useful in places where an actual store is out of reach for consumers. The custom consumer reports would be extremely beneficial in the clothing industry and other industries as well. Many consumers are loyal to certain brands once they find a particular item that they enjoy. Having a questionnaire that recognizes similarities in different types of products and can piece different sizes and materials and brands together to offer the perfect buy for a customer based on their needs would be extremely efficient. However I do not think that this will replace brick and mortar stores because for many people shopping is a social event. They enjoy spending time with friends casually shopping. This is also better for business because often the casual shopper can be drawn into a store by sales and other deals when normally they would not have gone to that particular store. These types of quick sales that happen when customers are casually browsing would not happen if everything was done with this particular algorithm the bra company uses.

    Reply
  6. Michael Phipps

    1. This algorithm would be very important to the people who choose to shop online instead of store. Some people are not very comfortable buying specific products in public. There will always be people that prefer to shop in person then other than online. That customer service experience is just a little more important than online. Also, people just like to be able to touch and feel the product in person. Colors tend to look different online than they do in person. Through the online ordering could possibly become offensive to some. Being categorized in could make many feel uncomfortable.
    2. This won’t replace brink and mortar stores. People have a need to get out; being out interacting in person is a human need. Many people will buy online, but that will not stop people from going out and enjoying that face to face connection. Being able to reach customer service online 24/7 is an outstanding advantage to offer your customers, but in person you just can’t get the same experience. I think for a great deal of products online shopping bill be best; but the majority of the products that are purchased will always be purchased in store. Brick and mortar will always be around. You can’t eliminate that. For some products online might work just fine, but people almost need a physical touch to really appreciate a product.

    Reply
  7. Brooke Torgerson

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

    I think this would be very valuable in the marketplace especially in regards to online bra and clothes shopping. It can be a very long and frustrating process to go into a store and have a bra fit properly. Largely benefiting those who do not feel comfortable going into the store and asking questions themselves. With todays internet presence and more people trying to shop online I think that any business that implemented this algorithm would increase their sales. Many people hate online shopping because they are not sure what size is going to fit, but with this algorithm that could change.

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

    No I do not see this replacing actual stores as there are many people who would in fact rather try on the clothes and bra’s and see what they look like on. While the online shopping is great technology still has its downfalls and can malfunction. Errors do exist. People also still enjoy going and walking around stores browsing and trying things on without an idea of what they actually want. The application just cannot replace that experience, which is invaluable to businesses.

    Reply
  8. Stephen Primeau

    I believe that this type of algorithm would be highly beneficial in any retail market. This would allow for customers to try on different sizes, and/or styles to determine which ones are preferred as well as which ones offer a better fit. When purchasing online, you are guessing if another companies sizes are similar to the ones you are looking to order. For example, if I were to order a pair of Underarmour shoes, but I currently own a pair of Nike shoes, I might assume that they will fit the same. That is not always the case. That’s why this algorithm would be extremely beneficial to this kind of industry because it would allow for individuals to be more certain of what they would like to purchase. The companies algorithm itself is also extremely clever because they offer two extra bras to try on that have been determined to potentially be a seller to their customer base. In this kind of industry, it is love at first sight or first try, and by offering additional pieces of clothing to try on, you are increasing the odds that your customers might purchase something.
    I don’t believe this e-commerce model will replace the physical stores because it is much easier to deal with customer complaints and issues face to face rather than having to go through the significant waits and miscommunications that could potentially occur online. Many other customers aren’t necessarily comfortable giving out personal information such as their credit card information, and therefore for this reason I believe that many customers would prefer the physical store itself.

    Reply
  9. Tomara Noga

    I believe in this algorithm it shows how many people would prefer to buy online, due to convenience factor rather than having to go to their traditional brick and mortar store. Personally, I am more of an in the store shopper because I like to look around and know exactly what i’m buying, rather than being unsure if the product I ordered will fit right or if it will be unbelievably ugly. In saying that, I do think the option of having this algorithm is very suitable for many women. I think its a great way to give them the choice to order online and figure out what may be best for them before they have to face commitment. I find it crazy that they have come so far to figure out an algorithm for such an intimate process that is actually effective, I know it still has a long way to come, but I think this is a great start and many other companies will soon be creating similar programs. I do not think that this will completely replace the brick and mortar stores. People still love the idea of being able to go out and pick a nice outfit, or even for the socializing aspect with their friends. Myself, I would much rather go in a store, try an outfit on, and/or most likely find sale items I would never have found online. Customers still typically deal with having to pay shipping online, so that can also just add to the cost of the initial product. I think more and more companies will continue to expand their online image, but many people will typically use both rather than just one option.

    Reply
  10. Blake Furgeson

    This type of algorithm would be useful in the sales industry, it would expand business in locations where there is not a storefront close to the consumer. More specifically, this would be useful in the sales industry to expand the exposure of the business. Not only expand the exposure of the business but improve the customer experience provided by the business and create diversification for the that business.
    It may not replace the brick and mortar stores because there are a good number of consumers who prefer to try on the product or see how the product works in person rather than trusting the algorithm on a website. Even with an algorithm in place, some consumers prefer the option of returning the product after trying it own. This said, even with an algorithm in place consumers still prefer some part of brick and mortar stores in place along with the algorithm. The algorithm could help stores expand using the internet to increase sales but a business may still have to keep storefronts to be able to provide many consumers who still want to can see the products provided by the business in person.

    Reply
  11. jessicapaulson

    I think this this type of algorithm would be valuable in any market place that has a diverse set of styles and options for different style preferences. I like that they can help generate product options that the consumer would be interested in. It is especially useful when the customer doesn’t necessarily know what product to choose, what would look good on them, or what their style is aiming towards. These quizzes are very useful in a retail marketplace whether its clothing, shoes, bras, or even makeup products. I like that they give you suggestions that you might have overlooked. I think this is a very good sales strategy because with more options brought to the consumers attention they will more likely buy more products. Although, I do not think e-commerce would ever fully be able to replace brick and mortar stores. The main reason I believe brick and mortar stores will always be around is because people want their products in real time. I personally enjoy shopping in malls and find it very enjoyable almost like a hobby. E-commerce stores work well if you either live far away from main shopping centers, or if you are looking for specific articles of clothing/ products. I do not like the argument that if they send you something and you don’t like it you are able to send it back. This is very tedious in my opinion because how long will it take for you to finally be able to wear the garment? In conclusion as long as we have to wait 3-5 business days for delivery there will always be brick and mortar stores (for clothing at least).

    Reply
  12. Sam Gleim

    This algorithm is quite astonishing, really. It is not perfect, however people are more alike than we would like to believe, and therefore the application of an algorithm to recognize and capitalize on these similarities is quite remarkable. The algorithm used for the construction of bras could easily be applied to other accessories. Like the article states, shoes is an item that was deemed an article of clothing that must be tried on and purchased in person. However, the large online market for shoes and the growth it has seen begs to differ. Men’s and women’s suits are other areas of the market that have the potential to use and make bank with an algorithm. It would save the consumer hours of trying on garments and then hours more of getting the article of clothing tailored. I believe the algorithm, though not flawless, has potential in the market. Personally, I despise shopping due to the countless hours of trying on clothes that do not fit my body correctly. To have the option of shopping in the comfort of my own home is both appealing and convenient.
    That being said, I do not think that e-commerce or e-businesses will entirely replace brick-and-mortar stores. For one, people have already voiced skepticism of the algorithms legitimacy which is the key factor. Secondly, not everyone has access to the internet and therefore online shopping is not possible. The digital divide is a real and apparent thing, despite what some people wish to believe. Thirdly, though people have access to the internet and e-commerce they may desire the event of physically walking into a store and shopping. Most teenage girls I know think of shopping as an event that they get dressed up for. Moreover, the Baby Boomers and Generation X would scoff at the idea of e-commerce replacing all brick-and-mortar stores. Most people in those generations prefer the outing as well and are more likely to resist changing to other approaches to shopping.

    Reply
  13. Chiaki Kitsuki

    I think this particular kind of algorithm would be valuable in the marketplace. Even though it sounds ridiculous, this can reduce customers’ uncomfortable feeling by asking questions to choose new bras. In my country, Japan, this algorithm is actually used in many places such as clothes shops, retailer companies and restaurants. For example, in the clothes shops. When you are choosing new clothes for dating, they ask you some questions including the purpose of the clothes, where are you going to wear the new clothes, what is your favorite color, and what are you going to do. After answering all the questions, they will choose the new clothes based on their answers for them. In my experiences, they actually responded to almost all the requests and the customers can find what they want.
    Regarding the second question, I’m not sure e-commerce application can replace brick and mortar stores for this application. Because compared to the bras marketing, the security and safety need to consider beside choosing the best one. However, I think it is difficult to meet the two things by e-commerce, for you can’t judge or grantee whether it is safe or not. In the first place, the weakness of e-commerce business is that the products are not sold by face to face communication so customers might buy products that is not what they want. Therefore, e-commerce application can’t replace brick and mortar stores for this application.

    Reply
  14. Emily Pritchard

    I personally love the idea of a bra fitting service that operate both online and in person. Having a bra properly fitted can be somewhat of an intrusive process, but any woman can tell you that its important to comfort and confidence to have a bra fitted correctly. So, the idea of using a computerized algorithm to streamline a frustrating process and add comfort to every day life truly seems to be a perfect example of data usage benefiting everyday life. The fact that a human body’s shape can be properly calculated and accommodated to can be a very valuable asset to many corporation. Other uses for this algorithm could expand to clothing stores, 3d cast printing, perhaps even specially made furniture or chiropractic tools. The comfort and customization given from these personalized goods could potentially lead to better customer retention thus furthering sales. However, I don’t fully believe that these online capabilities will replace storefronts in the long term. Even the primary example of the bra store states that they still have customers to prefer to come in and be measured in person. This can be applied to most industries that similarly maintain a store front. Some people prefer to deal with people directly, and thus I believe that there will always be a place in the business world for store fronts, they can work together with the advancement of online technologies. Furthermore, storefronts can help to promote the online businesses by raising awareness to existing customers. Similarly, if a store is out of stock of a particular item they can direct the customer to the online partner. Thus, benefiting both forms of the business.

    Reply
  15. Tyson Reimer

    In my opinion, this algorithm is extremely important to people that prefer shopping online rather than in store. I myself, order products online regularly without knowing if it will fit me or not. But this algorithm sends out five products for consumers to ensure the product is the right match. Although there are many people that prefer online shopping, there will always be the traditional person that needs to touch and try on the product in store to ensure it’s the product they want. This algorithm is a start though, and over time I think more businesses will turn to something like this.

    This algorithm still won’t replace brick and mortar buildings, in my opinion. Some people don’t have the time to go out and shop for products, but for many people, a day out shopping is a getaway from everyday life. They like seeing the product in store and like the shopping experience. Someone may also not have access to the internet, which is pretty rare nowadays, but it forces people to go out and find the product they are looking for. Brick and mortar will always exist, but online shopping will continue to grow as well.

    Reply
  16. Queenie

    I think the e-commerce application won’t replace the brick and mortar stores. I love to shop online only because of the great deal that they offer, however, I prefer going to the store itself. Purchase support is generally much better at brick and mortar stores than if you go with something online. I can usually take a malfunctioning product in and get a replacement on the spot without having to deal with the nightmare of shipping something back and maybe getting a working product in return. Some stores offer free returns and give you your money back if you’re dissatisfied with a product they sell. This is less common in online retail due to the costs involved with shipping and restocking to their warehouses. When you shop at a local retail store, you have the advantage of being able to speak with someone that might be able to point you in the right direction. You may have a vague idea of what it is you’re looking for, and a knowledgeable associate should be able to find something to meet your needs. Merchandise is often cheaper and you can browse around for the best price much faster than you could by visiting physical locations. Some online stores offer free shipping on their products. Still, brick and mortar stores have their place and a good one should definitely be supported.

    Reply
  17. Maximilian Gundl

    1. What applications of this particular kind of algorithm do you think would be valuable in the marketplace?
    Defining or categorizing a human body can be extremely valuable in the marketplace. Not only lingerie could be sold that successfully, also clothes. People having the struggle to find suitable clothes in a store can order them online instead. Of course there are already lots of companies selling clothes online, but none of these businesses use artificial intelligence like that. With this digital innovation, revenues can be increased in online shopping. Customer satisfaction will be also most likely boosted by the comfortable application.

    2. Will this e-commerce application replace brick and mortar stores for this application? Why or why not?
    I do not think that brick and mortar stores will be replaced that easily. The system offers too many benefits which has not yet been fully exploited and companies using this kind of system see no reason why they should change from the established, profitable model to a new, unknown one. The idea is good, but there are still too many customers who want to have a shop nearby where they receive professional aid. Using customer support online only may not be that cost intensitive, but customers feel like they are not being taken care in the right way. People feel more convenient when they can speak to a shop assistant rather than a computer. The shopping experience is still one of the most important experiences the customer is making in the progress and a negative experience would harm future revenues.

    Reply

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