Big data’s unconventional application in lingerie design

In the past several years, big data and analytics have come to be known as staples of operations in several different sectors. Retail, marketing, health care and education are just a few of the most common areas using the technology. As these approaches to data collection have proliferated, the applications have become more and more wide-ranging, and are cropping up in some unexpected places. 

Fast Company recently reported on an example of a web-based startup lingerie company named True&Co., which uses an open approach to the collection and actionable implementation of consumer-sourced business intelligence for a two-fold purpose. First, it allows customers to enter their personal information so that customized recommendations will be generated for them. Additionally, it applies such data to the design of its own bras. Other apparel companies – and online retailers in general – would do well to learn from this example as they could benefit from the use of optimal BI software platforms.

Better-fitting bras through data analysis
True&Co. is the brainchild of Michelle Lam, a former Netflix employee who now serves as the company's chief technology officer, and Dan Dolgin, who had worked in bra and lingerie sales and also been on the staff of Vanity Fair for 17 years. Lam explained to the news source that online shoppers who visit the site begin by completing a quiz to identify every aspect of their bra-wearing experience.

While garments from well-known lingerie vendors such as Calvin Klein and Natori are available through the site and may be suggested based on user responses, quiz data also gave True&Co. designers the insights they needed to create bras that were likely to fit a wide variety of women with different measurements and body types. The resulting pieces form the She Walks in Beauty (+Light) collection. 

"It's a collection true to our philosophy. There's no one bra that fits all women," Lam explained, clarifying that she believes the She Walks in Beauty bras have a strong chance of fitting many different buyers.

The question of privacy
According to The Berkeley Blog, big data has sometimes been seen as invasive, as with the controversial example where Target used customer-derived data to target baby product ads at newly pregnant women. While this seems like a fairly common use of such information, in one instance it mailed marketing materials for these products to a young girl in Minneapolis whose family was unaware of her pregnancy.

Lam claimed to Fast Company that her company's process was not invasive and had managed to create 6,000 distinctly different body types, to cater to as many women as possible. Nonetheless, companies considering similar initiatives would do well to treat its customers' privacy and sensitivities as high priorities.

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