December 11, 2013, 4:22 PM

Glasses.com focuses on fit with its 3-D try-on app

The app displays eyewear on a virtual model of a consumer’s head. The app has been downloaded nearly one million times, taking the e-retailer by surprise.

Amy Dusto

Associate Editor

Lead Photo

A screenshot of the Glasses.com virtual try-on app.

For some eyeglass shoppers, every pair they try on looks the same: blurry. Having to take off old glasses in order to see how a new frame looks is just part of the challenge, though—most glasses stores have limited inventory, and each pair must be personally modeled to get an accurate sense of whether it’s worth the often-expensive investment.

Those shopping woes are what drove Glasses.com to create a 3-D virtual try-on mobile app for eyewear shoppers, Amy Larson, vice president of e-commerce, says. Rather than displaying frames by themselves or on models, the app displays them all on a three-dimensional model of a shopper’s own head. The shopper can turn her virtual head from side to side and pull the frames up and down on her face, tapping the image for product details or to save it as a favorite. The app can simultaneously display four renderings of her head, each with a different pair of glasses. A shopper browses eyewear in the app using Glasses.com’s standard filters, such as style and brand.

“We’re putting context to the glasses,” Larson says. “It’s really hard to look at a pair of glasses and tell if they’ll look good on you.”

Glasses.com offers thousands of regular and sunglasses frames, she says. In addition to browsing based on how a pair looks on a shopper’s face, the app also allows her to share the images in text messages or on social media in order to solicit opinions from friends.

The app debuted for the iPad in July and the iPhone in November, with an Android version expected by year’s end, Larson says. So far, it has been downloaded nearly one million times, she says, without breaking down how many were for the tablet versus the smartphone. In part, those downloads came because Apple Inc. featured the app twice in its App Store, once for each release, she says, which in turn prompted significant media coverage helping consumers to find the app. Glasses.com also promoted the app in e-mails and in mobile ads targeting iPad users.

Additionally, Larson says the number of pages shoppers view and the time they’re spending with the app is “through the roof.” Though she declines to give specifics, she says, “It’s a lot more than we expected.”  The engagement has been enough to make Glasses.com consider beefing up its mobile analytics, she adds.

The Glasses.com app generates a 3-D model of a customer’s head by directing a consumer to take a video of her head moving left and right. It splits the video into 15 still frames for the 3-D image. Then it directs the consumer to take a picture in a mirror of her phone displaying a QR code that the app uses to establish an accurate sizing scale for the model, which also enables it to allow accurate zooming. The retailer spent more than a year optimizing the virtualization technology so that now a photograph of a consumer wearing a pair of glasses is indistinguishable from the app-generated image, which Glasses.com proved in side-by-side tests, Larson says.

In general, Larson says Glasses.com’s mobile traffic beats retail industry standards. 57% of all online retail visitors use mobile devices to access retail sites; 87% use PCs; and 44% use both, according to comScore Inc. Of that traffic, apps encourage more shoppers to engage and return than views of the Glasses.com desktop web site (it doesn't have a mobile version) on a mobile device, she says.

Glasses.com is a subsidiary of 1-800-Contacts Inc., No. 113 in the 2014 Internet Retailer Mobile 500 and No. 78 in the 2013 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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