ThirdLove: Using data to create the perfect bra

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Data isn’t just an impersonal thing used by giant corporations. Many smaller companies making big waves right now use data in a very personal way. Founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad Heidi Zak, ThirdLove uses data to inform the design of its products and connect with customers. Chief Creative Officer Ra’el Cohen joins this episode of Retail Gets Real to discuss how ThirdLove is disrupting the entire bra industry.

Ra'el Cohen (center) joined co-hosts Bill Thorne (right) and Sarah Rand (left)

Ra'el Cohen (center) joined co-hosts Bill Thorne (right) and Sarah Rand (left)

Cohen, who’s been with ThirdLove for six years and was the company’s first hire, is no stranger to the world of intimate apparel. Beyond stints as product designer and developer for California department store chain Mervyns and teen retailer Charlotte Russe, she founded and was the creative director of luxury brand Luv & Honey Lingerie.

As chief creative officer, Cohen leads design of the product as well as the brand, roles that aren’t typically combined. “We always say we use data to inform our decisions, and we’re a design-driven company,” she says. “When you think about the product we’re designing, the way we want to shoot it on a woman to have it on the website, the way we want to describe the product, the color names we use, the advertising channels we use — it’s all connected.”

ThirdLove has no physical locations, instead selling products directly to the consumer. This has obvious advantages when it comes to stocking a diverse inventory — ThirdLove can order the minimum quantity and “delight [customers] with little to no inventory risk,” Cohen says — but what really stands out is the ability to use data to solve what she calls the “age-old fit issue.”

“If we’re not making it better for our customers, then we shouldn’t be doing it."

Ra’el Cohen
ThirdLove

The company has come a long way from its original data collection system — asking women, via a Craigslist ad, to come to its San Francisco headquarters wearing their best bra and take a photo of their breasts with an app that could calculate their bust size.

Through ThirdLove’s Fit Finder online quiz, potential buyers can answer questions about brands and sizes they’ve previously worn, fit issues they have experienced and the shape of their breasts — all in the privacy of their own home. “Compare that to the in-store experience of the cold bright dressing room,” Cohen says, with a stranger “measuring you, poking and prodding you.” ThirdLove uses that data to recommend the best size and style for purchase — and, ultimately, to create better products for all its customers.

“If we’re not making it better for our customers, then we shouldn’t be doing it,” Cohen says. “We put the customers at the center of every decision we make.”

To learn more about how ThirdLove marries data and design to inform product decisions and form relationships with customers, listen to the full episode.

Sarah Rand is a co-host on NRF’s Retail Gets Real podcast. Meet all the co-hosts and learn more about the show.