11 October 2017

Online glasses brands are ditching chatbots for social media

Ace and Tate’s flirtation with the likes of Facebook is emblematic of how companies are turning to social media for customer service and sales.

 

Selling glasses in shops isn’t easy. People get overwhelmed by the choice, and frustrated by trying on lots of frames. Doing it online is even harder.

Amsterdam-based Ace and Tate has thrown the digital kitchen sink at trying to leapfrog the hurdles that selling spectacles through the internet presents.

Skype advice

Founder Mark de Lange initially hired someone with a background in social networking to take charge of the shopping process.

What started off with the team simply replying to messages over Facebook has since grown into a range of options, including to interact over WhatsApp, schedule a style consultancy on Skype or get feedback on mailed-out frames over Snapchat.

Retailers everywhere are experimenting with social channels and chat mechanisms to create a social following, persuade customers to buy, and minimise the hassle and expense of returns.

Middle ground

Facebook, Instagram and Snap are all trying to develop new tools to help retailers, despite the fact just 1.5% of online sales came from social media last year.

De Lange says around 20% of online customers ask questions and seek out style advice through Ace and Tate’s social channels. He recruited heavily in customer experience early on, noticing a jump in loyalty and purchasing from those that discussed their style and frame choices with a professional.

Warby Parker effect

Spectacles startups have been among the most experimental in driving their efforts online. The most famous among them, Warby Parker, grew in popularity thanks to a scheme that sent customers lots of frames to try on at home for free. The company has continued to invest heavily in Facebook, which founder David Gilboa has described as its most effective tool for hooking customers.

It’s a scheme Ace and Tate has replicated. De Lange is banking on the ‘try before you buy’ mail-out format to lead a push into the UK. Unlike in the other European capitals where Ace and Tate has established itself since its founding in 2013, the company isn’t opening a shop in London right away. ‘It’s a middle ground; not completely online, not completely offline,’ he says.

Mark de Lange’s engagement insights:

Keep it human

‘Avoid the temptation to use bots for Facebook chat.’

Focus on one or two platforms

‘Don’t go across the board from the get-go.’

Don’t force it

‘The beauty of online shopping is giving people the choice of interacting or not.’

First appeared in issue 17 Jun/Jul