Our own Jason Billingsley led a talk yesterday at Shop.org's Annual Summit in Las Vegas titled Is There A Role for Social Media in Modern Retailing?.
One of the examples Jason mentioned in his session is EyeBuyDirect's Wall of Frame - a gallery of photos uploaded by site visitors using a try-before-you-buy tool that superimposes a virtual pair of frames on your photo.
Each user can upload multiple photos, and each is accompanied by the product image and details, with a button to buy the style.
With a photo and a little skill, not only can you get a much better idea of how a certain style will look like on your face, but you can also get opinions from friends and strangers. You can email the link to your friends, or post yourself on Facebook. Or, fellow Wall of Framers can leave comments (but very few people do).
Unless you're a thirteen year old girl, chances are you don't go shopping with an entourage, so posting to Facebook is a great way to get peer opinions. And it's a great way to encourage word-of-mouth through social media in a non-spammy way.
The Wall also gives an alternative way for customers to browse products - scanning faces, one could keep an eye out for a "person like me" - others around your age or face shape.
Although I think this is a fantastic merchandising tool that helps customers see the product in-context and reduce fears, uncertainties and doubts. But I think a few things could make this even more effective:
1. The Wall of Frame is very analog to navigate. There are over 1800 photos uploaded, and you can only browse them page by page. There should be some defined tagging system so you could filter photos - by gender, age, face shape, style category (classic, sport etc), material (plastic, titanium etc) and product name -- so customers could browse people like them and styles they like.
I say "defined" meaning pre-determined. If you let customers self-tag, you'll get so many variations the tag-sonomy can grow out of control. Tags may mean something only to the tagger, or just be too uncommon to be valuable.
2. The product pages don't leverage the user generated photos. The tagging system would have a secondary purpose to navigation - whenever a photo is tagged with a style, it auto-appears in a gallery on the product page. Remember, not everybody lands on your home page first and figures out you have a Wall of Frame. If you're doing your job with SEO and PPC, chances are you get a lot of traffic landing on product pages.
Seeing people wearing frames with a link to the try-on tool may be a stronger call to action than the current top-left hand icon that is easy to overlook. People don't expect to find this type of tool to begin with, and the faint icon looks almost like a watermark.
3. There are no reviews/feedback on product pages or Wall of Frame pages. Did Sally who uploaded 4 photos 3 months ago purchase something? Was she satisfied? Was the Wall of Frame preview an accurate representation of what the frames actually look like on? Are they comfortable? Also, the product pages don't have reviews and ratings - a feature that consistently tops customer wish lists of what they like to see from online stores.
Nevertheless, I think this is a very neat tool and should I ever require glasses (hey, I'm a blogger - it's almost inevitable) I'll be back to play around with it.