As the leader of digital strategy at Wacoal, a Japanese lingerie company with a significant presence overseas, Atsuko set out to create a “happier bra experience” for Wacoal’s customers. Understanding that customers may be reluctant to consult with a salesperson, Atsuko worked with IBM Watson to create a solution capable of recommending products based on 3D body scans and Watson AI-based recommendations on size, shape and design. The solution, called “3D Smart & Try,” was introduced in May at a store in Tokyo. So far more than 10,000 people have used it to measure their bodies, and more than 30 percent of them purchased products.

What was the business opportunity you sought to address by using AI? 
Bra shopping is quite a challenging process for many women. They must consider size, product availability and preference. There may be a sales consultant on-site to help, but the customer may be hesitant to discuss her body. Wacoal’s mission is to contribute to society by helping women express their beauty, so we thought, “What if AI can measure our bodies and recommend the best-fitting bras for us?” 

What surprised you about using AI?
It was surprising to discover that the more AI advances, the more important the human sales consultants’ role becomes. When our customers receive detailed feedback from AI based on precisely measured data, they are more eager to talk with our consultants to share their impressions or ask questions. In other words, Watson AI has helped us to realize and reinforce the importance of the human role.

How does IBM Watson fit into your overall business? 
For us, a store is one of the most important customer touchpoints. It was very meaningful to start Wacoal’s digital transformation from there. So far 3D Smart & Try has been very successful in attracting new customer segments. More than 60% of visitors have been new to Wacoal, and more than 60% are Millennials or Gen Z. 

What’s the best advice you’ve received? 
“Be subjective. Just believe what your heart tells you.” This advice was given to me by Yaichi Mizuno, the American football head coach at Kyoto University. (As a student, I was a member of the team staff.) We are now in a VUCA world—Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity—and there is no “correct answer.” In the end, we need to listen to our intuition.

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