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Perfect bra with no measuring tape
02:58 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Smart Business explores the ways companies are thinking smart to thrive in our digitized world.

Story highlights

True & Co are using data-driven technology to make tailor-made bras for women

Customers fill out an online quiz, which generates a 'personal shop' full of suitable choices

Company founder Michelle Lam believes the service can shape the future of retail

CNN  — 

It’s a woman’s most intimate piece of apparel and many women will admit that shopping for one can be a nightmare. One company is using technology to take the guess work out of buying the perfect bra. Michelle Lam and her company, True & Co, are using data to build a better bra in a smarter way. Lam, founder of the San Francisco-based company which launched in 2012, spoke to Smart Business about how to avoid awkward fittings.

CNN: How does your online bra fitting service work?

Michelle Lam: A True & Co woman comes to the site and she actually takes a very simple quiz with illustrations. We ask questions, like what is the shape of your breast, what size bra do you currently wear. While she’s going through that, our algorithm and technology is doing a bunch of really complicated things behind the scenes, drumming up the exact recommendations and best matches for this woman.

As soon as she reaches what we call her ‘personal shop’, all she sees are the sizes and styles of bras that are the best match for her.

She then orders her bras from us and can try them on at home. And then, we collect even more data from her when she tells us which she likes and fit her best, and which she’s going to return. The fit quiz is our way to size women into the perfect bra for them, without any measuring tape, any photos, or any fitting rooms.

CNN: More than 1 million women have taken the fit quiz. What has your data found?

ML: We translate the data into a ‘true spectrum’ – a way for women to understand the results of their quiz. When we looked at 22 million pieces of data about a woman’s body and her life, we discovered something really extraordinary. First of all, we were expecting a couple of hundred different body types.

We actually found over 6,000 different body types, each nuanced and each different in a unique way. The fit quiz and algorithm successfully fits eight in 10 women.

CNN: Some women may have concerns about buying something as personal as a bra online. How will you remove the risk factor?

ML: After a woman’s first purchase, we may not get it right the first time. We may only get one in five right, or two in five right. And she may keep those. But she’ll tell us what didn’t work about the other ones she returned. And of course, we do free shipping and free returns, so that ensures that the whole equation is risk-free.

We take that data from her and we actually refine the selections in her shop, so that her recommendations get better and better throughout time.

CNN: How can your service change the way we shop?

ML: What we’re doing with the algorithm and the data is a complete innovation in the intimate apparel space. And intimate apparel is a massive market. But what we’re actually doing can be applied to all of apparel and in fact all of shopping. We’re not just telling you how many blue bras have been sold, which is what old retail would do. We’re doing something completely different and new.

We’re telling you who is buying that blue bra and not only that, but why they’re buying the bra. We’re in the business of deciphering what women want, and when you know what women want, you can actually change all of shopping.

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