By  on November 15, 2010

On Tuesday, Solstice is throwing a luncheon bash at L.A.’s TK. The cause for celebration? The sunglass retailer is officially relaunching its Web site with a whole new look and an added e-commerce component.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for a while,” said Rick Talmage, the company’s chief operating officer. “For me, this has always been an integral part of the retail channel strategy. You have your full-price boutiques, your outlet stores and your online stores.” The delay was due to Solstice’s challenging position; it’s the retail arm of eyewear manufacturer Safilo Group, which meant there was some maneuvering “to make sure we do it in the right way,” Talmage explains, “because we represent all these brands, and their sites have their own sunglass section.” He adds that the site is getting a new URL — solsticesunglasses.com rather than solsticestores.com. The look and feel is a complete 180 as well; the pages are sleeker, more streamlined and — instead of white and yolk-yellow shades — are cast in a subtle bronze hue. San Francisco-based agency Fluid designed the site while the platform is supported by Demandware Inc; Solstice tapped Filltek to handle its customer service call center.

Customers can shop by category, from the more general men’s and women’s groupings to brand type, including luxury (Alexander McQueen; Giorgio Armani), designer (Kate Spade New York; Armani Exchange) or sport (Oakley; Ray-Ban). There’s a section for visitors to shop by style, too: aviator, geometric, cat-eye and so on. Once past the home page, they can filter their search even further, even opting for prescription-friendly frames or not. The Web site links directly to Facebook and Twitter; users can also e-mail product shots and info to friends. Later this month, Solstice will introduce content, such as trend pages. “But we’re going to keep blogs and things like that to the Safilo social networks [on Facebook, for instance], because that’s where they belong,” notes Talmage. “We want this to be about a great shopping experience and don’t want a lot of clutter and noise to go around it.” The site will provide free shipping and returns.

The goal is to create an experience similar to the one in-store, continues Talmage, pointing out that each brand owns real estate on the Web site similar to a shop-in-shop. While the layout and architecture remain the same, the different companies can customize the visuals on their landing pages. They can plug in campaign images or, like Oakley, feature a collage. Giorgio Armani requested that a black bar on his product page be changed to white; Talmage complied. In 2011, Solstice will introduce the “Mirror of Truth” plug-in, already available on the Carrera Facebook page. Here, shoppers can virtually “try on” sunglasses, using either a photo or camera. “As your face turns, the pair turns,” Talmage explains. “It’s like you’re looking in a mirror.”

The online experiences goes both ways, though. Solstice will introduce iPads into its stores so customers can shop solsticesunglasses.com for brands, styles and colors not available in the store. To wit, Macy’s has the exclusive on one Tommy Hilfiger sunglass collection; next year, Solstice will sell the designer’s boutique collection on its site. “It’s really about convenience,” says Talmage, “and bringing product to our customer.”

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