Bra-fitting is arguably the hardest job in retail—and one of the most lucrative functions for traditional department stores. Unfortunately, most don't do it very well, and a variety of new players are trying to find the perfect way to identify bra size. Preparing to launch this fall: ThirdLove, a startup that's using computer vision (by way of smartphone cameras) to estimate bra sizes.
According to VentureBeat, ThinkLove's app will guide customers through taking photos of their bust from the front and side, then calculate the correct size in ThinkLove's proprietary system, and then take the customer to ThirdLove's mobile store, which offers three bra styles, customized features and matching panties.
The idea is to create an at-home experience that doesn't subject women to an unpleasant bra-fitting experience with a stranger, but also leaves out the physical measuring that most e-commerce bra-fitting requires.
It's an interesting idea, but ThirdLove's biggest challenge may be just getting a chance with most customers. Right now, most online bra companies use pictures, questionnaires and in some cases specific measurements to calculate breast size. A few have more elaborate systems, including Jockey, which uses a set of mail-order cups to let customers test for the right size and shape. Some calculate conventional sizing, others have proprietary sizes. And they're all out there already, which makes for a crowded field.
Another challenge: ThirdLove's fitting technology is designed to drive traffic to its own products, using its own proprietary sizing. No one argues that conventional bra sizing is perfect, and there's too much variation among products from different vendors, but customers do like to shop around, even for something as hard to fit properly as a bra. Proprietary sizing makes that impossible, at least until ThirdLove has enough disloyal customers for them to create a conversion table to traditional measurements. (Yes, of course that will happen. This is e-commerce, and that's what social media is for.)
On the other hand, while ThirdLove's chances as a mobile retailer in a crowded field are hard to calculate, its ability to calculate bra sizes should be a lot easier to test. If the technology works—or at least works better than online surveys or traditional in-store bra-fitting—there are a lot of other mobile retailers who may be willing to pay for the benefit of ThirdLove's expertise.
- See this VentureBeat story
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