I remember going to the opticians when I was a kid and wearing a freaky contraption on my head to get my eyes tested.  You didn’t have to work hard at looking like a nerd, any pair of plastic glasses will do that for you.  Opticians often kept limited stock to attract the masses so you will be lucky to find something you can agree with in style.  That bit hasn’t changed much, so I realised having grown up.  The high street opticians are no different, they are still keeping less variety in styles, designs and brands because one they don’t have shelf space and second they want to promote only a limited number of brands.

Rise Of The Online Opticians

Who would have thought that the ecommerce revolution will bring about a paradigm shift in the way people selected and bought glasses online!! yes online.  If certain companies especially the optical giants of the high street had any reservations, they were thrown out of the window by the need for survival created by the Covid-19 pandemic.  The repeated lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 made it very clear to the high street opticians that if they have to survive, they will need to have an online presence.  This need for survival has broken the old habits of the retailers and consumers alike.

The consumers not being able to go out of their homes took to the internet to find online opticians who could make their glasses.  The high street opticians had one more trick up their sleeve, which is to not reveal the pupillary distance (PD) to the patient. Without the PD the glasses cannot be made accurately to the prescription. However, technology has allowed us to create ecommerce solutions and apps for opticians which take the picture of the consumer taken by the webcam and use facial recognition API to workout the distance between the two pupils. How cool is that!  The online market for prescription glasses has gone up and customers are finding it more comfortable to buy online.

We have had the opportunity to work with some amazing optical companies and as a result we have gained a weath of knowledge and insights into the working of the optical sector. Our passion to innovate, challenge ourselves and create ecommerce websites has led us to deliver a number of projects for online opticians such as Framesfoundry.

Technology for Opticians

Ecommerce Platforms

We have had the opportunity to deliver opticians website solutions on both Magento and Shopify ecommerce platforms.  They are both excellent platforms and have something to offer to the right company.  Where Shopify has the ease of use, a user friendly mobile app, a plug and play type feel which most users will find easy to navigate around and find their way, Magento has the multistore functionality and open source licensing which means you could really extend the core functionality and deliver highly personalised customer experience which is what is required by the online opticians.

As Shopify Partners, we have created a number of online stores within different industry sectors.  Shopify is a great platform which is easy to manage, comes with a free mobile app and huge library of apps developed by a growing based of software companies.  Shopify App Store makes it very easy for businesses to launch a store and turn it into a profitable business in no time.

Custom Order Process

However, creating an online store for opticians is not that simple mainly because compared to a regular ecommerce website, an online opticians require every order to be customised with customer’s prescription, lens selection, add-ons and extras.  This requires the order process, cart and checkout to be completely customised so the customer is able to enter his/her prescription and then select lenses which are suitable for the prescription.  Further complication is introduced with lenses as there is a huge selection and type of lenses to choose from.  Our custom order process on Frames Foundry takes an intuitive approach and presents the customer with choices based on the frame selection, usage of glasses and lastly prescription.  With this automated order process in place, the optician can be rest assured that the customer will enter all the correct information and will be sold the correct pair of lenses.  However, keeping the UK regulations in mind, the order still has to be approved by an Optician.

Virtual Try-Outs

Now comes the next question which prevents a lot of people from buying glasses online.  How do I know if the glasses will suit me without trying them out.  Well the IT geeks have invented the Virtual Try-Out feature which shows how the spectacles will look on the customer’s face.  The customer can either upload his/her picture or use the webcam to take a picture.  Then our technology simply shows the selected pair of glasses on the customer’s face/picture.  Voila, click on the BUY button.

Conclusion

Tech for the online opticians is developing at a fast pace and the day is not too far when an eye test can be carried out virtually.  High street opticians are already using tablets to take PD measurements of patients. It is only a matter of time that a virtual eye test be carried out by the webcam.  However, I don’t think UK regulations will allow that to happen in the foreseeable future.

We have developed custom applications, custom themes and bespoke ecommerce websites for companies in the optical sector.  If  you need help with your online optical business, please get in touch with us and we will certainly be delighted to help.