Theres no denying that online retail is huge. When you think of the web titans that survived the dot com era–I’m looking at you Amazon and eBay–they’re predominantly retailers. We’re talking about probably a $100 billion market at this point. With that being said, the potential for growth is even greater. Milo, the hyper-local retail search engine, recently did a study that concluded less than a whopping 5% of retail sales is conducted online. 5%. That figure alone is pretty interesting, but the best part is how they drilled down on individual industries. The result? A pretty clear picture of the kinds of goods that aren’t suited (yet) for online sale. For example, Food and Beverage online sales are at a measly 0.2%.

Okay that may be obvious, but that got me thinking about other goods that haven’t quite translated to the interwebs yet.


As a social case study, sunglasses are a very interesting product. From aviators, to oakleys, to the giant wrap arounds 80 year old men wear, there’s a pair for everyone. Think back to when you last bought some. You go to the store, throw on the first pair that looks good, and do that ridiculous little jig trying to see yourself in the mirror. And there lies the problem. According to market researcher Mintel,only 27% of luxury accessories (RayBans, Maui Jim’s, etc.) are purchased online. The people want a way to try on sunglasses…so give it to them.

Scenario 1: The social way

One way to achieve this would be to do a transparent hook in with Facebook. Theres at least 500 million faces on there dying to try on a pair of sunglasses. First, you connect through the Graph API to grab a users pictures. Allow them to select the best straight on shot for best results. Then, do a little image magic and superimpose their choice of sunglasses on their face. There ya have it. Bonus points for creating a viral loop and posting to Facebook what pair they picked.

Scenario 2: The over-engineered way (for fun).

I think motion tracking with webcams is pretty cool, so how about we apply it to this use case. Have customers shop through sunglasses as before, but one click on the “Try ’em on” button and activate their webcam. Superimpose the sunglasses on their face. Bonus points on this one for doing some fancy facial recognition and allowing the customer to check out different angles with them on.

From here the possibilities are endless. I know personally I never buy sunglasses without someone there to tell me when I look stupid or not. This could be duplicated with more Facebook integration as well.

So Oakley, what are you waiting for?