Customers will probably not be able to buy specialized glasses online anytime soon, but GrandVision (which owns Pearle and GrandOptical) is still trialing several internet applications according to its CEO Theo Kiesselbach.
One of the reasons why GrandVision's impending IPO may attract quite a bit of interest is its 'online resilience' according to analysts. The optics division of HAL, a Dutch investment firm, can never be fully displaced by pure online players, unlike with books, CD's, electronics and many other product categories.
Cheap reading glasses, lenses and maintenance products can be sold online, but specialized glasses without a visit to an optician are not that obvious. Nevertheless, GrandVision is keeping a close eye on online developments according to CEO Theo Kiesselbach's interview with the Financial Times. "You can't have an eye test over the internet yet, but maybe you can in 10 years."
Technology strengthens stores
GrandVision's CEO recognizes the power of online innovation to bring customers to stores and he has confirmed the company is experimenting how to take advantage of that. "Some of our brands offer pre-eye tests on screen which give you an indication if you need to make an appointment, and this can be booked online."
That will not be the last GrandVision does in this regard: "Some websites and stores also offer 3D augmented reality so you can look into the camera on an iPad and preselect frames. You can share the image on social media and find out what your friends think of your new glasses, but the eye test and fitting must happen in a store", he concluded.