Heidi Zak spent the past decade thinking about bras so millions of women and bra wearers don’t have to. That’s the idea behind ThirdLove, the San Francisco–based lingerie brand Heidi started in 2012 with co-founders Ra’el Cohen and David Spector.
“If you have a great-fitting bra on, you should never think about it,” says Heidi. “You shouldn’t adjust your strap. You shouldn’t feel the wire poking in. You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable.”
Following a less than stellar shopping experience in which Heidi bought a bra that didn’t fit right, she thought, “There’s gotta be something better.”
Heidi’s experience is shared by the 80% of women who are all wearing the wrong bra size. ThirdLove is solving this problem by using technology and data to offer twice as many sizing options and tools to help individuals find the right size.
In this episode of Shopify On Location, Heidi shares how ThirdLove found its product market fit by helping women find their ideal bra fit.
Collecting customer feedback and data before launch
Since sizing and fit were the most important aspects for Heidi and her co-founders, they enlisted the help of potential customers to try on their samples. “We were a scrappy early stage startup,” says Heidi. “And so we put an ad on Craigslist to get product feedback.”
The women of San Francisco embraced the invite. Hundreds entered ThirdLove’s two-storey walkup rental space to get undressed and test out the brand’s bras.
This early pre-launch data collection was crucial for ThirdLove as it tested out the concept of half cups, something unique to the brand.
“Shoes have half sizes, now bras do too,” says Heidi.
Building trust through product guarantees
One of the major ways ThirdLove helps individuals find their ideal fit is through its virtual fitting room. The seamless flow of questions, imagery, and tips for measuring has allowed more than 18 million women find their size—and often, it’s not the size they expected.
“Sixty-five percent to seventy percent of women who do our fitting room online come to find out we’re recommending a size that is different than the size they’re wearing,” says Heidi. “That’s a big leap of faith.”
To ease the impact of that leap, ThirdLove ran a program called Try Before You Buy, allowing customers to try out bras free of risk (customers pay only the shipping cost) to fully experience the ThirdLove difference.
“That marketing program in the early days of ThirdLove before we had brand recognition was huge for us, because it really got customers over the hurdle of being worried about trying a new brand and a new size,” Heidi says.
Adapting to evolving customer needs
A lot has changed in the past decade, including customers’ preferences for bras. It’s an evolution ThirdLove has adapted to by increasing its product offerings. “We built our business with the underwire bra as the core,” says Heidi. “During COVID, we saw a surge in demand for wireless.”
Not only did ThirdLove offer more wireless options, it also entered the sports bra market. Other brands traditionally use letter sizing for sports bras (small, medium, large). ThirdLove took a different approach.
“We launched sports bras about a year ago, and that’s been really amazing, because there’s a lot of companies selling sports bras, but they’re not really coming at it from the fit perspective that we do,” says Heidi. “So our sports bras have a cup and a band associated with them, just like regular bra sizing.”
In addition to sports bras, ThirdLove continues to meet customers where they are by launching new products based on trends and demand: The company has recently ventured into both athletic wear and loungewear.
To hear more about ThirdLove’s connection to San Francisco and its journey from fundraising to retail expansion, listen to Heidi’s full interview on Shopify Masters.