EyeBuyDirect is the disintermediator of the eyeglass industry and the innovator of web-interactive retail.
Launched in 2005 with a mission to make eyeglasses affordable for everyone, founder and CEO Roy Hessel’s personal vision was that “sight should be a right and not a privilege.”
EyeBuyDirect combines a global prescription lab with online retail to manufacture and sell fashionable, high quality frame and lens packages for budget conscious, style-savvy consumers. With scores of designers, engineers and service centers world-wide, including the UK, France and China, their glasses start as low as $7.95 and go up to $135.00, all with hypo-allergenic frames.
A recent eyeglasses prescription with Pupillary Distance (PD) measurements. If you don’t have your PD measurement, there’s a built-in Prescription Guide.
Eyeglasses frame measurements, or an old pair of eyeglasses and a ruler to measure with.
Credit card or PayPal details.
Shipping and billing details.
Hessel’s professional background in the medical and technology fields — as an analyst with Giza Venture Capital, investor in tech startups, as well as M&A and licensing experience with the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research — helped prepare him to launch the EyeBuyDirect brand.
“You go to school, you get a master's degree, you study Shakespeare and you wind up being famous for plastic glasses,” said Sally Jessy Raphael regarding her signature, over-sized red glasses.
In Hessel’s case, that kind of fame is serving him – and his customers very well. We spoke with him about the EyeBuyDirect brand in an email interview:
What three words would you use to describe the EyeBuyDirect brand?
Smart, social and inexpensive.
BC: How has the web changed the eyeglasses business?
RH: “To understand how the Internet is redefining the eyewear business, here’s a quick view of how the traditional optical supply chain works: Manufacturer → Exporter → Importer/Distributor → Wholesaler → Retailer/Optician → Consumers.
With EyeBuyDirect.com, we’re using the Internet to streamline, and essentially shorten, the lead-time between the production of eyeglasses and delivery into consumers’ hands. How? By connecting the optical labs directly with consumers. That connection – albeit smarter and faster – makes it that much easier and efficient for EyeBuyDirect.com to provide high-quality, stylish eyeglasses at affordable prices, even as low as $7.95. It’s that simple.
Eyewear shoppers are no different than shoe shoppers or home décorshoppers. They’re short on time; they have tight budgets; they’re style aficionados who want a wide assortment of styles and designs without breaking the bank; and they want the convenience of shopping in a matter of clicks whether at home, work or on the go.
Tell us about your “Wall of Frame” community.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that ‘social’ content is a smart and effective way to engage with customers. We’ve seen it with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare and every tech offering in between.
Our Facebook-inspired platform called Wall of Frame lets shoppers not only post photos, comment and interact among a social network of 20,000+ eyeglass lovers, but they can also discuss new trends, give their ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on how certain frames look and sit on fellow shoppers’ faces and even earn loyalty points for referrals and posts made on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Shoppers, no matter what they’re buying, want to tell their friends, family and even strangers about their shopping experience, the quality of products and their satisfaction levels as a whole. So instead of having them talk “socially” on third party sites, we brought the conversation to our website.
And that’s where we saw a real connection take place with our customers – they could use the social interaction and comments from fellow eyeglasses shoppers to their own advantage, and in the process, take home the best eyeglasses for the best price.
What was the biggest barrier in reaching digital consumers?
The biggest obstacle we’ve faced in reaching online shoppers is recreating the in-store experience for shoppers, who by nature, need to feel that physical connection to any products they’re considering buying. And when it comes to eyeglasses, that need for personalization is even more important because certain frames and designs can change the entire composition of your face.
That’s why we created EyeTry – it’s a virtual dressing room that’s operated by face recognition technology (Face.com) and is programmed to recognize specific facial features, gender differences, etc. So when shoppers superimpose their photos onto our selection of eyeglasses, they’re not just “cutting and pasting”, but in fact seeing the eyeglasses in real proportion to their facial features. If you have an ovalface, certain frame styles and designs just aren’t flattering. EyeTry helps you make that decision in a few clicks.
Our next area of technological enhancements include augmented reality and virtual/animated models. Stay tuned to see how we spruce up the traditional business of optometry and eyeglasses.
Sheila Shayon is a senior media executive with 25+ years in television and new media including expertise in programming, production, broadband, start-up models, creative and branding strategies, digital content and social networking.
Shayon has worked for HBO, Time Warner Cable and Wisdom Television. She graduated Magna Cum Laude, University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication.
Currently, as President/Founder of Third Eye Media, a New York-based multimedia production company, Shayon works with online brands to combine editorial content and social networking applications.
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