Should I Buy Glasses Online?

While online shopping may be convenient, there may be issues with buying eyeglasses online.

In the United Kingdom, purchasing glasses and contact lenses online has become increasingly popular, but there are still many factors to consider before making a purchase. While shopping online can save time and money, it is essential to consult with an eye doctor to ensure that the glasses or contacts are suitable for your eyes.

According to a report by The Vision Council, online shopping for eyewear is influenced by various factors, including sustainability, technology, and shopping habits2. The report highlights differences between online and in-person shoppers, brand and fashion trend influences, and whether sustainability and technology play a role in purchasing frames.

For instance, online purchasers of prescription glasses tend to prefer square, brow line, and cat-eye frame shapes more so than in-person shoppers. Additionally, fashion-conscious consumers are more likely to prefer rimless, brow line, cat-eye, aviator, geometric, round, and wraparound frame shapes. Technology enthusiasts have a stronger preference for rimless or semi-rimless and aviator frame shapes compared to consumers who are not as interested in technology.

Furthermore, frame selection is influenced by what trends are important to consumers. Sustainability, fashion trends, and brand recognition are more important for non-prescription wearers than prescription glasses wearers. Brand and fashion trends also have greater weight in purchasing decisions for those that find shopping for frames fun.However, for consumers that don’t have a straightforward frame experience, certain factors may not be important in the purchasing of frames. Consumers who run into frame fitting issues are more likely to deprioritize fashion and brands compared to those with no fit issues.

The eyewear industry in the UK is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.9% from 2024 to 2028, reaching US$2,200.0 million by 20283. Fashion brands represent 35% of annual retail revenue generated by the eyeglasses market. For eye care retailers, eyewear purchases account for around 10% of their annual revenue.

If you are thinking of buying your next glasses online, here are some of the important considerations;

Do you save money?

The rise of online shopping has led many eye doctors and optical stores to expand their range of eyeglasses, offering competitive prices similar to those found on the internet.

Although purchasing glasses online might save you a visit to a physical store, the vast array of frame styles available can be overwhelming and make it tough to pick the right one.

Likewise, scouring the internet for the best deals on eyeglasses can be just as perplexing. With countless websites to browse, it can be challenging to compare prices and determine the most cost-effective option.

On the other hand, shopping for glasses at a physical location provides the advantage of personalized assistance. A trained expert will guide you through the process, from selecting the ideal frame to securing the best price, and discuss the optimal eyewear solutions for your lifestyle, such as sunglasses, progressive lenses, and even contact lenses.

Are the glasses the best fit?

When you buy glasses from an optical shop or directly from an optometrist, you benefit from the personalized service provided by knowledgeable staff. These professionals spend ample time helping you choose and fit the perfect pair of eyeglasses.

They are well-trained to detail the various options available and to ensure that the chosen frames fit well and suit your needs.

Purchasing glasses in person means each pair is tailored to the individual wearer. Trying on different glasses eliminates the risk of buying the wrong size and dealing with the inconvenience of returns or exchanges.

On the other hand, while glasses ordered online might look appealing, they often don’t meet expectations upon arrival. It’s challenging to select the right style and color based on website images alone, unlike trying them on and seeing how they look on you in a store.

Is the prescription correct?

Nearly half of all glasses purchased from online retailers have some sort of prescription error, studies suggest. This issue is particularly prevalent with online purchases because these platforms might struggle to properly fulfill certain specialized prescriptions.

Prescriptions for eyeglasses include numerous details, and while online manufacturers might correctly produce the lenses, they often do not fit them into the frames in a way that aligns well with the wearer’s vision needs.

The optimal placement of lenses within frames is crucial and depends on accurately measuring the pupillary distance (PD) and ensuring the lens center is correctly positioned. Errors in these measurements can lead to the creation of unintentional prismatic effects in the lenses, leading to significant discomfort, headaches, and eye strain.

Quality of the frames

Purchasing eyeglasses at a lower price often means they are crafted from inferior materials, which can affect their durability and increase the likelihood of them breaking or wearing out quickly.

When you buy glasses online, issues such as the longevity of the lenses, the precision of the prescription, and how well they fit can arise. Moreover, if your online-purchased glasses require adjustments, you might find yourself visiting a physical optician anyway to get them properly fitted.

Buying glasses online vs. in-store

When deciding whether to buy glasses online or from a physical store, there are several factors to consider:

  1. Fit and Accuracy: Ensuring that the glasses fit well and that the measurements for your face and eye alignment are accurate is crucial. This includes the correct frame size and the precise measurement of your pupillary distance (PD)—the space between your pupils—which is vital for the proper alignment of your lenses.

  2. Cost Comparison: Online shopping allows you to easily compare prices across different retailers, which can help you find the best deal.

  3. Complex Prescriptions: If you have specialized eyewear needs, such as progressive lenses, it might be challenging to find suitable options online.

  4. Measuring Pupillary Distance: Knowing your PD is essential, but accurately measuring it at home can be tricky. An incorrect measurement can result in lenses that don’t correct your vision properly, affecting how you see.

Although online purchases are gaining popularity, the majority of eyeglasses are still bought from traditional optical stores. The advantages of in-store shopping—such as professional fitting and immediate adjustments—often surpass the potential savings from online deals.

It’s important to note that regardless of where you purchase your glasses, you will need a current prescription, which means a visit to the optometrist is necessary.

Shopping for glasses online might seem convenient, but it requires careful consideration of how the glasses will affect your vision and overall comfort, particularly if the prescription is inaccurate or the frames are ill-fitting.

If you are currently looking into getting new glasses, contact an eye doctor near you to schedule an appointment, they can help you choose glasses that best suit you and your eyes.