MONTREAL—After years of work and development, New Look stores, part of Canada’s New Look Vision Group (which consists of several retail/eyecare brand banners) is now live this month with its two-pronged e-commerce approach, bringing what it describes as “the full store experience” into its customers’ homes. New Look’s suite of tools now offers two ways for customers to buy glasses online with New Look, according to Jean-Michel Maltais, the group’s senior vice president of omnichannel.

One is with an online optician—this is live now and brings the full store experience into the customer’s home. The customer can purchase glasses with both single vision and progressive lenses, with the assistance of an optician through a GoToMeeting video call, which is called a “virtual appointment.”

The customer simply books an appointment and receives an email to attend the video call. Prior to the time of their appointment, they will take their ultra precise 3D facial scan using New Look’s iPhone app. During the video call, the optician will use the customer’s 3D facial scan to virtually try on frames and share this view live. They will then select the lenses, coatings and complete the purchase. This is as close as it gets to a store experience, but is done from the comfort of the customer’s home.

With the second option, which is starting this month, New Look’s customers can engage via online e-commerce. Maltais said, “This will enable the customer to buy single vision glasses directly on our website [progressives will be added in a few months]. Before making their purchase, they will take their 3D scan using our iPhone app. This will enable the same three things already available with the online optician which is the most precise virtual try-on experience and the taking of the customer’s full measurements either in the app or on the website, as precisely as in-store. And the personalized, physical adjustments to enhance comfort, made by an optician before the glasses are shipped to the customer.”

New Look’s stores are using Topology’s technology for these approaches. Maltais told VM, “Our engagement with Topology, who powers the technology behind the scan that enables us to sell online glasses with store-level quality, comfort and vision, started two and a half years ago.

“The online optician project started about 18 months ago and has been live for a year. The online virtual try-on and self-serve e-commerce has been in development and testing for about a year. We have been patient because our omnichannel strategy is not just to sell online, but to offer the same quality online as we do in store. This has required a lot of fine-tuning, but it truly revolutionizes the industry.”

Asked what have been New Look’s early learnings from the multi-dimensional project, Maltais replied, “We have seen that customers have become doubtful over the years about the fact that you can buy glasses of as high quality online as you do in store. They have been disappointed by early experiences and have been buying online mostly when there are big discounts because the risk is low.

“So one of our challenges is in restoring their belief in the quality of e-commerce as a channel in eyewear, and convincing them that you do not have to compromise on quality if you buy online. Therefore, we are placing a lot of emphasis on communications as we are not just introducing a new product, we are transforming the way customers buy glasses online.”

In addition, he noted, for the virtual appointments, New Look is seeing that the customer simply makes their purchase during the appointment rather than storing favorites to come to store. The experience is pretty much identical to that of being in a store. “We have seen a higher conversion rate from our virtual appointments than we see in store, however, which goes to show how high the standard of quality is,” Maltais said.

Like other optical retailers who spoke to VM, Maltais citied the “absolutely critical role that sales associates play in the process. “First, we take the 3D scan of our customers when they come in store to offer both a virtual try-on selection process in store, but to also enable the customer to come online to try on glasses virtually without having to download the iPhone app. When the scan is done in store, it works online, so it saves the customer a step in the process and delivers a truly omnichannel experience. Second, the opticians that deliver the service as part of our virtual appointments are the same as the ones who work in our store. So as we progress on this journey, not only do our customers experience an omnichannel journey, but our staff are also becoming omnichannel salespeople.”

New Look presents the same frame brands as they do in store, therefore the majority of common known brands such as Tom Ford, Hugo Boss, Kate Spade and Ray Ban are all available, as well as some of their private label brands such as Madison, Caché and Avenue by Julien Couture.

Maltais also said, “We have been openly communicating about the virtual appointments for many months now, on our website, through social media, by email, on TV, through PR and most importantly, in our stores, where we take the 3D scan of customers using the Topology app on an iPad pro. Regarding the e-commerce functionality, in addition to continuing to sharing this in store when we take people’s scans, it will be announced to our customers first by email, and we will then extend our communications to all channels as we move forward.”

The New Look Eyewear banner has 85 stores across Quebec (73), Ontario (6), Saskatchewan (2) and British Columbia (4). The New Look Vision Group also includes other banners such as Iris, Greiche & Scaff, Vogue Optical, Edward Beiner, Black Optical and LOH. The New Look Vision Group now has over 460 stores across Canada and the U.S.