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UK online optical retailer industry foresees positive outlook

The online eyewear market in the UK is seeing promising growth. 

Statista reports that revenue for eyewear is forecast to reach £4.39 billion in 2024, and many of these sales are coming from online retailers.

While physical shops remain the most popular channel for purchasing glasses, contact lenses, and sunglasses, the innovation and convenience offered by online eyewear stores are opening up new and appealing ways of shopping for these products.

Many provide high-tech solutions to common online shopping experiences, such as being unable to try on a product before purchasing it. Some also have unique services and offers that physical locations may be unable to provide.

With the online eyewear scene constantly developing and innovating, the industry can expect a positive outlook in the UK. Here’s how online optical retailers are changing the landscape:

Accessible advancements

Technology plays a crucial role in enhancing the online eyewear shopping experience. Because shopping online doesn’t provide the same benefits as physical stores, such as trying eyewear in person, retailers are making up for this using high tech solutions that can fill in the gaps.

One such example is virtual mirrors, which simulate how a pair of glasses or sunglasses may look on a customer. Business Matters highlights that this feature can help people choose the best option for them based on their face shape or preferences, enabling smarter purchases and reducing the risk of returns. These features are available in most online retailers.

They can also be accessed on a desktop or mobile device, which is beneficial for those who may have mobility issues or live far from locations offering optic services and find it challenging to find a suitable and cheap pair of glasses.

Physical fitting services

Aside from virtual mirrors, some online optical retailers offer unique services that take the guesswork out of finding flattering and well-fitting frames. Online eyewear retailer Glasses Direct offers its Best Fit Machine and At-Home Trial services from its website, ensuring customers get a pair suited to their needs.

The Best Fit Machine uses the measurements of the customer’s current glasses to find a new pair with a similar fit. The At-Home Trial services allow customers to select up to four frames from a set selection and try them on at home for up to seven days.

The trials are unlimited, so customers can choose all kinds of pairs before making a purchase. It’s also free of charge, so they won’t need to worry about return fees.

Online retailers that offer such services can rival physical shops, as consumers can also physically try on glasses, which was a hurdle for many online stores when shopping online for eyewear became more popular.

Combining physical and digital

Though one can get eyewear recommendations from in-store personnel in physical eyewear shops, online shopping can provide accurate insights based on data that is analysed in an instant.

Some online retailers can use your purchase history, measurements, features, and more to show you eyewear styles, colours, and sizes that suit you without lengthy or costly processes. Such technology is even being explored for physical shops.

The collaboration of ieye with Sony Digital Imaging showcases the prowess of using facial tracking points to find the perfect frames for each individual. The digitalised eye test can be done in locations across shopping centres, supermarkets and pharmacies and takes five minutes, with glasses being delivered in ten days and costs said to be 80% cheaper than traditional optic services.

It generates 500 images in 60 seconds, which are then uploaded as a personalised online shop and sent to the customer’s mobile.

The online optical retail industry in the UK is continually evolving and adapting to the needs and behaviours of consumers, which is increasing its growth potential in the overall eyewear market. Though online retailers have yet to surpass physical shops, the innovations over the past few years have made it a more viable avenue for eyewear shopping.

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