How virtual try-on eyeglasses experiences boost sales

By Cristina Ferrandez

Glasses retailers can rejoice: the value of the global eyewear market is on an upward trend. Worth around $147 billion in 2021, the market is expected to reach a whopping $197 billion by 2027.

A large proportion of these sales will happen through the internet. In 2020, over 44% of adults who bought glasses used online sources to help them in their buying journey, with more than 14% purchasing glasses directly from ecommerce stores. 

Curiously, close to 50% of the online eyewear market is dominated by one company: affordable eyewear brand Zenni Optical. During the pandemic, the eyeglasses retailer saw astounding growth — their order volume rose by over 54% year-over-year, and overall unit sales surged by 35%. 

While many factors contribute to Zenni Optical’s success, one feature that has helped the brand grow steadily is virtual try-on. As any online glasses retail will know, competing with an in-store eyeglasses retailer where customers can physically try on glasses can be tough. With so many styles and colours to choose from, it’s all too easy for shoppers to feel overwhelmed and unable to visualise how the frames would look on them. Digital customers are more likely to order glasses that don’t fit them and promptly return them. 

Zenni Optical overcame this obstacle with a virtual tryout tool that, through mapping a user’s face, lets them try on glasses online. Users can even turn their heads to see how different eyeglasses look on their nose bridge. 

No doubt other online eyeglasses retailers can learn from Zenni Optical. However, virtual try-on eyeglasses experiences are not just for ecommerce stores. They can also be implemented in-store and on social media. 

Virtual try-on eyeglasses experience online

A virtual try-on eyeglasses experience online is exactly what it sounds like: shoppers virtually trying on glasses through an eyewear brand’s ecommerce website. 

As customers browse through an eyewear retailer’s catalogue, they can select the eyeglasses they like the look of to see a real-time preview of the frames on their face and (usually) from all angles. 

For customers, this makes it easier to find glasses that are an ideal fit. For brands, virtual try-on eyeglasses experiences have been proven to increase conversions and reduce returns.

A good example of a brand that has successfully implemented a virtual try-on eyeglasses experience into its ecommerce sales strategy is Speedo

In 2019, we worked with the swimwear and swimwear accessories brand to create an AR effect that made it possible for customers to visualise any one of Speedo’s 35 separate swimming goggles on their faces when shopping through Speedo’s online store. 

Crucially, the AR experience was incredibly easy to start. Because the try-on was web-based, shoppers did not even need to download any apps onto their phones. Rather, they could just launch the experience from their browser. 

In-store virtual try-on solutions for eyewear through virtual mirrors

Although used primarily online, virtual try-on eyeglasses experiences can also be useful in-store. In a physical shop, virtual try-on solutions allow customers to try on eyewear by standing in front of an augmented reality “magic mirror”.

In-store virtual try-on solutions don’t just remove the need for customers to ask a shop assistant for help when they want to try on specific glasses. They also enable shoppers to try on stock that may not be available in a particular store. 

In health crises like COVID-19, magic mirrors also reduce the need for customers to handle items that other people have touched.

Additionally, for eyewear retailers, in-store virtual try-on solutions help ensure that every customer is taken care of during peak times when store assistants may be busy, thus increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

From a sustainability point of view, AR try-on experiences mean that sales assistants can avoid ripping open eyewear packaging for each customer, which will need to be replaced if the customer doesn’t want to buy the glasses. 

For instance, as part of the Speedo virtual try-on experience, we also created an AR visualisation element that the brand could use in their physical stores. 

Through magic mirrors, customers could virtually “try on” different swimwear goggles on their faces, even tipping their heads up and down and to each side to get a good idea of how the goggles would look on them. 

With 80% of people shopping for goggles in-store, virtual try-ons are a great way for customers to get what they want without the inconvenience of actually having to try on goggles. 

How to increase conversions and engagement on social media with a social commerce strategy

With the number of social network platform users growing exponentially in recent years and over a third of these users following brands, it’s obvious that no business can afford to overlook their social media presence. 

However, posting product images on Instagram or Facebook and starting conversations with customers on Twitter is no longer enough. 

Social media has evolved to the point where social commerce, the process of buying and selling products directly within a social media platform, will soon account for 5% of all United States’ retail ecommerce sales

There are two ways eyeglasses retailers can take advantage of this fact today:

1. Incorporate AR into the shopping process on social media apps

Social media apps that let users shop directly within them won’t replace retailers’ ecommerce stores anytime soon. However, it’s nonetheless a handy way for brands to reach and convert more customers. 

For example, on Instagram, brands can create Shoppable posts featuring their items. Users can then tap these posts and, if they are enhanced with AR, virtually try on the same products featured in the post. 

If a user likes how a particular item looks on them, they can go to the payment process via Instagram’s Checkout feature. In this way, Instagram becomes yet another avenue for retailers to sell on. 

Eyewear brands that already use Instagram Shops to sell to more people include Warby Parker and Ray-Ban. 

2. Create AR campaigns that connect a brand’s social profiles with their ecommerce website 

Although selling through social media is growing in popularity, social campaigns still have a place in retailers’ business strategies.

Innovative and exciting AR campaigns on social platforms can drive engagement and shareability while also allowing brands to still make a sale. 

A few years ago, we partnered with eBay to create an AR experience on Snapchat. The campaign allowed users to try on three different shades of eyeglasses to see how they fit them before purchasing them on the eBay website. 

Even though users couldn’t buy the glasses directly from Snapchat, the experience built awareness around eBay’s glasses offering. At the same time, it also provided users with a fun and shareable social media experience.

How to get started with virtual try-on eyeglasses experiences

Creating virtual try-on eyeglasses experiences is not difficult, nor does it have to be expensive. In fact, it’s only a two-step process: 

  1. Create 3D models of your eyewear catalogue. You can create 3D models for each eyewear model, plus different colour variations. 
  2. Generate an AR visualisation experience. At Poplar Studio, we have a single-line embed product visualisation unit where users can virtually try on eyewear before they make a purchase. This appears on each relevant product page. AR experiences can be deployed across mobile apps, browsers, in-store devices like magic mirrors, and social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook

More than half (61%) of customers say that they now prefer retailers that offer augmented reality experiences online and offline. As people get more accustomed to AR and virtual try-ons, this number will continue to grow. 

Retailers that don’t offer AR virtual try-ons are already at a disadvantage. Today, about a third of consumers use AR when shopping. Furthermore, as many as 40% of customers say that they would be willing to pay more for items that they can visualise in AR. 

In the last few years, we have seen many glasses retailers and brands experimenting with AR virtual try-on. The longer you wait to do the same, the harder it will be to catch up. 

Want to integrate virtual try-on into your site, app, physical store, or social media presence in 2022? Drop us a line today, and we will walk you through the process. 

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