Lou

Inclusive Bra

UX RESEARCH + PROTOTYPING

Women’s underwear has undergone a transformation from a necessity to a lifestyle item. But this lifestyle experience can be dampened when in-store underwear shopping poses challenges that are not only informational but also psychological. We investigated these challenges to inform a digital solution to mitigate the discomfort of in-store shopping.


 

RESEARCH QUESTION | What it is about in-store women’s underwear shopping that makes customers uncomfortable? How can we leverage advantages of online shopping to ease the discomfort?

Problem - Customers experience problem selecting the desired the product (especially with regard to sizing and fitting) and customer support is lacking (system+sales associates).

Solution - A set of features on top of the existing Victoria’s mobile application that mitigate discomfort by supporting user initiated actions.

MY ROLE | I was the Research Lead. Specifically, I spearheaded drafting research protocol, conducting field studies, and moderating usability testing. I also collaborated closely with cross-functional teammates to design and iterate on our prototype.

PROCESS | We followed a UCD process that is roughly divided into the following phases: 

Exploratory Research + Data Synthesis + Ideation & Prototyping + Usability Testing


 

STEP 1 - Exploratory Research

To focus our effort on a scope and context that is reasonable for a 6 month school project, we started from learning about the overall landscape of the women’s underwear industry and its main sales channels. We employed competitve analysis and field observation to help us form initial hunch about customer challenges and identify opportunities for disruption.


FILED OBSERVATION | We decided to focus on specialty store; this decision is based on our investigation into the three main sales channles.

Big box store (i.e. Target, Macy’s) - Customers are more about utility than lifestyle; Customers are generally happy about the shopping experinece (product options + assitance). Simply put, User need = Resources.

Specialty retail store (i.e. Victoria’s Secret) - Customers seem uneasy when shopping in-store. The enclosed shopping environment and persistent sales assitants seem to add to the uneasiness. User needs does not seem to be met; the WHY behind this gap is worth investigating.

Alternative brands (i.e. ThirdLove) - Customers complete the shopping entirely online. We decided not to pursue this direction because this is a relatively small sales channel.

MARKET ANALYSIS | We decided to focus on Victoria’s Secret. This decision is based on two key metrics:

Brand Value/Market Share x Customer Comfort Level

The intention is to work on a solution with an eye on scalable impact - Victoria’s Secret has the highest market share/brand value while the lowest customer comfort level (per our observsation). By cracking that hardest nut first, we hope to generalize the value of the research to other contexts.


STEP 2 - VALIDATING OBSERVATION WITH USERS

To focus our effort on a scope and context that is reasonable for a 6 month school project


STEP 3 - GO BACK TO THE FIELD TO VALIDATE WORDS WITH ACTIONS

To get a feel of the overall landscape and focus our effort on a scope and context that is reasonable for a 6 month school project, we started off by learning about the women’s underwear industry and the main sales channels through competitve analysis and field visits.

 

 

STEP 2 - Ideation & Prototyping

Here is how we translated design criteria to concepts.The scan and search feature allows users to look up the product information of an item in store by scanning the item’s barcode using their smartphone camera.

 
 

Find My Fit

This flow gives users the option to control their own bra-fitting experience by allowing them to choose whether they want to size themselves for a fitting or get help from the Sales Associate.

 

Customized Reviews

This flow describes how the user can see customized reviews based on their measurements if entered, or by filtering products through different categories.

Scan & Search

The scan and search feature allows users to look up the product information of an item in store by scanning the item’s barcode using their smartphone camera.

 
 

My Fitting Room Flow

This flow describes how the user can add a product to the fitting room in app, which can then be used to request different sized products from inside the fitting room.

 
 
 
 
 

Evaluation

 

Evaluate the usability and effectiveness of the prototype.

To assess how effective and usable our design solutions mitigates negative interaction with sales associates and support a more positive overall in-store underwear shopping experience, we conducted user-based and expert-based usability testing.


Expert-based testing | 3 Participants

Three members of our team performed the expert evaluations 3 benchmark tasks from the perspective of new or infrequent users to assess the learnability of our three flows. 

Metrics

Evaluators asked the following four questions as they progressed through every step of the task.

  • Will the user try to achieve the right effect?

  • Will the user notice that the correct action is available?

  • Will the user associate the correct action with the effect they are trying to achieve?

  • If the correct action is performed, will the user see the progress being made toward the solution of the task?

Results

Overall, Task 1 was a success, with minor labelling improvements required. Task 2 was a probable success. Task 3 was a failure mostly due to overcrowding of control buttons and redundancy.

User-based testing | 6 Participants

Each participants was given a specific scenario under which he or she completed 3 tasks (corresponding to the three main flows of our app) :(1) Getting an in-store fitting service (2) Searching, scanning and finding reviews for a product, and (3) Requesting new product from the fitting room.

Metrics

The users tried to accomplish the tasks while thinking aloud. After each scenario, users were asked to fill out the After Scenario Questionnaire (ASQ) regarding the ease of use, efficiency and helpfulness of each flow being tested. Follow-up questions regarding feature awareness and general feedback were asked in the post-test interview and the users were asked to fill out the System Usability Scale (SUS).

Results

Overall, the app is rated as having moderate to high usability.

 
 

Reflection

Here is what I have learned. It is so much more than researh.

Following the conclusion of the evaluation, we believe that we have gained a deeper understanding of how a digital solution could help address user needs and pain points. We realized the value of solid user research in informing design solutions and that research and design are an ongoing effort.

Due to the constraint of time, location and user accessibility, we were not able to engage the LGBTQ community nor industry experts as much as we would have liked. We would like to continue exploring solutions to improving in-store underwear shopping experience by reaching out to the broader non-traditional customer group as well as involving industry expert in formative and summative research.

The iterations so far have largely validated the value of an in-store mobile application that offers the customer more information and control when shopping underwear in-store. We would like to bring these benefits to more traditional and non-traditional customers alike, and to celebrate a more inclusive lifestyle experience that goes beyond a retail storefront.