Why the UK’s Online Eyewear Retail Industry Continues to Grow and Succeed

gold iPhone 7 beside black and brown framed eyeglasses
Photo by OhTilly on Unsplash

The online retail industry has been around for years, but its recent performance has been impressive due to the rapid year-on-year increase in online shoppers. To illustrate, the United Kingdom has the third-largest eCommerce market in the world after China and the United States, with revenues expected to have an annual average growth rate of 12.6% by 2025. A previous post explains that the growth of online shopping can be attributed to various benefits, from the lack of queues and easy price comparisons to 24/7 availability, unlike brick-and-mortar stores. 

Among the industries utilising online retail, eyewear is a key sector that continues to demonstrate its knowledge and understanding of consumer needs and expectations. Below, we look at how exactly online eyewear retailers in the UK achieve business success and customer satisfaction through continued digital transformation and innovation.

Appealing to budget-conscious consumers

A report on the UK’s optical retail landscape published by market research firm Mintel notes that the sector has been remarkably resilient in the past few years, but cost presents a significant challenge in the future. As consumers struggle with the cost of living crisis, they want optical services and offerings that ensure great value for money.

In this light, online retailers have been making an effort to make essential eyewear more accessible and appeal to budget-conscious consumers. This starts with streamlining their supply chains from product ideation and manufacturing to distribution so that customers can enjoy affordable and high-quality frames and lenses. Additionally, retailers like Glasses Direct, Specsart, and Vision Express have deployed diverse payment methods — including the “buy now, pay later” scheme by Klarna, an AI-powered payments network supporting 18 million customers and 32,000 retailers in the UK.

Marrying the digital and the physical

Referencing the same report linked above, retail analyst Fiona McDonald explains that despite the surge in online optical retail sales and popularity, the sector must be aware of physical opportunities in the digital space to avoid stagnancy. In other words, online eyewear retailers must continue to marry the digital and the physical as opposed to employing an all-or-nothing approach.

This hybrid “phygital” approach is perfectly exemplified by Glasses Direct’s strategy to bridge the gap between in-person and online shopping experiences. While it’s already the leading UK retailer of affordable glasses frames with two-for-one promos starting at £49, Glasses Direct also offers Home Trials that enable customers to try on and feel their chosen frames before they buy. Since this service involves free shipping and returns, eyewear consumers can increase their confidence in their purchasing decisions while still enjoying the benefits of online shopping for cost-effectiveness and convenience.

Focusing on sustainability

Lastly, the market report highlights the increased focus on sustainability in the eyewear sector and the broader online retail industry. A feature article on Optician Online indicates the growing consumer interest in sustainable materials, with 64% of consumers finding them important when purchasing eyewear.

In this light, British brands like Bird Eyewear sought to innovate their products with materials like ​​bio-acetate, cork, and steel. By adding more sustainable, zero-waste measures to its supply chain, Bird Eyewear has become the first eyewear brand in the UK to achieve B Corp certification. Meanwhile, online eyewear retailers have also been contributing to this industry-wide effort, such as Glasses Direct, preventing 80% of the plastic from new acetate frames from being thrown away and Specsavers reducing the amount of packaging to reduce plastic waste.

In summary, online eyewear retailers continue to dominate the retail space by focusing on essential consumer aspects like affordability, convenience, and sustainability. Continue reading the European Business Review to stay updated on the latest industry trends and updates.


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