March 7, 2008, 12:00 AM

EyeBuyDirect.com boosts traffic with new social network

Traffic at EyeBuyDirect.com has increased between 10% and 15% since the online discount eyeglass retailer added a social networking hub about five months ago. The new feature is now the main engine driving traffic to the site.

Traffic at EyeBuyDirect.com has increased between 10% and 15% since the online discount eyeglass retailer added a social networking hub to its web site about five months ago. The new feature is now the main engine driving traffic to the site, ranking above search and other marketing efforts, says EyeBuyDirect CEO Ron Hessel.

About 20,000 consumers have added pictures of themselves sporting nearly 500 different styles of eyewear to EyeBuyDirect.com’s “Wall of Frame” social network. Here, friends, family and strangers can offer feedback on photos.“We’re finding that people love monumenting their activity on the site or their purchase with a photo that others can see,” Hessel says.

EyeBuyDirect.com, launched in March 2006, allows visitors to upload photos of themselves and virtually “try on” different frames before making a purchase. Hessel says the social network was added after visitors asked for a way to share photos. “Customers started calling and asking if we could provide links to their uploaded pictures,” Hessel says. “People started saying ‘I want my friends to see how I look before I buy.’”

Visitors access the “Wall of Frame” via an icon on the site’s home page. Once there, users click on a photo to add a comment. Anyone can post a remark, but to add a photo visitors must register for the site’s “EyeTry” virtual modeling feature, which requires an e-mail address and phone number.

Hessel says a team of about five employees manages the “Wall of Fame,” monitoring for inappropriate comments and posts, but also conjuring up creative ways to increase traffic and encourage use.

“Wall of Frame” visitors also can post their own or any other picture in the area on their Facebook pages via a link below each photo. “If I could offer advice to other online retailers, it’s to take advantage of the Facebook and MySpace phenomenon,” Hessel says, noting that EyeBuyDirect.com also has its own MySpace page.

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