Article first published: February 2022
Today, consumers purchase many different products from their homes without thinking twice. This isn’t any different when buying eyeglasses. But this particular type of purchase is driven by fashion while also requiring the expertise of an optician and high-precision measuring instruments, especially if the patient is suffering from complex visual defects. So how can the expectations that today’s consumers place on digital services be combined with the expertise of an optician in a specialty retail setting? ZEISS has responded by supporting opticians with the ZEISS VISUFIT 1000 Platform with ZEISS Virtual Try-on.
ZEISS offers various solutions such as the ZEISS Online Vision Screening and the My Vision Profile that are designed to digitalize the customer journey from the early stages. None of these solutions is a replacement for visiting an optical store, but they get the process started online.
ZEISS Virtual Try-on @Home – part of the ZEISS VISUFIT 1000 Platform – is now taking the shopping experience to a completely new level. With ZEISS Virtual Try-on, consumers don’t just select any pair of eyeglasses from an online supplier. Instead, the feature makes it convenient to browse a frame selection which is handpicked by their own optician but is available virtually so they can try on from the comfort of their own home and pick out a pair that is right for them and fits perfectly.
ZEISS launched the VISUFIT 1000 Platform to customers in 2018. This solution is both a centration device as well as a platform that uses nine cameras to create a digital image, the avatar, of the consumer. With this, ZEISS VISUFIT 1000 Platform marked the start of a revolution in terms of capturing centration data in 3D. But centration was not the only objective of the development. ZEISS VISUFIT 1000 Platform was also designed to make it easier for experts in optometry to take a step toward digitalization and the online world by equipping them to provide their consumers with an integrated omnichannel journey. ZEISS supported this by offering new modules on a step-by-step base.
For the developing team one thing was clear right from the beginning: As we move into the future, a precise avatar will be needed in order to position virtual frames on the avatar with highest precision. And there has to be the ability of using virtual methods to center eyeglass lenses with the help of the avatar and the virtual frame.
The personal avatar can first be used in the optician’s store to try on various virtual frames, thus creating a digital shopping experience right on the spot. A key advantage is a significantly expanded range of frames as there is no longer any need to keep the entire assortment physically in the store. What’s more, people with significant visual impairments can now see just what they look like with a potential new pair of eyeglasses.
In the second stage, consumers can also take full advantage of what technology has to offer by taking their avatar home with them. The consumers use their own secure ZEISS ID account to log into the ZEISS Virtual Try-on @Home web application and can continue trying on frames virtually with the favorites they selected in the store. Plus, they can browse through the store’s entire virtual catalogue of frames and try them on with their avatar. As a result, ZEISS Virtual Try-on @Home supports consumers both when buying their first pair of eyeglasses as well as when purchasing a second pair. The solution also helps opticians keep their customers coming back. For example, they can boost customer loyalty by including their own logo on ZEISS Virtual Try-on @Home and by sending personalized recommendations via email.
Once a frame has been selected, the optician is informed and can center the lenses with the help of the avatar. The refraction values are stored so the finished eyeglasses can be delivered directly from ZEISS to the optician. All it takes is a quick trip to the store so the eyeglasses can be collected and any final adjustments made to suit the wearer's anatomy. The result is a genuine omnichannel offer that lets consumers purchase their eyeglasses via a combination of online (final selection of the frame) and offline steps (vision screening, creating the initial avatar, potentially making an initial frame choice in the store, centration and collection of the eyeglasses).
A wide range of offers are now available for trying on frames online. But in many cases, it’s clear that the quality of the images is vastly different from the actual eyeglasses that are purchased. ZEISS Virtual Try-on stands out from the crowd in this respect by offering a high-precision service. For starters, the avatar provides a three-dimensional, high-resolution image of the head that is true to scale. The same is true of the virtual frames. ZEISS developed an innovative digitization solution for this purpose that captures detailed images of the frames and creates a true-to-scale 3D model.
When consumers are sitting on their couches at home and testing frames with their own avatar in ZEISS Virtual Try-on @Home, they can tell now that the image hasn’t been scaled – everything is depicted precisely and true to scale. Frames that are too small or too large are automatically removed from the selection. In other words, the process of trying on frames in virtual space has now attained a level of quality where they can ask themselves, "How do these eyeglasses fit?" "Do I look good in these glasses?" "Do they fit me?" A further plus that wouldn’t be possible even under real-life conditions is the option of simulating various eyeglass lenses in the selected frame. Coatings, tinting, special effects – ZEISS Virtual Try-on can display them all in detail. If a consumer opts for self-tinting lenses, for example, they can see what various colors, progressive tinting, or various degrees of tinting would look like in different sunlight conditions.
A further advantage of trying on frames virtually with ZEISS Virtual Try-on is the algorithm behind the frame recommendations which is based on artificial intelligence. This algorithm helps consumers identify the right frame from the wide range of frames available. AI supports this by taking into account individual factors such as the size and shape of the head, eye color, skin color and hair color as well as factors such as regional fashion trends for frames. And it goes without saying that the expert can also always recommend frames. But the AI is always there to assist, serving as a consulting tool.
ZEISS Virtual Try-on and the personal avatar create advantages that are clear to see from the consumer’s perspective, as well as the optician’s.
- Broader choice of frames: ZEISS is digitizing new frame collections on an ongoing basis. Depending on the market, ZEISS collaborates with numerous large and small manufacturers alike, and often regional ones too – and ZEISS is always forming new partnerships. Around the world, ZEISS has already digitalized thousands of frames which are currently live on the platform. This lets opticians supplement and expand their in-store range with a vast array of virtual frames as they no longer need to stock all the frames physically in their store.
- Boosting customer loyalty in online sales: The individual avatar always remains linked to the optician’s store in which it was created. Consumers only try on virtual frames that the retailer has in their own virtual catalogue. Orders are always placed directly with the optician.
- A sophisticated omnichannel offer: In particular, smaller, independent opticians benefit from the expertise provided by ZEISS which makes it simple to offer consumers an attractive online component when buying their eyeglasses. This solution allows opticians to respond to the increasing requirements consumers place on online shopping offers and link them with the expertise they offer in the store.
- Saves time and offers up-selling opportunities: Once the consulting, refraction, creation of the avatar, frame selection, and centration steps have been completed for the first pair of eyeglasses (in less time than before), new opportunities open up from here on. For the second pair of eyeglasses, which can be ordered completely online with the help of the avatar, the expert no longer has to plan as much time and the consumer does not have to make a special trip back to the optician store for centration.
- Personalized customer contact: Consumers find their personal avatar in ZEISS Virtual Try-on @Home. The optician can get in touch with them using the avatar and present perfect-fit offers and recommendations. For example, the latest model of sunglasses with a cutting-edge mirror effect can be sent directly on the avatar via an info email, guaranteeing a customized offer.
ZEISS Virtual Try-on @Home demonstrates how optical expertise can go hand-in-hand with new age technology and how the online and offline world can work together in the field of optometry in the future.