The Internet is enticing a rapidly growing number of shoppers to make a very personal purchase, prescription eyeglasses, online. Deep discounts and greater variety are prompting many to try something new.
Customers can't pluck a pair of glasses from their smartphone screen to learn how they feel, but shoppers can try on frames virtually or have them delivered for a free test. They also can quickly scroll through hundreds of choices and send pictures to friends for a second-opinion.
Technology, however, hasn't erased all the advantages of buying glasses in a store. Here are some issues to consider before clicking on a pair of glasses and adding them to your virtual shopping cart.
1. What are some options for buying eyeglasses online?
A mix of websites sells eyewear in men's and women's styles, with some featuring well-known brands such as Oakley and Gucci. They include established vendors like Framesdirect.com and 39dollarglasses.com and more recent entrants like Warby Parker.
These sites let customers scroll through hundreds of options and styles in different colors. Some, like Framesdirect.com, allow visitors to upload pictures so they can see how a pair of glasses would look on their face.
Retailer 1-800-Contacts will offer a three-dimensional version of this concept next month, when it launches a free app that enables users to virtually try on glasses after taking a picture of their face with a smartphone or tablet.
The app will produce an image that is scaled so the glasses appear more like they would if the customer picked them off a store shelf. It will enable visitors to turn the image and slide the glasses up and down the nose. 1-800-Contacts runs the website Glasses.com.
2. What are the advantages of shopping online?
Virtual vendors can offer page after page of variety. Framesdirect.com, which dates back to 1996, says on its website that it carries more than 100,000 products and 500 brands.
Bargains also can be found online. The website 39dollarglasses.com features glasses that sell for — wait on it — $39. That price includes single-vision lenses and the frame.
Warby Parker advertises prescription glasses starting at $95. The company developed its own styles for men's and women's glasses, plus a monocle it sells for $50, in part because its founders thought prescription eyewear shouldn't cost $300 or more.
Of course, bargains are not limited to online vendors. Some Walmart stores offer prescription, single-vision lenses that start at $29.
Convenience can be another benefit. Warby Parker will send up to five pairs of glasses to a customer to try on at home for five days and then return with a pre-paid shipping label. 1-800-Contacts will send five frames and give customers seven days to try them.