So it’s true. We all proclaim to embrace the universality of shopping for anything online, but as humans, we have reserved the right to simply ‘not go there’ for certain types of shopping needs.
For many, that no-go for online shopping threshold can be clothing (if I can’t try it on before I buy, it will be a PITA process of returns and trying to make off the rack clothing fit a non-standard body); for others, it is perishable food products (why should I buy this cake, produce or other specialty grocery item from 2000 miles away that will need dry ice shipping and may arrive squashed from rough handling? Personally, I have overcome the objections of others as well as my own reservations & have succumbed over time to enjoy the price, availability and variety options available, when buying most things online, including clothing and perishable food items.
Even as a 20 year digital media and eCommerce professional, plus being a passionate internet super user, I too had a no-go zone for shopping online – buying prescription eyeglasses. In retrospect, I am not sure why I had such a hangup. Over the past 20 years, working in front of digital screens and small font text data has taken at least part of my optical capabilities, requiring that I wear glasses, for over 10 years now.
Add to that the reality of the retail brick & mortar experience for most people when it’s time to get your peepers checked and buy updated prescription glasses. Frankly, it’s not always that much fun. It takes many hours on a day that you may prefer to be spending quality time with family or friends. The selection of frames may be limited, depending on where you live, for demographic reasons controlled by the optical retailers. Lastly, the optical shopping experience can feel like the car buying process – as related to the deep and wide range of up-sells and options that both optical retail professionals and automotive sales professionals bring to bear during the manual ‘check out’ process. (Did you know you were going to need 4 different ‘coating types’ for your lenses?) Thus, despite almost two decades of internet shopping awareness & comfort, plus a dislike for the offline experience of shopping for eyeglasses, I did not ‘go there’ until last month.
Behold, a savior from the worlds of consumer eye wear and planet internet shopping, requiring consumers to have an open mind! In August, I already had a fresh updated prescription for glasses that needed to be filled from seeing the local optometrist. The optical retail stores I had local access to did not have anything I liked that was reasonably priced for frames. A friend from my professional life finally said, get over your hang ups and trot over to Glasses.com – find what you like, enjoy the shopping process and get on with your life.
Despite being an innate skeptic, I dove in, as it couldn’t be worse than my retail experiences over the years. The complete user experience of working with the merchant from start to finish and after the sale, from ease of use with the web site, the styles available for purchase, their mobile app on iPad to”try on” and then a couple of painless customer service interactions via email and phone with sharp support staff, made this buying experience my best ever for eyeglasses overall and one of the best for online shopping in general.
This is not a shameless plug for one digital merchant who treated me well. The takeaway is more about a wake up call to challenge consumer comfort zones as online merchants overall, and then delivering the finest multi-touch user experience possible. Customers who had their views converted on an entire range of online shopping behavior that walk away from your (web) shop happy, will not only be prone to repeat purchases with the merchant who won them over, but also with merchants overall in the previously ignored online shopping category. Get it right and evolve a generation or two of consumers to buy more online that they actually want/need, where and when it makes sense, even in those prior no-go digital shopping categories.