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Social media sells eyeglasses for Coastal Contacts

I tried on glasses today. Online. Sound bizarre? I thought so at first. Then, I realized it was the most…

By Emily Jackson , in Vancouver Gets Down to eBusiness , on March 17, 2010 Tags: , , , , ,

I tried on glasses today.

Online.

Sound bizarre? I thought so at first. Then, I realized it was the most genius eRetailer use of social media I’ve seen.

CoastalContacts.com was born in Vancouver. Founded in October 2000 by Roger Hardy and his sister Michaela Tokarski – who was attending the University of Victoria at the time – the company made a million dollars in its first six months. (Sign me up.)

Contact lenses and eyeglasses were traditionally sold through multiple channels, meaning the price increased over 100 per cent by the time consumers made a purchase. Coastal Contacts changed that model. It sells contacts directly to the consumer from the distributor and guarantees the lowest price.

No surprises that it’s one of the top contact lens distributors in the world.

Its success story has been told. What hasn’t is its innovative and effective venture into social media.

That’s right, folks. You can now try glasses on without leaving your home. Better yet, you can get opinions from your dearest Facebook friends and Twitter followers as they vote on which pair looks best.

First, upload a photo of yourself. Second, “try on” the glasses. Third, choose your favorites. Fourth, let your social media network decide which pair is the winner.

Let me demonstrate.

Brown frames? Hmm, they're ok. Next.
Doubt I'll get any votes for these ones.
Ooo! These are loud. Much better.

Retailers have tried this before with various degrees of success. Zappos.com, the largest shoe retailer South of the border, and Plurchase.com let you shop online with your social networks.

Heaven forbid you make a purchase by yourself!

Why does Coastal Contacts take this to the next level?

  1. It can up-sell you without you even noticing. “Well, all my friends liked those ones. I HAVE to buy them!”
  2. It can see which glasses you almost bought, figure out which styles are popular and provide more glasses of a similar style in the future. This follows web analytics guru Avinash Kaushik’s tips on what information to collect and how.
  3. Your new look is shared on multiple social media platforms, all of which link back to Coastal Contacts. This pulls people to the website and boosts its brand name, while simultaneously encouraging you to spend a lot of time there. “Stickiness” is an important website quality, and this company has got it down to a science.

Coastal Contacts took a product, eyeglasses, that traditionally wouldn’t be sold online and made it possible by using social media.

One more thing: the company likes to hire UBC students.

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