Ecommerce Podcast Interviews Braden Hoeppner of Coastal Contacts

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Contact Lens and Eyewear Retailer Adds Interactive Feature so Shoppers can Virtually "Try On" Glasses Online

Now that we've layered glasses into the site, it's a different product mix

SLI Systems, provider of on-demand, intelligent search services for Internet and e-commerce sites, announced today that the latest Ecommerce Podcast ( interview features Braden Hoeppner, director of web sales for Coastal Contacts ( Podcast host Shaun Ryan, CEO of SLI Systems, and Hoeppner traded ideas on the retailer's recent expansion of its product lines, and attracting and retaining customers with interactive product features.

Coastal Contacts, an online retailer of contact lenses and eyewear that operates web storefronts in the U.S., Canada and Japan, recently added prescription eyeglasses to its product lineup. The challenge in selling prescription glasses online, explained Hoeppner, is that they require more browsing and decision-making by the shopper.

"Contact lenses are easy to buy, since they're prescribed," explained Hoeppner - in other words, there are few decisions to make once a shopper submits his or her vision prescription. "On the eyeglasses side, it's more like buying shoes - you need to make sure you have the right size, and you need to try them on."

To alleviate customer concerns about choosing prescription eyeglass frames online instead of buying them in a real-world storefront, Coast Contacts accepts returns and offers free shipping. "We're setting up a model for direct-to-consumer eyewear that hasn't existed before," said Hoeppner.

To help shoppers find the right eyeglass frames, Coastal Contacts developed a "virtual mirror" application that lets users upload photos and "try on" glasses on the photos. Users can then share these photos with friends and family, and solicit opinions on the best frames. "You can get feedback in a way that you can't get at a retail store," said Hoeppner. "Customers like the application - it lets them have confidence in the product before they make the purchase."

Hoeppner said he and his colleagues continually search for new ways to make shopping easier for customers seeking products with more complex buying choices, such as eyeglasses and sunglasses. "Now that we've layered glasses into the site, it's a different product mix," Hoeppner said. "Customers need to shop the whole catalogue," instead of simply inputting a contact lens prescription.

In the podcast, Hoepnner also offered details of his first online purchase: a Pez dispenser. "I started trading them online in the early 1990s - it's probably the thing that I've purchased online the most over the years," Hoeppner said. His most recent purchase: a Kindle.

About Ecommerce Podcast
Ecommerce Podcast is a series of interviews with experts in e-commerce on a range of topics, including marketing, site design and usability, search, and merchandising and promotions. The podcast interviews are hosted by Shaun Ryan, president and CEO of SLI Systems, a provider of hosted learning-based search and navigation technology. Ecommerce Podcast can be found at

About SLI Systems
SLI Systems is the developer of learning-based search and navigation technology for corporate Internet sites, e-commerce destinations and consumer Internet portals that Searches, Learns and Improves the user experience. SLI Systems' hosted site search and user-generated SEO solutions empower businesses to enhance customer satisfaction while increasing sales, reducing costs and yielding valuable customer information. Unlike traditional search software, SLI Systems' patented technology continuously "learns" from the behavior of visitors over time to deliver more relevant results. SLI Systems is a privately held company, with offices in Silicon Valley, London, and Christchurch, New Zealand.

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