When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, people turned to online shopping as a safe alternative to visiting brick-and-mortar stores—eyewear was no exception. But as consumer trends are finally readjusting back to life without social distancing, online retail growth is steadily declining. This year, only about 14.5% of all U.S. retail sales have been online, compared to over 16% in the second quarter of 2020.
As more customers head back to brick-and-mortar stores, online retail giants in the eyewear industry are making plans to bridge the gap between their online and in-person retail experiences with technology. When this type of approach—known as omnichannel—is implemented with the right strategies in mind, it can enable shoppers to float seamlessly between online and brick-and-mortar stores throughout every stage of the customer journey.
Here are three key omnichannel technology trends to consider when creating your own strategy:
- Informative and engaging online experiences
- 360-degree support
- A store experience that stands out
Learn how to implement these trends in your strategy to drive customer engagement, satisfaction, and revenue for your brand.
Informative and engaging online experiences
The modern customer’s journey is far more complex than it used to be, with 75% of U.S. consumers saying they combine online and in-person activities throughout their journey. This reflects the importance of engaging—or preselling—customers during the early online stages of shopping. Integrating online browsing with efficient tools and features like virtual try-on (VTO) is an important step for retailers to stay ahead of the competition.
VTO gives users a realistic preview of how glasses look and fit in real life. A powerful, realistic VTO removes a lot of the guesswork around fit while building interest and attachment to products. Once customers have short-listed a few options, they are more likely to visit the store, ideally as the final stage of their journey.
Even if a customer decides not to make a purchase during their in-store visit, VTO can continue to be used at home to evaluate different glasses or eyewear brands.
In today’s retail landscape, customers crave a seamless journey that encompasses every facet of the eyewear shopping experience, no matter where they are. That’s why it’s increasingly important to offer 360-degree support that enables customers to switch between different channels without lowering the quality or losing context of the support.
Until recently, it’s been difficult to offer good, personalized support online during shopping. However, with improvements in technology like virtual assistants, retailers can more readily answer customer inquiries and offer advice to online shoppers. In eyewear, where advice on prescription compatibility and updating prescriptions is crucial, this ability to reach customers online adds a layer of customization that has been typically exclusive to in-store visits.
Implemented well, virtual assistance offers brands an unprecedented opportunity to drive sales by harmonizing the online and offline realms of retail. It’s also important to offer an in-depth brick-and-mortar experience guided by skilled associates—we’ll get to that in the next section.
A store experience that stands out
Even as online retail technology advances, there’s something about the tactile and personal experience brick-and-mortar stores offer, especially in the eyewear sector. Despite the convenience of online shopping, being able to physically see, touch, and try on eyewear is still an essential part of the buying process for many consumers.
Even online-first brands are recognizing the importance of physical retail spaces. Warby Parker, initially an online-only retailer, plans to aggressively expand its physical footprint in the coming years. This suggests physical stores play a critical role in building brand trust and customer loyalty.
In stores, an elevated shopping experience is key to encouraging conversion. While informed, dedicated associates are central, an increasing number of retailers are investing in tablet technology to enhance in-store experiences.
Tablets can increase productivity with faster checkout and access to real-time inventory status. Additionally, they can enhance the experience by helping associates refine inventory based on criteria like price and style. For eyewear, tablets can employ VTO applications to quickly vet the look and fit of products before trying them on for clarity and feel.
The bottom line
Having both an online and in-store presence in the eyewear industry is essential for a positive customer experience, but it’s not enough to offer a solid website and a good in-store experience. You must create a fluid customer journey across channels, and technology is key.
At the same time, technologies like VTO, virtual assistants, and in-store tablets shouldn’t be used just for the sake of using them. They must drive meaningful emotional connections with customers while answering important questions and driving interest to purchase. Understanding what customers need should always be central to any investment.
Grow your business with Luna
Luna’s proprietary vision solutions, including Virtual Try-On, can help you create omnichannel experiences that delight your customers. By integrating our Virtual Try-On software and leveraging the power of Luna’s solutions, you can provide an experience that bridges the gap between the digital and physical retail spaces. This not only enhances customer engagement and satisfaction but also positions your brand as a front-runner in the evolving retail landscape.
Ready to dive deeper into the omnichannel retail strategies that are driving the future of eyewear retail? Watch the Store 2.0 webinar to learn more about other omnichannel retail strategies that are driving the future of eyewear retail.
You can also contact a Luna vision expert today to learn more about how you can apply these omnichannel strategies to your business.