June 3, 2009, 12:00 AM

Seeing is believing for virtual eyeglass shoppers at Coastal Contacts

Coastal Contacts recently introduced an internally developed rich media application it dubbed “Virtual Mirror” that gives shoppers options to upload their picture, try on different frames and share the images on social networks.

Customers can’t physically try on glasses online, but Coastal Contacts Inc. wants them to experience the next best thing.

Coastal Contacts, No. 118 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, recently introduced an internally developed rich media application it dubbed “Virtual Mirror” that gives shoppers options to upload a photo of themselves, try on different frames and share the images on social networks such as Facebook.com and Twitter.

If shoppers don’t want to post their own image, they can also use various facial images on the Virtual Mirror page to try on different frames. If they post their own image on a social network, they can also run contests that enable family and friends to vote on the best-looking frames.

The new rich media tool on CoastalContacts.com is popular. Since the application was introduced in January and updated this spring, more than 50,000 users have uploaded their image to the Visual Mirror page to try on frames.

“In a regular store there’s a lot of guesswork in trying on glasses since you put them on, look in the mirror and rely on the store associate or who you came in with to give you their opinion,” says Coastal Contacts’ director of web sales Braden Hoeppner. “The Virtual Mirror gives web shoppers more affirmation of their product source to make a final decision.”

Coastal Contacts, which last month delivered 100,000 pairs of prescription eyeglasses via the web, isn’t saying if Virtual Mirror is driving more sales. The company booked sales of $31.3 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2009, an increase of 24.7%, or $6.2 million, from $25.1 million in the same period last year. The company releases its second quarter numbers on June 10.

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