Eyebuydirect has focused on expansion during a period when many retailers are scaling back operations, including nearly doubling its SKU count from 2,000 to 3,800 over the past year. The retailer attributes its success to its steady stream of fresh styles that build on its goal of encouraging shoppers to shed societal pressures and express themselves freely, supported by a virtual try-on tool that provides a significant boost to conversions.
“Our motivation and purpose are to help people be confident and perform to their highest potential in life,” said Sunny Jiang, CEO of Eyebuydirect in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We empower them to freely express their individuality. Customers need to have sufficient options whenever they come to visit and shop with us. Over 55% of customers are returning, so we want to make sure that every time they come, there’s always new inspiration or insight.”
Jiang has helped the retailer scale up its sales nearly 300% since she took the helm in 2017 and to double sales since the start of the pandemic. Giving shoppers a reason to come back is key to maintaining that growth. A study by YouGov found that 92% of people own one to five pairs of glasses and 72% of people own one to five pairs of sunglasses. These findings indicate interest in options that suit specific moods and makes the brand’s wide and expanding assortment a key investment.
“How do we leverage these important findings?,” asked Jiang. “They tell us that people always want options. They like new things. They need variety when they wear eyeglasses and it is very encouraging for us to introduce new options very frequently, specifically every other week. It also pushes us to be a lifelong student of the industry because we want to stay ahead. We always want to know what the current trend is, how it benefits the customer and why the customer enjoys the products from the current season and styles.”
Virtual Try-Ons Can Boost a Brand’s ‘Honesty’
While having a wide variety of styles provides a strong foundation, shoppers also want to ensure that their choice will look good on them. Jiang noted that this is a rising demand among shoppers, which is why the company has refined its virtual try-on technology to offer the smoothest and most “honest” experience possible.
“Studies show that [honesty] has become one of the top three concerns when people shop online,” said Jiang. “With this information, we work very hard to introduce advanced technology for consumers. Since we launched virtual trial on the website, engagement was boosted significantly. The conversion rate for the people who interact with our try-on is 30% higher than people who don’t use it.”
The try-on experience ties into Eyebuydirect’s commitment to helping every customer express themselves. The tool ensures that every shopper can find frames that fit their face shape, in a color that looks good on them
“It’s very flexible,” said Jiang. “When you move your head from left to right or right to left it follows you to give you the image very quickly and accurately. People want to know, ‘Is this my face shape? Is this the best size? Do I need a larger or smaller one?’ Our try-on is always giving you the right reference image.”
With Headwinds on the Horizon, Eyebuydirect is Looking Forward
While Eyebuydirect is in a period of strong growth, the entire retail industry is bracing for potential headwinds as recession looms in the U.S. Eyebuydirect handles its entire business in-house, and the retailer is using its current success as an opportunity to prepare every aspect for future uncertainty. Jiang is currently leading her team in optimizing operations, improving efficiency and, most importantly, strengthening the commitment to its stated mission companywide.
“Culture is the foundation for a strong unit,” said Jiang. “Maybe it doesn’t look like that in the short run, but down the road it is really fundamental. It’s super important for people to work toward the same goal with the same vision and mission. It’s like preparing for a fire when the fire isn’t there yet. If we put in all of this work now, when the fire comes it won’t be bad.”
A CEO is the person charged with setting a corporate culture and expectations, but women can sometimes feel locked out of having their voices heard, even when they’re senior leaders. Jiang emphasized the importance of self-confidence and communication for female leaders — knowing what you bring to the table, and how you can use this to effectively direct others, is vital to success.
“Sometimes your power is not from your position or from what you do, but from what you have and what you know,” said Jiang. “This is, for me, a golden rule. It’s also very important to be confident and to generously invest in your communication skills. You cannot overinvest in communication. As leaders we succeed because of others, not only because of ourselves.”