Vision Direct launched its online discount sunglasses store 10 years ago. Now, after a decade in e-commerce, it’s launching its first flagship store in Melbourne.
The Vision Direct Optical Centre is the physical store format version of its online store (which may sound self-evident!). Yet when your market is the premium luxury segment at discounted pricing, with over 80,000 styles and 160 brands, it’s not just a matter of standard pureplayer online store turned multichannel bricks-and-mortar.
This is where Vision Direct’s experiential commerce strategy comes into play. Vision Direct launched its virtual try-on feature to its online store in 2011. “If you visit our website you will be able to try-on the best selling eyeglasses or sunglasses in real time. This sort of technological innovation allows customers to use technology to aid their purchasing decisions,” says co-founder David Menning.
“Virtual 3D-try on is a unique technological solution but is still a different experience to the physical process of trying on frames on ones face and ‘feeling’ the frames fit,” Menning tells Power Retail. “The technology is quite expensive and it costs a lot of money to modulise frame pictures into 3D models. Certainly, it’s an interesting experience to offer customers however it is still early on for this technology to become more comfortable for customers to embrace on a mainstream basis.”
Vision Direct had already partnered with over 20 local optometrist centres. “This was our initial foray into offering an omnichannel experience to our customers,” says Menning. “A Vision Direct branded full-service Optical Centre was a natural next step and extension of our product offering.”
Yet this expansion is an example of the interplay between online and offline. Located on Bourke Street in Melbourne’s CBD, customers can touch, feel and see the styles they’re interested in, while utilising the online database of products for 3D virtual try-on technology.
So, what has led to the rise of the ‘experiential shopper’? “The pace of technological progress and the adoption of these technologies by younger demographics has astounded us all over the last years,” Menning tell us. “Computing and CPU speed developments have been key to this. As these technologies are embraced and utilised by innovative retailers it makes sense that the technology pioneers amongst us try and experiment with this technology.”
The expansion and launch of the new branded store is an example of the way in which online retailers are required to push the boundaries of technology in order to stay ahead of the competition, while remaining true to the tradition retail experience in order to meet consumer’s expectations.
For more on experiential commerce, download Power Retail’s FREE Special Report here.