ThirdLove CEO reveals how data from more than 17 million shoppers inspired the lingerie startup's new virtual fitting room

  • ThirdLove launched a virtual fitting room in January, using data from over 17.6 million shoppers. 
  • The feature is intended to help drive sales and introduce shoppers to new styles, CEO says. 
  • The brand is also doubling down on its fast-growing underwear category, which doubled sales in 2020. 
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ThirdLove — best known for its unabashed efforts to put Victoria’s Secret out of business — recently launched data-based technology tools designed to bolster sales and grow newer category offerings on its website.

The buzzy lingerie startup compiled data from more than 17.6 million women to create its new virtual, interactive fitting room that helps shoppers identify better fits and styles for their body and taste. Consumer data was collected via the brand’s “Fit Finder” quiz, which enabled ThirdLove to create a more personalized experience and assist customers in avoiding challenges like cup gaping and band discomfort.

Within just a week of the virtual fitting room’s launch on January 26, the feature is already driving conversions and sales on mobile, where the company completes a majority of its transactions, ThirdLove founder and CEO Heidi Zak told insider.

“We’re really continuing to evolve, innovate, and push the technology forward,” Zak said. “Now that we have so many women who’ve done the Fit Finder and so many data points, it was time for us to continue to create a really great experience.”

According to Zak, Fitting Room uses 3D renderings to more clearly illustrate common fit issues — such as gaping, overflow, and tightness or looseness of the straps or band — while interactive features allow users to make selections on a sliding scale from “too small” to “too big” and “digging in” to “slipping” for more targeted results.

Beyond Fit Finder’s promise of helping users find their correct bra size in 60 seconds or less, Fitting Room also introduces new queries around personal style, ideal amount of breast coverage, favorite lingerie colors, and preferred types of underwear, allowing ThirdLove to serve up and sell a wider array of products. 

Like many of its retail peers, ThirdLove experienced sales slumps early on in the pandemic due to the permanent closure of its New York City brick-and-mortar pop-up shop, as well as vast shifts in consumer sentiment toward apparel. The company laid off nearly 30% of its staff in April as a result, a mix of employees from the physical store and at its customer experience center in Chico, California.

However, as the pandemic progressed, the company started to find its footing and saw success in newer categories like underwear. The category, which ThirdLove first introduced in 2018, doubled in sales in 2020 compared to the year prior, and Zak said its on track to do so again in 2021. ThirdLove also saw growth in bra styles without underwire, though its classic “24/7 Perfect Coverage” T-shirt bra has remained its top seller. 

“We’ve seen that with every fashion bra we sell, not only are we selling one pair of fashion underwear, but many times we’re selling two underwear per bra,” she said. “There’s just a lot of opportunity in this space and we’ve seen a lot of success.”

Looking ahead, ThirdLove will launch an expanded loungewear collection this month, after selling out early in the pandemic before scaling back operations. The brand has also experienced increased demand for its more fashionable bra styles, a trend that partially inspired the launch of Fitting Room, Zak said. 

“What we learned is that women want to see more of an assortment,” she said. “Our customers on average are buying two to three bras per purchase. They don’t just want one bra recommendation, they want to see multiple bra recommendations.”

Despite pandemic memes and social media posts decrying the end of bras and the death of fashion as we knew it, Zak  is confident that women are still buying, and will always buy, bras. By way of example, she told the story of a bright yellow lace bra — a product she was sure to be ill-fated amid the pandemic, and had tried to cancel to no avail — that flew off shelves over the summer even as Americans were still quarantining and social distancing. 

“Even though everyone’s talking about, ‘Oh, you know, women aren’t buying this or that,’ we’ve seen fashion really still be impactful,” she said. “Women are still buying things to treat themselves or things that make them happy.”

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