How Eyewear Retailers Use Augmented Reality to Disrupt the Industry and Improve Customer Experiences

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By Adam Clarke, freelance writer.

As eyewear serves multiple purposes, ranging from fashion to functionality, its global industry continues to expand rapidly. Research from Spherical Insights reveals that the global eyewear market size was valued at $146.1 billion (approximately £117 billion) in 2023 and is poised to reach $215 billion (~£172 billion) by 2033.

This impressive growth can be attributed to not only consumers’ increasing awareness of the importance of eye health but also advancements in technology amid the wave of industry-wide digital transformation.

Besides tapping into e-commerce to make eye care more accessible, the fastest-growing segment of eyewear retailers is also leveraging augmented reality (AR) to improve their offerings and customer experiences. This disruptive technology combines three-dimensional, real-world elements with computer-generated content, allowing eyewear retailers to redefine the many ways they reach out to and engage with their consumers.

Virtual try-on solutions

In an effort to better engage customers’ changing shopping behaviours due to factors like inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, a previous post explains how online retailers, including those in the eyewear industry, have leveraged AR technology. Specifically, eyewear brands and retailers have rolled out virtual try-on (VTO) solutions to emulate the in-person shopping experience and make e-commerce more interactive. This is especially crucial for eyewear, as consumers must choose frames that suit their facial features and ensure the right fit for optimal comfort.

A notable example is the optical retailer Sunglass Hut adding an option to try on the frames virtually when shoppers browse the sunglasses selection on its official website. Although most sunglasses already have standard sizing options, letting customers use their live camera to see how their chosen sunglasses fit them translates into a more realistic shopping experience and more informed purchase decision.

Virtual mirrors

As a trailblazer of eyewear e-commerce here in the UK, Glasses Direct has been making glasses frames more accessible since 2004. By offering collections of glasses and sunglasses frames available in 2-for-1 deals starting at £49, the online retailer meets consumers’ needs and demands for affordable and quality eyewear.

Beyond affordability, Glasses Direct has also pioneered the use of virtual mirrors through the release of its AR-powered app way back in 2009, allowing users to capture and upload pictures of themselves to ensure their chosen frames fit them. As the app incorporates facial recognition software, eyewear shoppers can also view their faces wearing the products from different angles. Now, Glasses Direct continues to bridge the gap between virtual and in-person shopping experiences by offering a free home trial service.

Tech-enabled eyewear

Lastly, AR technology finds its distinct place in the expansive eyewear market through tech-enabled eyewear that comes with innovative AR features. Case in point, Vuzix Corporation has showcased its newest Vuzix Z100 AR smart glasses, which feature a wearable design for everyday use but are otherwise packed with advanced capabilities like a virtual assistant and notification centre. 

The smart glasses model is designed to look and feel like a standard pair of eyeglasses, while its AR display can be exclusively paired with iOS and Android devices to receive notifications, email updates, and real-time translations. Such features demonstrate to consumers how eyewear can be functional not only for vision correction and protection but also for all-around productivity for work, school, and daily life.

Overall, AR technology has transformative potential that eyewear retailers and brands are starting to use to their advantage. Like any digital transformation tool, this requires ongoing customer feedback to ensure the experiences are elevated, and customer satisfaction is continuously being met.

Continue reading Manufacturing & Logistics IT for more informative news and features on IT and supply chain solutions.

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