Data and Email Help Consumers See Felix + Iris Through Fresh Eyes

In marketing, having a clear view of the customer is essential. When online eyewear provider felix + iris launched this past September, it relied on data to identify its target audience’s needs and email to serve those needs at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

Developing the right framework

Online eyewear providers such as Warby Parker primarily target millennials, but felix + iris aims to attract Gen X and Baby Boomer customers. According to Marty Brown, VP of marketing for parent company One Click Ventures, these markets are underserved in the eyewear category. In fact, after conducting focus groups and speaking to customers from—another One Click Ventures brand that reaches consumers 35 years old and older—felix + iris discovered that many older shoppers thought that discount sites were the only places where they could order glasses online—and some didn’t know that they could buy glasses online at all.

But it’s not just mature audiences who’ve refrained from ordering glasses online. Purchasing eyewear via the Internet isn’t popular among consumers in general. Only 3 to 4% of eyeglass buyers use the Internet to directly purchase eyeglasses, according to the “2013 Internet Influence Report” by optical trade organization Vision Council; this figure drops to 2.6% for people who use over-the-counter readers.

Keeping this information in mind, felix + iris decided to take a closer look at why people don’t order their specs online. After purchasing data from third parties like the Vision Council, felix + iris discovered that most people don’t buy glasses online because they’re concerned about fit.

But what exactly does “fit” mean? Were people concerned that they weren’t going to get the right prescription, or were they nervous that the frames would squeeze their temples? “When most people hear the word ‘fit,’ they just think too tight, too loose,” Brown says. “But when we peel the onion back a layer with our customers, we found out that there’s a little more to it than just too tight or too loose.”

After posing the question to focus groups, felix + iris learned that “fit” was defined by three main components: style (did a purple pair of glasses look the same in-person as it did online), comfort (will the frames slide off of a wearer’s nose), and prescription, Brown explains. Given these specificities, most Gen X and Baby Boomer consumers prefer to simply order their glasses through a trusted optician.

felix + iris had to reassure older consumers that they could receive the same level of personalized care online as they could from their doctor. So the retailer leveraged data and email to create a complete hand-holding experience that would engage and educate consumers at each stage of the buyer journey.

Getting a clearer view of the customer through data

Given the skepticism surrounding online eyeglass ordering, very few consumers are likely to enter in their prescription and purchase information when they first access the site, Brown says. Therefore, felix + iris has to build trust with its consumers by developing a relationship with them.

“Right now we’re more concerned with telling the story of buying eyewear online than we are with telling the story of felix + iris,” Brown says. 

This trust building begins when consumers first visit the site and are immediately asked to take felix + iris’s nine-question “Fit Profile” quiz. The quiz asks consumers to provide basic characteristics—(face shape and gender), preference data (favorite frame materials and styles), and behavioral information (how carefully they handle their glasses). felix + iris built the quiz in-house and tied it directly to its internal analytics and reporting systems, Brown says, so that it can track consumers’ answers and detect trends, such as most-clicked-on styles.

All of the users’ answers are stored in user profiles. Based on their responses, felix + iris’s algorithm recommends four frames for the users. Consumers can either choose to have these four frames mailed to them to try on at home, or they can choose their own, Brown explains. Once they’ve chosen their frames, consumers must enter in their credit card information and wait for their glasses to arrive via their free “At-Home Fit Kit.” When felix + iris sends the glasses, it includes a branded brochure that teaches consumers how to tell whether a pair fits correctly and how they can proceed with ordering. If consumers want additional guidance, they can call felix + iris’s hotline to speak to a certified optician. 

After five days consumers must mail all four frames back to felix + iris. If there was a pair that they liked, they can go to felix + iris’s website and enter in their prescription information. The brand will then call their optometrists to verify the prescription and send the chosen frames and verified prescription to its optical partner. The optical partner then builds the custom frames, Brown explains, and sends them to the consumers from felix + iris’s warehouse. 

Maintaining a customer journey vision through email

The e-tailer recognizes that there are often detours on a customer’s path to purchase. For instance, a customer may order a Fit Kit but end up not making a purchase. To help guide consumers down the sales funnel, felix + iris sends triggered emails.If a consumer completes the quiz but fails to order a Fit Kit, for instance, felix + iris will send him a message after a certain amount of time reminding him that he can try on four pairs at home for free. felix + iris also uses cookies to help determine the timing of when these triggered messages should be sent out.

“We know that email is going to be the primary touchpoint to comeback, reengage that consumer, and further build up our trust with them as far as being an eyewear expert…and a trustworthy source for buying prescription glasses,” Brown says.

In addition to sending triggered emails, felix + iris follows up with consumers via personal emails and phone calls to see if they can provide any additional assistance. “We’re still at the stage, thankfully, where we’re low enough volume that we can do some of these ‘unscalable things’ like calling customers directly,” Brown says.

Results that are a sight for sore eyes

So far, it looks like felix + iris’s brand vision is paying off. *According to Brown, 96% of people who purchase after ordering an At-Home Fit Kit choose a pair from their Fit Kit.

Still, the e-tailer has a few challenges to overcome. For instance, if a new site visitor decides to skip the “Fit Profile” quiz and start browsing felix + iris’s  glasses collection immediately, there’s no way to then target that consumer. To overcome this obstacle, felix + iris began running A/B tests on its homepage: One version of the site completely removed the “collections” button from the page (therefore, forcing consumers to take the quiz) while the other did not. felix + iris experienced a 350% increase in profile completion with the latter. 

Another challenge is that felix + iris doesn’t have a way for people to reorder a pair of frames that they already have, or the next model, easily. However, Brown says  the company is currently working on an in-house photo-uploading mechanism that would enable consumers to do just that.

In terms of other plans, Brown says  he would like to build a pupillary distance tool, a key eyeglass measurement, as well as expand the e-tailer’s use of social for customer engagement and acquisition (as opposed to a platform on which felix + iris simply posts content). He knows that the more felix + iris grows the less time it will have to devote to following up with customers via personal phone calls and emails. “We’re not going to be able to call every customer forever,” he says. “So, that will be a decreasing portion of our customer feedback going forward.”

Although Brown admits that the “old fashioned stuff” like surveys and direct phone calls work best for obtaining customer feedback, felix + iris will have to find new ways to gain a 20/20 view of its customers. 

*Update: Changed statistic from “96% of people who order an At-Home Fit Kit make a purchase” to “96% of people who purchase after ordering an At-Home Fit Kit choose a pair from their Fit Kit.” Change made at 8:00 pm EST on 11/26/14.

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