January 14, 2011, 4:27 PM

EyeBuyDirect boosts sales 200% during the holiday season

The retailer hopes to use improved site search and webcams to gain more sales.

Lead Photo

CEO Roy Hessel

EyeBuyDirect.com, an online retailer of prescription glasses, hopes to use improved site search, virtual fitting technology and social engagement to boost sales in 2011, after doubling revenue last year.

Sales for the privately held retailer increased 200% over the 2010 holiday season compared with the same period last year, while overall sales last year increased 100%, says Roy Hessel, the company’s CEO. He declines to disclose revenue in dollars.

He gives much of the credit for recent gains to the social engagement the retailer encourages on its e-commerce site. By clicking the “Check out our community” link on the site’s home page, shoppers can see glasses worn by customers and read comments about the frames. Customers also can use Facebook’s Like button to indicate favorite products and share photos with other site fans.

“The community creates discussion about frames and prices of frames and lenses, and it creates a huge, rich source of information for a retailer,” Hessel says.

The e-retailer also learns about what shoppers think about specific discounts and offers, including those related to shipping, all of which helps the company decide how to market its products. “What’s most interesting is that our holiday sales growth didn’t result from expanding our inventory of eyeglasses, but instead from redesigning and enhancing our web site to be more socially engaging, interactive and community-driven,” he says.

Hessel uses what is often called augmented reality technology to help capture sales. Shoppers can upload their own photos or select from photos of models, and then virtually put those glasses onto the digital faces to see how they might look. EyeBuyDirect also has recently revised its site search after paying attention to how its customers shop. Consumers now can shop by frame shape—for instance, rectangle, oval, square, round and wayfarer—and by frame type—full rim, semi rim, rimless. Shoppers also can sort by width.

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