A couple of weeks ago, I broke the only real rule in online shopping. I bought jeans. They arrived and—naturally—they didn’t fit. Too small or too big, you ask? They were too small, you nosy jerk. Of course I didn’t take them back, since I’m always convinced that if I just hang onto a pair of too-tight jeans, I will one day lose the pounds necessary to fit into them, and then I’ll be so glad I hung onto them. But I digress.
There are really only two things that you can’t buy online: jeans and sunglasses. Some entrepreneurs have attempted to find solutions to the quandary of online apparel shopping with sites like MyShape—an e-commerce clothing site for your specific body type. (As it happens, MyShape ended up shutting down in February after raising $28 million in funding.)
But now, a new company—Ditto—is proposing an interesting new solution to the difficulty of buying sunglasses and other eyewear online. The company announced Thursday that it has raised $3 million in a round of funding led by August Capital, with help from angel investors, friends, and family.
Ditto’s solution is marvelous and painfully simple—like, so simple I don’t know why other companies aren’t doing this. The website allows users to create short videos of themselves using their webcams to create computerized selves—or “dittos”—to virtually try on eyewear. Shoppers can see 180-degree views of themselves in different styles and frames, and can even post side-by-side shots of themselves in different frames on Facebook so their friends can weigh in.
Personally, I’m excited. I usually end up having to try on endless pairs of sunglasses to find the right fit since I think one of my ears is 1/8th of an inch lower than the other.
“We have gotten a tremendous amount of feedback from hundreds of private beta testers. They have validated that our technology is useful and fun,” Ditto CEO and co-founder Kate Endress told me. “They expressed a desire to see their Ditto side-by-side in multiple pairs of glasses so they can comparison shop. We have subsequently added that feature and added the ability to poll friends on Facebook so customers can get validation from their friends and family before they buy. We are thrilled to be rolling out our product to the public today.”
The site offers a wide variety of eyewear from a number of well-known brands, including Persol, Chloe, Ray-Ban, Tag Heuer, others Vera Wang, among others. The glasses are all sold at suggested retail prices, ranging from $110 to $1800, with free shipping and free 90-day returns.
“Ecommerce has dramatically evolved across multiple categories including fashion and accessories, yet eyewear remains extremely challenging to market and sell online,” said August Capital’s Howard Hartenbaum, in a statement. “Ditto’s innovative technology eliminates the hassles and impediments associated with buying eyewear online as well as in stores by giving consumers the ability to not just see how they look and fit, but also ask a trusted source to help select which frames to buy.”
Endress said that the company hopes to partner with another 10-20 designer brands this year, as well as expand its computer vision engineers, marketers and customer service specialists. The company also plans to roll out mobile apps for phones and the iPad.