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Virtual Eyewear Shopping
A new system of accurately fitting eyeglasses through a combination of 3D technology and the Internet has the potential to greatly increase the online sales of eyewear today.
The San Mateo-based DITTO Company knows that the combined sales of eyeglasses and sunglasses together constitute a big business in the U.S. today, with sales reaching around $22 billion annually. However, DITTO also recognizes that only a very tiny amount of that business has been conducted online, as only 2.8% of the total sales are generated from online sources and that number shows that if there is real potential for growth anywhere in the eyewear industry today, it is probably the online segment that has been the least explored. The potential for market growth online prompted DITTO co-founder and CEO Kate Endress to have her firm try to develop a new way for consumers to buy more eyewear online.
Her efforts have now resulted in a combination of 3D virtual video technology and the Internet to provide consumers a new way to try-on and purchase eyewear in the comfort of their own homes. The DITTO method works by using webcam footage of the user’s face to “try-on” a nearly endless assortment of virtual copies of designer eyeglasses from top brands like Ray-Ban, Chloe, Vera Wang, and Western Leaning.
The DITTO system involves trying on a pair of virtual glasses after centering your head in an onscreen circle and moving slowly from side to side as directed by on-screen prompts. Next, the user is directed to touch a credit card to their forehead to allow the DITTO system software to get an accurate reading of the size of their head. This works because all credit cards are identical in size. Endress says “Our algorithms track 150 points of your face, we hone in on the bridge of your nose, eye size, the curve of your temple, your ears, eyes, eyebrows, and the shape of your face.” This allows users to compare different eyeglass styles side-by-side, consult with one of the company’s stylists via chat, and then to share the different looks with their friends and relatives to get their take on the styles that might look the best on each individual eyeglass shopper.
It is also hoped to generate more successful online sales of eye glasses as the DITTO system also seems to result in a surprisingly accurate fit for most people who have tried it. The combo of 3D technology and the Internet also delivers an additional benefit for the end user when it comes to pricing because most final sales will end up costing users about $150 less than what they would pay at a local brick and mortar eyewear shop. Ditto cannot control the cost of the many designer frames which are sold at their regular prices, but it does offer substantial savings on the lenses that are almost always marked up quite a bit at traditional eyeglass sales outlets. Because its online catalog takes advantage of the unlimited storage space available online, the DITTO site “stocks” far more styles of glasses and sunglasses than any physical optometrist could ever hope to house in one place.
So far, DITTO’s statistics show that its average visitor “tries on” around 35 different styles of glasses, compared to traditional stores where customers only try on about six pairs. The company research also shows that a surprising number of people over 45 have been visiting the site and using the service, and that 55% of the new customers have been men. In just the first six months of operation, DITTO saw over 15,000 people try on its virtual glasses and make a successful choice of eyeglasses. The success of the operation shows that when eyewear retailers give consumers the tools they need to fit themselves online, it can be a big win for both of them.
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