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INTERNET RETAILER- Selected Internet Retailer Hot 100 Websites of 2009

12/01/2008 Back

Eyeglasses can be a tough sell online. Unlike a sweater or pair of jeans, many people wear their specs all day every day. That means look and fit are especially important, and many consumers want to try glasses on before they hand over their credit card. has come up with an innovative online alternative. The site’s Eye Try tool allows users to upload photos of themselves and virtually try on various makes and models of eyewear. They can also post pictures of what they look like wearing various frames to the e-retailer’s Wall of Frame social community, allowing friends—and strangers—to offer comments.

“It’s a handy way to see how the glasses will look and to invite feedback from friends,” says Anne Brouwer, senior partner at retail consulting firm McMillan Doolittle, LLP. “This is a great way to shop for eyeglasses, especially in areas with limited retail options or for time-stressed shoppers.”

Traffic to the site, which launched in March 2006, went up 10% to 15% in the months after the launch of the Wall of Frame in late 2007, says CEO Roy Hessel. As of March, about 20,000 consumers had added pictures of themselves sporting nearly 500 different styles of eyewear to the Wall of Frame section of the site.

Users also can search pictures of consumers wearing frames within the social community by several attributes, including gender, frame material (plastic vs. metal, for instance), and other features, such as rimless glasses or sports models. Visitors also can choose how they want to sort the Wall of Frame photos for viewing, such as seeing first the highest rated, the most recently posted or those photos that have generated the most comments. A scrolling box updates continually with the most recent comments by Wall of Frame members.

Having gained in both sales and press coverage for its innovative approach to marketing eyeglasses, Hessel has many more plans in the works, include a mobile application and a partnership with a leading fashion magazine.

After all, Hessel says, why not set your sights high?