WebRTC World Feature Article

March 21, 2014

The WebRTC Opportunity at Warby Parker

Spring is officially here and summer is right around the corner, so what better time to shop for some shades? If you haven’t shopped with Warby Parker, it’s probably time to check it out. The company has gained attention over the past few years for not just its collection, design and price of glasses, company transparency or social responsibility, but its shopping model. Users can try before they buy with two main options: They can choose up to five frames they’d like to try on at home, which will all ship for free in one box, and then have five days to try them on and pick their favorite, or they can check them out virtually with the Virtual Try-On tool.

The virtual tool’s software gives users an idea of how the glasses would look in real life. They can use a photo of themselves from either their webcam, a photo on file or import a photo from Facebook, or use a model’s photo if they don’t necessarily want to see glasses on themselves, just a face in general.

This tool is indicative of the type of applications WebRTC and similar technologies bring to the Web. Retail in particular can benefit from this type of interactive solution by enabling users with more self-service tools – such as trying on glasses for themselves – and bridging the gap between the online and in-person shopping experience.  

The virtual option uses Flash to power the Virtual Mirror, but I couldn’t help but notice the opportunity for WebRTC. It wasn’t a hassle at all to use Flash – just a simple click of the “Allow” button, but WebRTC could open doors for an even better customer experience. An option to connect in real-time with a customer service associate could help with the shopping decision, suggesting different frames for my face shape and features, just like if I was in a retail location in person. Or, imagine being able to manipulate the display of the screen to not just show how a person would look wearing the glasses, but what their view would be like from wearing them.

Image courtesy Warby Parker site

While the tool could probably be improved a little bit in terms of how the glasses look on users’ faces, it’s a step toward improving online shopping experiences. Now you can see the product image on its own, how it looks on a model and how it would look on you. However, there’s still the element of the in-person experience that can’t be replicated online: actually trying the glasses on and gauging how they feel. That’s one feature that won’t be available online anytime soon. 

Edited by Rory J. Thompson


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