Over the last 30+ years in this business, there have been many ‘trends’ that eyecare professionals have ignored as ‘it won’t effect’ them. Think about: 1-800 Contact Lens, Big Box Optical, Wal-Mart, One Hour Glasses, online optical and Warby Parker. Each of those brought major changes to the optical industry and many eyecare providers were not listening and adapting to new paradigms.
Smart Glasses/Augmented Reality is another big trend and I hope you listen to this now, so you will not be caught unaware. If you think you have a problem with online shoppers now, it will only get worse as the technology and the ‘coolness’ of AR get into the shopping mainstream. Add in the ease of payment with Apple Pay, Google Wallet.. lets just say all retailers are going to be challenged by AR technology.
Smart Glasses including Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality glasses no doubt will change the way people shop. The findings in a survey with more than 1,400 consumers by Walker Sands ‘2015 Future of Retail Study’:
- 35% would do more online shopping if they were able to try on a products virtually using a device like Oculus Rift. (Bought by Facebook for $2 Billion in 2014)
- 49% of survey participants are interested in trying Oculus Rift once it comes out this summer and one-
- 32% would be interested in purchasing such a product
- 66% would be interested in virtual shopping
- 63% expect such capabilities to change the way they shop.
- 22% indicated they would be less likely to visit a physical store with the introduction of such technology.
Add in Samsung has been ‘beta’ testing their Gear VR at Best Buy stores. Sony is releasing their AR Smart Glasses Ditto with 3D technology and Google’s Magic Leap are only a few of the 44 more Smart Glasses already in the works. Pricing is ranging from $500 on up. Note this; Pricing will come down as competition gears up.
In the past, AR glasses have been for gamers, now you can do almost anything from trying on clothes, decorating your house, build your house, design any products, mix and match your outfits, visit museums and parks, take a hike, go on a trip all from the comfort of your home.
As technology evolves and makes AR ‘cool’ it will change the way we live our lives. Web stores will embrace 3D as a shopping experience, making it easier to browse and shop. Brick and Mortar locations will most likely in order to compete have to also embrace this technology.
There are cons, being fit, comfort and the one on one experience. Don’t let that be a deterient to making changes, because it will happen, AR shopping.
What can eyecare professionals do now to prepare for this?
1.) Beef up your customer service. Nothing will replace the one to one interaction. Re-look at your customer service policies, define what is working and what is not.
2.) Promote COMFORT and FIT in your sales and marketing. Fit is the #1 reason that customers return clothing.
3.) Promote the experience. Start having Trunk Shows and other events to entice the consumer.
4.) Enhance your website to make it more interesting and exciting. Showcase the products you carry. Add a blog and lots and lots of pictures.
5.) Consider adding a Fitting Box or another virtual Try On technology into your website. This is particularly helpful in poor weather conditions.
6.) Consider ‘Personalization’ a huge trend. Whether it’s 3D Eyewear, custom or Bespoke Eyewear and even custom lenses, that your patients can design their own.
7.) Re-examine your product mix. Do you have fun and unique products?
8.) Train your staff well, not just in product offering, but in customer service. Your staff are your brand ambassadors and you can train and educate them to be so.
9.) Promote Shop Local. This you can do now today very easy with signage and on your website.
10.) Merchandise to be inspirational and captivating and entertaining. One of the biggest advantages to Brick and Mortar locations is the sensory experience. That goes from your furnishings to the displays.
11.) Track, Track and Track some more. Using software such as The Edge, will help determine, what your patients are buying. Surveying your patients as to what they want, demographics and more will help you drill down your current patients needs and wants.
Eyecare professionals have about 2 to 5 more years to ramp up their marketing for Virtual Reality Shopping. This is the time to analyze what you have and start to make changes NOW, not in 5 years.
- JM ProCreative has a series of Videos Demonstrating Augmented Reality in Shopping.
- Walker Sands Study