A deep dive in slide-form of Amazon’s road to dominance of online commerce.
Matt Haughey provides a very interesting write up on ordering glasses online instead of at the local optometrist / giant chain store in his article Adventures in $40 eyeglasses. I love the idea of having more than one pair of glasses from which to choose each morning, while paying significantly less than I would for a single pair from my optometrist.
Now, I’m more than happy to pay for a good optometrist, but frames and lenses are commodities in all but the rarest instances, and those instances are out of my spending range. Plus, I really don’t like having a designer’s signature scrawled on my clothing, much less my glasses, so selling me on the brand doesn’t work. That said, I spent more on my current set of glasses than I ever had previously because they really feel right, but they aren’t practical to wear some days. Having a second set of glasses would be nice to have around when I know that I will be more active during the day. Hell, just the ability to get an inexpensive pair or two of prescription sunglasses would encourage me to leave my contacts in their solution in order to wear my glasses.
Matt also posted a link to Glassy Eyes, a blog about ordering glasses online – sounds dull, but it’s very useful. I’ll post back when I take the plunge.
One of the biggest issues with online clothing retailers is the high percentage (35 – 40%) of returns. Quite often, an article of clothing is returned because the customer expected the fabric to feel different, be thicker or thinner etc. One UK company aims to change this state of affairs. Software from Click 2 Touch creates “unique web pages that allow consumers to see garments as 3D objects, enlarge important details and experience ten tactile sensations.” It is an intriguing (though not really new) concept.
From what I gather from the demo, they are using Flash to display a series of high resolution images, each focused on a specific part of the fabric. The interesting aspect of the demonstration are the attributes they demonstrate for each fabric. The demo only illustrates thickness and elasticity, but they also list softness, fullness, smoothness, hairiness, prickliness, drape, rigidity and warmth as other options.
The most important thing for this company, and the future of their product is the process behind the creation of these demonstrations. Their success depends heavily on the following points, missing one point will seriously complicate matters in such a competitive market:
- Speed – Adding new clothing lines and products to a retail site is time-consuming, especially for those who work on catalog schedules. Inserting another major step in the process has a large impact. If that step isn’t relatively fast, it may well be left by the wayside.
- Automation – While this is tied to speed in many ways, it is important to note that automated processes are extremely important in catalog-to-Web workflows. If the system isn’t automated, then it can only be used for a smaller, subset of products due to time constraints.
- In-House Production – While some retailers will be open to using this as a service, many will want the ability to purchase software for in-house customization and use. If this isn’t an option, many clients will walk away.
- Cost – Always an important point, the cost of the system/process is an integral selling point. The catalog company will have to factor in the time it will take their team to learn the system, and modify it to fit their site in addition to the time spent to create each product demonstration. The overall cost will rise very quickly, and may well eclipse the cost to develop the same basic functionality in-house.
All in all, this is an interesting system. We’ll keep an eye on them over the next year or so, to see how they progress.