Disrupt the discomfort. A mobile app solution to bridge the gap between online and in-store underwear shopping.

Disrupt the discomfort. A mobile app solution to bridge the gap between online and in-store underwear shopping.



  • UX/CX Research

  • Victoria's Secret

  • 6 months

  • Team of 4



Context and Question

Shopping for women’s underwear in-store can be an uncomfortable experience, so many prefer to shop online. However, true satisfaction with an underwear purchase comes from fit, feel, quality and comfort all of which can be best ascertained during an in-store shopping experience. 

Victoria’s Secret holds the largest market share in lingerie/underwear retail, and focusing on Victoria’s Secret will allow us to scale any improvements to a bigger audience. While most sales at Victoria’s Secret happen in-store, a growing number of sales (approximately 20%), are now happening online.

So how do we integrate advantages of online shopping into in-store shopping to create a more comfortable in-store shopping experience for all of Victoria’s Secret’s customers, including those not currently considered to be part of the target customers?



Discomfort when shopping women's underwear in store, specifically:

  • Interaction with Sales Associates

  • In-store navigation

  • Visualization of underwear products

  • Sizing and fitting


Our Solution

We created a mobile application with features that aim at supporting customer control over their shopping experience and minimizing discomfort. 


My Role

I was the lead researcher and facilitator of the project.

  • I drafted research protocol, created research plan, and managed team meetings.

  • I collaborated with teammates in carrying out field observation, market research, literature review as well as design iterations from low to high fidelity.

  • I conducted contextual inquiry, user interviews and user & expert-based usability testing.

  • I analyzed qualitative and quantitative data using affinity diagramming, card sorting, and Excel.


Process & Methods

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Phase 1 Research

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Competitive Analysis |  3 Categories of Retails & 6 Brands

Studied research from online reports, surveyed online communities that discussed lingerie, and visited field observations of lingerie stores.


  • Learn about the existing market leaders, shopping trends, and types of products .

  • Understand customer purchasing behavior, desires and actions.


  • Non-traditional customers feel discomfort and embarrassment when shopping in a women’s undergarment store,

  • Non-traditional customers feel uncomfortable seeking help from in-store assistants when shopping in a women’s underwear store,

  • Non-traditional customers prefer to shop online to avoid these pain-points in-store,

  • Non-traditional customers would feel more comfortable with a virtual assistant to help them when shopping in-store,

  • Non-tradi tional customers find navigating in-store difficult



Field Visits  2 contexts & 2 platforms

Investigated 2 main contexts for underwear shopping (big box department store vs. specialty/niche store) across 2 platforms (in-store vs. online). We picked Target and Macy’s as examples for big box department store, and Victoria’s Secret and Third Love for specialty/niche store. 


  • Validate our findings and hypotheses from our initial research and observations.

  • Recruit participants for our more in-depth interviews and contextual inquries.


  • Overall, the big box department stores offer an in-store underwear shopping experience that is utilitarian and economical; underwear products are treated no differently than other merchandise.

  • Specialty stores such as Victoria’s Secret pride themselves in providing a shopping experience that goes far beyond functionality to encompass aesthetics, lifestyle, and even identity.

  • Specialty store such as Third Love departs from traditional retail emphasis on either function or lifestyle association, by specializing in offering the best fit for every body type.

  • The corresponding online platforms of the two contexts mentioned above are consistent with their physical storefronts in both store image and experience provided.


Surveys  |  200 Participants

Created and tested survey across different browsers and platforms. Obtained quantitative data on customer pain points.


  • Validate our findings and hypotheses from our initial research and observations.

  • Recruit participants for our more in-depth interviews and contextual inquries.


  • A greater percentage of cis-women shopped exclusively in-store and a greater percentage of non-traditional respondents shopped exclusively online. This is interesting because it indicates that something is making the non-traditional buyers forgo the in-store experience.

  • Privacy was the top reason selected unanimously by all non-traditional respondents

  • 50% of non-traditional shoppers were uncomfortable shopping in-store. We also discovered 25% of cis-female shoppers also experienced discomfort, and 56% non-traditional and 33% of cis-women shoppers reported difficulty locating products in-store

  • Over 93% of non-traditional shoppers surveyed reported that they did not seek assistance from sales assistants while shopping in-store while cis-women buyers, who reported at over 72%


Contextual Inquiries |  3 Participants


The non-verbal cues of the customer in the two in-store CIs provide a window through which we can infer the internal psychological experience of the user.


  • Participants could not relate to the visualizations of products on display in the store in the form of mannequins or pictures, as the models were of a very small and fixed body sizes

  • participants were overwhelmed with the product choices and only few of them being displayed on the mannequins

  • participants from non-traditional user groups seemed to avoid interacting with sales associates

  • there was a participant who mentioned the inherent mismatch between women’s underwear and men’s bodies


Interviews  |  4 Participants

We were looking to gather rich qualitative data about what particularly made the underwear shopping experience, whether in-store or online, comfortable/uncomfortable.

(Please see Synthesis below)


Phase 2 - Synthesis

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Affinity mapping | 5 clusters


To identify key patterns in user pain points from all data sources in Phase 1.


  • Participants had concerns about finding the right size, both online and in-store.

  • Participants do not feeling comfortable having their measurements taken outside the fitting room area and prefer a private fitting room.

  • Victoria’s Secret’s has a limited size range not covering people of all body types so many participants felt they would be more comfortable, and willing, to buy at Victoria’s Secret if they were sure of finding products for their body type.

  • Participants are not comfortable interacting with sales associates.

  • Feeling of ‘not wanting to be judged’ by sales associates is a major deterrent for non-traditional customers.

  • Some participants appreciate help from sales associates, but unsurprisingly, these mostly fell into the cis-women category.

  • Navigating in-store is difficult, including locating inventory, fitting rooms, and the checkout.




We sat down as a team and walked through the journey of entering a Victoria’s Secret store for each of our personas. We set up a miniature version of the store using available objects and designated markers to be each of our personas as they walked through the store. We switched playing the roles for each persona.


We were able to narrow down our user’s pain points to the following four:

  • Navigation: Customers want to find where the items they are looking for are located

  • Visualisation: Customers want to know what an item will look like when it’s worn

  • Interaction with sales associates: Customers want to control their interactions with sales associates

  • Sizing: Customers want a better way of figuring out the correct size and fit of items



Phase 3 - Design / Brainstorming

In light of the insights we gathered from our users, we started our design phase by sketching out concepts that address the identified user painpoints. We then went through brainstorming and two rounds of iteration that inform us about a collection of features we will include in our final prototype.

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Phase 3 - Design / Concepts

Wire Frame Concepts

Concept 1

Personal Avatar features a customizable avatar that serves as a visualization tool. The AR scanner  offers an additional feature of scanning for discount information when aimed at each section in store.

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Concept 2

Self-service Shopping mitigates discomfort interacting with sales associates. The in-store purchase flow offers the flexibility of going through the purchase process on the mobile app. The two other flows - an in-store locator and an in-store chat - fit in where the user seeks assistance. The locator allows the user to summon the sales associate from any location in store. The chat allows the user to seek assistance without having to interact with a sales associate in person.

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Concept 3

Social Bra advocates for a fun and sexy shopping experience that is enabled by a two part system: an in-store photo booth and a mobile app. The sequence starts with the user inputting his or her measurement upon entering the app. The user will go through a regular selection process with the aid of visual review, which serves as (1) size reference (smart filter by similarity to user-input measurements), (2) a visualization tool (user uploaded pictures from the in-store photo booth), and (3) campaign for inclusivity (pictures of users of all body types).


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Concept 4

AR Mirror supports self-service shopping right from the fitting room. It is conceptualized to (1) map body to determine fit accurately, (2) scan products and view on your own body, (3) summon SA/robot to bring selections to changing room, (4) afford 360 degree view, and (5) review selections and make purchase/ online order etc. from dressing room.

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User Feedback & Design Implications

Feedback 1

Visualization techniques using cameras raise privacy concerns.


Phase 3 - Design / Prototype

We created and evaluated our prototype on its usability and effectiveness, using a combination of interviews, expert evaluations, and walkthroughs. 

Information Architecture

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Scan and Search flow

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 Flow

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.


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.


Customized Reviews Flow

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


Phase 4 - Evaluation

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.


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.


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).


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

Average ASQ Score: 2.54 out of 5

Average ASQ Score: 2.54 out of 5

SUS scores ranged from ‘Good’ to ;Best Imaginable’.

SUS scores ranged from ‘Good’ to ;Best Imaginable’.



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. 


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?


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. 


Learnings and Reflections

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.



Final report pdf.





Charlotte (Yuan) Lou © 2018