Disrupting the Women’s Lingerie Business with Technology:
peach is a venture backed start up changing the way women shop for intimates and basics. The US lingerie market is $13B and has been dominated by unimaginative players such as Victoria’s Secret for years.[i] peach takes cutting edge technology, innovative product design and the skills of creative and caring bra experts to offer its consumers a shopping experience that builds them up, literally.
A personal commerce company, peach uses firsthand relationships for selling. Rather than selling via brick and mortar stores, peach utilizes a network of over 300 highly trained bra experts who visit potential customers in their homes and fit women for new bras, harnessing, “the power of women selling to other women”.[ii]
These bra experts have two ways to earn money, they can sell bras that actually fit people, or they can recruit women to become bra salespeople themselves. The challenge, however, is that both of these activities are more difficult when limited by geography. One’s client base is fixed to the number of people that live within driving distance of one’s house. How do you change your business model and operating model to account for this? Enter the biggest innovation in bra technology since the push up bra: virtual fittings.[iii]
Technology changes the game for a bra experts’ business opportunity – peach’s business is the experts’ business. If the experts aren’t limited by geography, the value they can offer their customers is much higher. An expert can measure a customer for a bra from half way across the world. Even women in her own town can take advantage of the convenience of showing their expert the fit of her new bras the second they arrive in the post via peach’s technology.
Virtual fittings also allow peach, as the home office, to start doing national advertising. Now that they have technology and can access people across the country, all of a sudden, anyone can travel to peach’s homepage and “meet” an expert. Technology can become a customer acquisition channel.
Remember though, the bottleneck for peach has not disappeared, it has just shifted from being the experts to building and maintaining the technology.
Additional Steps peach should Consider:
Customers are responding well to virtual fittings. Janet, peach’s CEO, had the idea of some sort of virtual experience for over a year but nothing had come of it. Then one day an expert confessed that she had been fitting people by Skype, and ‘Virtual peach’ was born. The experts who are good will figure out ways to do this on their own – clear demand from clients and experts. For peach, it is imperative to control the narrative and the experience around the brand, especially as it is developing and growing, and Virtual peach sacrifices a significant amount of head office’s control for future growth.[iv]
However, consumers in general are hesitant about technology, whether because of privacy concerns or general discomfort.[v] So how do you convince a woman, not in the same room as you, to be measured for a bra over the internet?
I did a fitting with a peach expert to better understand the selling process and the potential problems with it. peach does a good job. The expert is warm, comforting and knowledgeable and you are not required to take your shirt off – just to have a tight white tank top on which the expert is also wearing – but it is a strange experience.[vi] This friction, surrounding comfort with technology, has the potential to be a big bottleneck as the company continues to grow. One option would be to expand the target consumer for peach. There is huge potential to shake up the kind of person that you can attract if you use technology. Trying to attract a, “millennial boss babe”[vii] to broaden the company’s appeal and to breach the technology gap could help to significantly increase sales.
Another issue peach is facing is the selling of basics, (cardigans, leggings, etc.). It is difficult to sell basics remotely. peach has found that if the experts put the clothes on so the client can see it helps, but one of peach’s best selling points it a proprietary material that they use. Over technology a customer can’t feel the texture of the material, which is a problem. How to combat this? Include a few basics in each shipment of lingerie to a customer so that the customer can feel and try the product. Give people 21 days to return the products or keep them and pay.
peach has expertly identified an inefficiency within the women’s lingerie market and is adapting its business and operating models to include technology to combat it. I can’t wait to watch them continue to succeed.
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[iii] Personal interview conducted with Rebecca Wyman, ‘Head of Fit Experience’ at peach
[vi] Personal fitting with peach stylist