US eyewear retailer Warby Parker has announced plans to offer smartphone-powered eye exams – recognising consumers' growing focus on health and wellbeing, as well as their desire for streamlined e-commerce experiences.
The move follows news of a $100m funding investment secured by the brand last week, which will contribute to both developing the new eye-scanner app (launch date yet to be confirmed), and also opening eight new stores across the US by the end of 2015.
With eye scans and purchases all apparently to be conducted via the app, consumers can eliminate the often lengthy waiting times associated with visiting in-store optometrists. The app will also enhance the e-tail experience by instantly serving up suggested products that match consumers' individual optical needs, such as pupillary distance (the distance between the centres of the pupils in each eye).
According to a 2014 study by US market research firm Hexa Research, the global eyewear market is expected to reach $142.18bn by 2020, growing at an annual rate of 3.2%. However, online sales constitute only 3% of the market – presenting considerable opportunities for investment and creativity in this area.
Echoing Warby Parker's move, US smartphone vision tech specialist EyeNetra and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab have partnered to launch Blink – a diagnostic tool/service that allows consumers to perform eye tests at home with the help of an expert 'visioneer'.
To get tested, consumers book a 20-minute appointment via Blink's website, and an optometrist will come to the location of their choice equipped with a portable eye-scanning device. Armed with a prescription and measurements, consumers will be able to buy glasses in any store. For now, no brands have been specifically linked with the service.
To read more about how retailers are adjusting their strategies to suit consumers' increasingly busy schedules, see The Streamlined Sell and Start-Pause-Go: Retail In Hyper Flow, both part of the Roaming Retail Industry Trend.
For further examples of brands tapping into consumers' increasing interest in health and wellness, see Wellness Retailing and Holistic Health. For recent updates on eyewear retailing, see Global Local: Warby Parker, Miami and Cubitt's Tech-Enhanced Store in our January 2015 Retail City Guide for London.