Retail

Eyewear Startups Put On Their Customer Experience Glasses With AR

eyewear kingchildren augmented reality

Before the dawn of 3D smartphone technology, it wasn’t easy for startups to create a customized product — and market it to a consumer. When the founders of King Children wanted to create eyewear to fit the custom needs of shoppers, for instance, they faced several challenges. For starters, customized products can be expensive. “They tend to price out the mass market,” King Children Co-founder Sahir Zaveri told PYMNTS.com in an interview. Secondly, Zaveri noted that customized products are associated with long delivery times. And that is hardly ideal for consumers who are eager to receive their purchases. “People don’t like waiting for months before they can get their hands on a product,” Zaveri said.

Zaveri noted that he was able to solve the first two problems by rolling out a distributed localized manufacturing system, with the goal of making items in each market. That way he could remove inefficiencies and make the product close enough to the consumer to be able to quickly turn it around. But, originally, he couldn’t find a solve for the user-experience problem. In other words, he couldn’t make the process of buying custom eyewear fun and something someone could do without expert knowledge. The original process hardly met either goal: if someone wanted custom eyewear, he or she would have to sit in a chair for two to three minutes using a 3D scanner hooked up to an iPad to get a model for the eyewear. “That really wasn’t scalable,” according to Zaveri.

That changed with the technology built into iPhone X models, which paves the way for King Children’s 3D scanning technology. In less than 30 seconds, the system can get a scan of over 70 data points. After consumers go through that process, they can “try on” the items through a setup that Zaveri describes as “one of the most powerful digital experiences in commerce that exists today.” Through an experience that Zaveri describes as a hyper-realistic Snapchat filter, customers can use their phone like a mirror and see how they would look in different designs. That is, customers can choose different colors, frames, width and height. And, since it’s all done through the phone, it “feels like a very natural experience.”

The Augmented Reality Platform

Once a consumer is ready to make a purchase, she can visit a checkout page to enter an inscription. The writing can be anything from a name to an Instagram handle — essentially a few words that a shopper wants printed inside of a frame. The company also offers a product that purportedly blocks out 98 percent of blue light, which is important as the company’s core demographic is a tech-native young consumer as well as someone in any creative field spending hours in front of a computer.

For payments, King Children accepts all credit and debit cards; it also plans to take Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Heath Savings Accounts (HSAs) shortly. Zaveri also plans to integrate Apple Pay into the site soon. And, even though King Children’s products are customizable, the company does accept returns as Zaveri considers free shipping and returns as table stakes in the direct to consumer (D2C) market. If a customer is not satisfied, the company will remake the eyewear. And if the customer is still not happy with the product, the company will take a return.

Zaveri said the company’s target market is Gen Z, consumers between the ages of 18 and 24. He said the market is particularly unique as they are the first tech-native generation in history. “This is a generation that almost doesn’t remember the world without a smartphone,” Zaveri said. They’ve had phones for as long as they can remember. And Instagram as well as Snapchat are second nature to them. (He also noted that the company designed the flow and experience to be similar to a social media app.)

For now, Zaveri’s company uses TrueDepth technology that comes on iPhone X models, which allows it to deliver a 3D experience to its customers. But he said that, going forward, he thinks that other mobile technology will integrate that capability. (In fact, he said that he’s pretty confident in the next year or two that ability will become mainstream and available to most people.) If that were to happen then, augmented reality (AR) commerce experiences could potentially come to many devices. That is, more devices besides the iPhone could pave a new way for consumers to try on and purchase goods through eCommerce platforms.

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