NRF 15 : eyewear firm Luxottica has vision of online customer experience

SUMMARY:

Can eye care and shopping for eyewear become a completely digital, online experience? Luxottic is one company that can see how to do that

804SPOT01-1Luxottica is a premium maker and retailer of fashion, luxury and sports eyewear, both optical and sun. The Italian giant’s spectacle brands include premium fashion marques, such as Armani, Burberry, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany, and the iconic Ray Ban. It also owns the David Clulow and Sunglass Hut retail outlets, among many others, and the Glasses.com domain.

That brand list means that Luxottica is, on the one hand, led by the changing demands of fashion – and fashion retail is generally moving towards short product runs and low stock holdings – but also classic designs that change little over decades.

In short, it needs to keep both the trend-conscious and the ‘classic’ customer happy, while at the same time reassuring buyers that it offers the depth of service demanded by serious eye care and health.

The watchwords, then, are:

  • breadth plus depth
  • speed plus heritage
  • trust plus personalisation.

That’s a tough ‘to do’ list for any outfit that wants to extend its bricks and mortar proposition into a one-to-one digital service that doesn’t feel shallow.

Yesterday at NRF 15 in New York, diginomica spoke to group CIO, Dario Scagliotti, to find out how this global retailer, brand owner, designer, and contract manufacturer is navigating the complex world of omni-channel commerce for its customers and partners. He sees choice of eyewear as a key fashion decision:

Eyewear is something that you show on your face, it is something that attracts the attention even more than your shoes, your socks, and your watch. We have brands that are iconic and never change, but we also serve younger ‘brains’ that live faster, who want different colours, shapes, and lenses, so we have to adapt much faster to consumer behaviours.

So to be faster and more adaptive is the challenge for the entire fashion industry. But service level and after-sales support is crucial, because it’s relatively easy to be fast and adaptive.

That raises the question of to what extent is the company as a whole now dealing with customers who come to its brands digitally, rather than physically in stores? And where is the crossover? Scagliotti says:

We have been investing in ecommerce and omni-channel for the past four years, like everyone. But optical retail is an experience where things are different when you buy online. So we are considering with the greatest possible attention new innovative business models created by the online market.

Our presence in the e-retail space is relatively recent. But we have decided to rapidly invest in making the online experience a differentiating factor – customising your frames, engraving, whatever you want – an online experience that gives you exactly what you are looking for.

In 2014 we acquired a company called Glasses.com, which is doing optical retail with prescription frames purely online with no stores, no physical presence. But in this new imaginative era, we don’t forget that eye care is healthcare, and would you call someone a ‘consumer’ of healthcare? ‘Consumers’ of healthcare are not happy about it, because we remember that we turn to healthcare when we have trouble.

Clear vision

The pure retail bit is easy, but it’s interesting to consider how comprehensive eye tests are carried out online? Very well, explains Scagliotti:

We acquired Glasses.com for that reason. Eye examination online works well, but what’s left is the ability to develop a relationship, which is more about service. You can have a perfect eye exam, but the perfect shaping, the perfect cutting [of lenses], the perfect fitting, and so on, is a personal experience. It’s not like buying a pair of size 10 Converse sneakers. Without these things, the purely online eyewear retail experience simply doesn’t exist.

I’m convinced that the opportunities for online eye care – and also healthcare generally – are enormous because it is normally a slow and cumbersome experience. The ability that technology has to enable things like remote examination are already known, but the ability to completely and radically change the consumer experience is great. But it’s obviously much more complicated than buying stuff from Macy’s, or from House of Fraser.

DSC_1157That’s partly at least due to the need for Luxottica to approach personal service differently:

In eye care and healthcare, the ability for online retailers to deal with specific consumers is crucial. We have no IVR system in our contact centre for Glasses.com, because the experience is already ‘too much digital’. Customers only speak to another person. The opportunity to immediately talk to a human being is important.

That’s our people culture, and then there’s the culture of managing our supply chain, and then there are different cultures globally, for whom eyewear means different things. A can of Coke is a can of Coke, and we all expect the same flavour. Our product is global, yes, but different cultures react to what you wear on your face in a different way.

For example, a lot of Asian people wear glasses, but in China’s culture wearing sunglasses specifically means that you are hiding your face, and this is not nice. It’s part of their culture not to wear sunglasses. So it is a huge market, as we all know. And we want to find a way to break the ice and sell sunglasses to China.

Overall, Luxottica presents a solid use case on how retailers-  and anyone else who deals with customers online and via mobile devices – should approach balancing technology with the human element. Scagliotti concludes:

We are all familiar of the old mantra of technology: standardise, unify, consolidate, and make things more efficient – that’s not a bad thing. But we are entering another world. The consumer is an individual, and he belongs to an area, he belongs to a culture, and to me this is the most important thing when dealing with the opportunities we have online.

Online you know your consumer far better than in a store. You have much more potential. And I’m not saying this to try to squeeze more money out of them. In my opinion – talking about eye care! – that would be very short-sighted. Shaping an experience with us is more important. I want to help you, the consumer, by offering better services and better discounts if we are working together in a more structured way.

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