It’s a confusing time to be in the bra business. Victoria’s Secret continues to lead the $7 billion U.S. market, but it’s stumbling as more women shun its sexed-up imagery, trade in bras for bralettes and look for a better online experience.
ThirdLove is emerging as an online powerhouse. Marketing Daily caught up with Josh Wolff, its vice president of customer (and the San Francisco-based company’s only Brooklyn-based employee), to ask how Third Love is trying to turn customer service into engagement, and more sales.
Marketing Daily: First, let’s start with that “80% of women are wearing a bra that doesn’t fit” statistic, which has been kicking around since “Four out of five dentists prefer…” Is it true?
Wolff: For us, fit is everything. We’re selling the right fit as much as the product itself. And yes, our data shows that between 70% and 80% of our customers wind up ordering a bra that is a different size than they initially believed they wore. In a typical retail environment, the emphasis may sound like it’s on fit—associates at Victoria’s Secret do wear those tape measures, for instance—but it’s really about selling you something that is in stock, whether it fits or not. We can stock a far greater array—we’re up to 78 sizes, including half sizes. We’re not stuck with the constraints of a stockroom.
MD: Speaking of Victoria's Secret, how do you differ from them?
Wolff We offer more choices, which is what women want. They want more of a personal relationship with brands. Victoria’s Secret is marketed toward men, or at least a male-centric way of seeing women. They’re date-night bras. They discount their products often, and we don’t. And again, we’re all about finding that right fit.
MD: How does data inform the fit process?
Wolff: We have about 180 fit stylists, based in Chico [Calif.]. They take calls—although only about 20% of customers want to talk. Mostly it’s emails, SMS texts and chats. And about 80% of those communications focus on fit and style. And often, when people think they are asking about a style question, it all comes back to an issue of fit.
We’ve been experimenting with selling people back-up sizes. Because we have hundreds of millions of data points, we can know your fit challenges. We are able to identify who is most likely to be falling between sizes. You only pay for one [item], and shipping the other one back to us is easy and free. We offer a 60-day fit guarantee.
Wolff: What’s your typical customer and your typical transaction?
Wolff: We usually sell more than one bra, and our best seller, a T-shirt bra, costs $68. And interestingly, even though it appears that we’re geared at millennials, we don’t really have a target customer. We sell bras to women of all ages.
MD: How do women treat bras now, and how would you like that to change?
Wolff: Most women have one or two bras that they wear all the time, and they usually last about six to nine months. We’d like them to have more in the rotation, so the elastic would last longer.
MD: What trends are reshaping the business?
Wolff: Certainly, younger women’s strong preference for bralettes and more unstructured bras is important. And so is size inclusivity. And we can’t say much now, but later this month, we’ll be making an announcement about more size inclusivity.
MD: What keeps you up at night?
Wolff: How to reach women who have bought something from us, but haven’t come back. They’re very much on my mind.