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200,000 visitors per month: the online success story of Affleloustore

In less than a year, AfflelouStore has become Europe’s most visited online optical retail store. Frédéric Poux, Chairman of the Alain Afflelou Board, does not intend to stop there.

E-commerce at the service of the franchisees

The greatest online challenge for Alain Afflelou? To avoid competition between e-commerce and the franchisees. “We are a franchisor: our expertise lies not in our know-how, but in enabling the know-how of others. We took account of this when setting up our future e-commerce plans” says Fréderic Poux. As innovation is one of the Group’s key values, “no online presence was impossible.”

However, it was out of the question to create an internet site which would compete with Alain Afflelou shops. The chosen solution combines “the best of both worlds.” On the AfflelouStore site, the user can try out glasses and make a selection, but when it comes to paying, the customer must choose a shop, which will invoice the sale and provide the after-sales service” The AfflelouStore website is therefore a means of acquiring new customers for the franchisees. “Thanks to the website, franchisees can sell 365 days a year, 7 days a week.”

Although the internet business remains very weak for optical sales with e-commerce representing just 1% of the Alain Afflelou network’s sales, users spend an average of 40 minutes trying on glasses in the online AfflelouStore. “Rather than a retail website, it is a pre-sales site where customers can get information from the comfort of their own home.” “Once the choice is made, most consumers go to the shop to buy their glasses. Those predicting an end to shops because of the internet were mistaken. In our opinion, there is no contradiction: the internet business cannot function without the shops.”

Augmented reality and the mobile application “Shazam for glasses”

“We were the last to launch our website, because we wanted to offer a truly differentiated experience and it took us some time to develop this. There were already photo and video applications for trying on glasses. We went a step further with augmented reality.” To find the right partner, the team looked all over the world. Europe, Korea, the US… and it was in Los Angeles that Frédéric Poux met DITTO. The US start-up agreed to allow the French optician to use its technology. “Up until then they had never offered it to third-parties.”

After the launch of the first version of the site in June, a second version is expected for January, “with a new set of innovations.” On the cards is a new mobile application which will enable users to “shazam” glasses based on a catalogue, magazine, or a pair worn by a passer-by. “For years we have been working on a recognition algorithm for images, linked to our product catalogue. Today the algorithm takes thirty seconds to recognise the glasses presented. Our aim is to get this down to ten seconds.” With this unrivalled application, Frédéric Poux intends to make the life of glasses wearers easier. They will be able to “find the right pair, try them, ask for their friends’ opinions on social media and enjoy the comfort of a shop close to home.”

Tomorrow’s retail is “retail with a vision”

For the Chairman of the Alain Afflelou Board, tomorrow’s retail is “retail with a vision.” “We aim to bring our customers real added value. Our creativity all comes from listening to our glasses wearers.” One example is the Tonic collection of Alain Afflelou, made using ultra-light material developed during space research. How heavy are the special glasses worn by Sharon Stone? 12 grammes. “Consumers told us that their main criteria when selecting glasses was their weight.”

By bringing the customers’ wishes to the foreground, Frédéric Poux hopes to transform a purchase which is not particularly enjoyable into something which is “fun to buy.” “It is expensive to change glasses and it is never the right moment. Our approach is to change mentalities and consumption habits. “This is the aim of the “Win-Win” offer which proposes two pairs of glasses guaranteed for life for a monthly subscription of €11.90 for 24 months. The logic is close to that used for mobile phones. “We have got used to paying a subscription which lets us change our phone regularly, why not do the same with our glasses?”

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