Coastal Contacts makes online shopping more social

Coastal Contacts Inc. has introduced a “social shopping” experience for eyeglass wearers. Launched two months ago at CoastalContacts.com, the “Virtual Mirror” allows consumers to upload a photo of themselves and “try on” different eyeglasses. A new feature lets users share the picture with friends through Facebook, Twitter, blogs or e-mail and have them vote on […]

Eve Lazarus May 21, 2009

Coastal Contacts Inc. has introduced a “social shopping” experience for eyeglass wearers.

Launched two months ago at CoastalContacts.com, the “Virtual Mirror” allows consumers to upload a photo of themselves and “try on” different eyeglasses. A new feature lets users share the picture with friends through Facebook, Twitter, blogs or e-mail and have them vote on their favourites.

The virtual mirror is meant to address a common hurdle among consumers when it comes to buying eyeglasses online, said Terry Vanderkruyk, vice-president of corporate development for the Vancouver-based company.

“People need some sort of affirmation when they buy eyeglasses, and it appears to be an important buying influencer,” he said. “It’s one more step towards making [buying] eyeglasses online more mainstream.”

Coastal Contacts opened for business eight years ago and since then has expanded across North America, Asia and Europe. The company now has about two million active customers and expects to see major growth in selling eyeglasses over the Internet, said Vanderkruyk.

The company took in about $119 million in sales last year and business was up by 24% in the first quarter of 2009 compared to last year, added Vanderkruyk.

Coastal is launching the social shopping site in a city-by-city basis across Canada and is advertising in print, outdoor and online.

“Because the channel is new to people buying eyeglasses, we have to demonstrate that [the glasses] are of the highest quality, that we service the heck out of people and that if they have any questions or problems that we deal with them in a very fair and expeditious way.”

Special offers include giving away the first 500 eyeglasses and aggressive price promotions.