Jane Fisher is a co-founder at Harper Wilde, an online retailer looking to change the way we buy bras. After 18 months of planning, they launched just one month ago and are already seeing repeat customers!
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About the business
eCommerce Business Structure – Online Only
Product Range Scale – niche
Located in the USA, sells to the USA and Canada
Listen to learn about their free home try-ons, and how they’ve manipulated ReCharge to be a free home try-on app.
Jane and her co-founder, Jenna, were in a class in their business school talking about how direct-to-consumer eCommerce brands were disrupting industry norms for things like glasses and mattresses, when it hit them that bras were so expensive and so hard to buy that they may lend themselves well to being a slick eCommerce experience.
They looked into the industry to see if bras really needed to be so expensive and check on what the market was like. Since they didn’t come in with a retail background or even a desire to necessarily start a company, the testing they did over an eighteen-month span was logical, with thoughtful steps.
Many people in the bra industry told them not to go forward with their plan because bras are the hardest garment to make, but they saw a demand in the market and a lack of other players fitting that need.
The Harper Wilde Team
Jane and Jenna divide their responsibilities based on their backgrounds, interests, and what energizes them. Jenna handles the user experience, including marketing, branding, PR, and website design. Jane works with operations, including manufacturing, supply chain, and fulfillment to customers. They have four other team members as well, including a customer experience leader, a growth marketing leader, an operations leader, and a social media intern.
Listen to learn how Jane and Jenna are truly partners who value each other’s opinions.
The Harper Wilde Product
For Jane and Jenna, it’s less about the product and more about the experience of finding the product. They surveyed hundreds of women, and often received feedback that it’s difficult to find the right bra.
Traditionally, buying a bra means sifting through hundreds of options, then having to go into a dressing room where some sales associate fondles you, then spending $60 at checkout. It’s a horrible experience. So Jane and Jenna spent months developing a really awesome bra and an innovative purchasing process.
The process is innovative in three ways:
Free home try-ons.
Simple options of one of each style in simple colors.
Half the price of other brands.
Listen to learn about the theory of the paradox of choice.
Women don’t need lace, diamonds, bows, whistles, and other BS on a bra that jacks the price up. They just need a nice and comfortable bra that they can feel good in. So the bras themselves are made from super-soft, durable, breathable fabric. The straps adjust from the front instead of the back, because women can’t reach behind themselves to adjust them. The straps have a hook for easy conversion to a racerback style, and there is an X between the cups for a better front fit and easier folding.
A Massive Test Event
One of the most daunting aspects of starting the business was the fact that they were manufacturing a physical product, which meant it was capital-intensive and a big investment of both time and money. Jane and Jenna wanted to take all the steps to test their process before spending all of that money.
They did a trial event, buying hundreds of existing bras in existing brands, and mimicked their online purchasing process with them. They laid the bras out with the brand covered to reduce brand influence but the price showing to test price sensitivity, and had women over to look at the bras. The women were not allowed to touch the bras, since they can’t touch an online bra. They were allowed to take either three or five bras home to test the optimal number for free home try-ons. Jane and Jenna took down their phone numbers and which bras they took, then set up places where they could drop the bras off one week later to mimic a USPS location. If anyone kept the bras past a certain amount of time, they’d be charged just like their credit card would be charged if it was an online purchase.
Follow-up surveys asked the participants which bras they kept and why, and asked about the branding.
This event tested a lot of variables and allowed them to learn a lot before they spent a lot.
Listen to learn more about how the event allowed for more quantitative testing later.
Most Awesome Thing Right Now
How the brand is resonating so strongly with customers is the most awesome thing right now. Harper and Wilde has a strong voice with an irreverent sense of humor, even launching with a video showing a man having to go through the pain points of buying a bra to buy his boxers, poking fun at the industry.
Women are in a place where they’re not relating to the overly-sexualized lacy corset bras anymore. Buying a bra takes so much time and money, and Harper and Wilde simplifies it and empowers women to spend that time and money elsewhere.
Scalable marketing has been helpful in building awareness and credibility, but Jane and Jenna have started taking a more grassroots approach. Women discover and trust brands by hearing their friends, so they wanted to leverage that natural inclination to share with friends by building a Wild Woman community of brand ambassadors. It’s more genuine, so the traction gained from it sticks more.
Listen to hear more about how….
eCommerce Book Top Tip
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
eCommerce Traffic Top Tip
Have a super strong voice.
Hone in on your target market and build your branding and voice around them.
You can hear about all this on the podcast, for free – right now…
Tool Top TipSlack
Start Up Top Tip
Do it. When people tell you that you can’t, don’t let it bring you down. Embrace it as an opportunity to think about a way to do things differently. Persevere.