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How I Changed The Way Women Buy Bras Online

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

How do you think women in India buy bras offline? Is it based on any rationale? Does the online world match the offline behaviour?

All of these questions started popping in my mind when I was assigned the task of redesigning the online shopping experience at Zivame. As I didn’t know answers to any of these questions, and I didn’t want to assume any, the next step seemed pretty obvious – User Research. So here is what I did:

Secondary Research

I did some secondary research:

  1. I spoke with the CEO, tried to understand broadly who she wants to target, and asked her about her interactions with the customers. She was able tell me a lot of stories and provided me insights.

  2. I spoke with the members of the brand team, went through their survey results, presentations and documents and tried to understand the target customer base.

  3. I spoke with the members of the digital marketing team, understood the demographics they target and the respective response they get from each segment.

  4. I spent a few hours listening to customer care calls. Got an idea of the problems faced by the customers and got a real touchpoint with the customers.

One striking conclusion, that I could make from all of this research is that there were 4 need states of women that the organisation was focusing on. So, going forward, all of my research was revolving around these psychographics:



Primary Research

Now that I understood my persona well enough, I had to specifically understand how she buys bra in real world. Now that’s a tricky one. Not every woman would readily agree to talk to me on this subject. So I took a little lenient approach here. I selected a few girls from within Zivame who closely matched my persona and interviewed them on their lingerie shopping behaviour. A very interesting result followed.

7 of 10 women last purchased bra based on a very particular need.

For example, one of them had recently purchased a strapless party gown which she wanted to wear to her spouse’s office party. So, she wanted a bra that could go well along with her strapless dress. And hence, she went about shopping for that particular need.

A New Idea!

This revelation triggered a thought in our minds, where we challenged our existing categorical and hierarchical navigation system, where we have classified all the products under various categories just like a typical e-commerce company would. We thought, what if we brought this exact behaviour (shop by needs) to lingerie shopping online? What if we replace our primary categorical navigation with the need based navigation? What if we re-imagine the catalog, trading need based shopping for the filters?  It was a crazy idea and we jumped into prototyping iterations. One of versions, which we rejected for the fear of going against the mental model is presented below:


For the record, I still think this could have worked. Nonetheless, we went ahead and iterated over this one and came up with the current version shown below. It was a very long journey and very bold step. There was a heavy load on the merchandising team to come up with a relevant list of needs across different categories of products. We call them buckets and cues. For the example displayed below, the category is bras, buckets are outerwear, occasions, bra problems, trends and Zivame Signature.


For every bucket, there are several cues (or possible options) you could select. These options (and the buckets as well) appear in a surface as shown below. Once you select and apply the cues, they work just like filters, but a lot of processing happens in the background mapping and fetching the right filters and attributes for your specified cues.


Fascinating right? That’s what user research gives you!

Once the interactive prototype was ready (we used Marvel & Invision), we tested it with a few real users. The concept seemed to work and the users were clearly able to discover and make use of “Shop By”. We asked the users to put a few terms to the overall shopping experience, and here is what they said:

Modern. International. Premium. Feminine. Sensual. Good. Wow!

Is the need based system better than the traditional categorical navigation? Can the main navigation be replaced with this? Will it lead to a higher conversion rate? Will it enhance the overall shopping experience? Only the much awaited data can give us this answer. Till then, I’m off to designing the next new thing!


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