It’s been nearly a year since the debut of the Marc Ecko Cut & Sew Eyewear Collection from ClearVision. Last September Marc collaborated with 20/20 on a terrific interactive photo shoot fitting publisher Marc Ferrara and his sons in Ecko eyewear. Due time then to catch up with Ecko and on what’s happening especially as it concerns his take on the explosive advances in social media and the challenges of optical retailing.
 —James J. Spina  

20/20: Take us on a tour of your virtual reality store especially as it pertains to eyewear.
Marc Ecko: The technology was brought to me by the ClearVision team. As soon as I saw it I was hell bent on making it as consumer facing as possible... versus just trade. It’s a great device, for a product that isn’t easy to shop for online. It’s really simple, driven by a lightweight downloadable flash plug-in for your Web browser. You launch, and voilà! Try the glasses on. That is if you have a Web camera!

Social media is a moving target. And creating a consumer Internet store can be equally perplexing. How is Marc Ecko going to ride this ever-evolving digital community wave? Do you have plans to expand to other social platforms?
Social media is a means of marketing and communicating. It is still in its infancy—black and white, no audio. It is an important canvas to paint on... but merely a medium. Our job is to speak with relevance and make relevant content. We must not get confused or stuck on the medium alone. I stay connected vicariously through my business and new ventures, from and our media network (now at over 350 million page views a month across 90-plus sites) or my investments into companies like Zaarly, Dwolla or Reverb Nation. Every day I learn. Every day I am humbled by how little I really know.

Optical retailing can be a VERY “mom-and-pop store” experience in its approach. Give 20/20 your take on making the Ecko consumer buying experience on mainstream and Main Street America.
The competitive advantage that the mom and pops have is customer service. They can connect the consumer to the product through touch and feel... and help connect my story, my brand’s philosophy, the collection’s genesis story... to the transaction. Amazon cannot do that (yet). And certainly many of the bigger boxes confuse sales training with the need for seduction and care. There is a distinction. And in there lays the opportunity for mom and pops. I’m rooting for them—I must. My success in this space is contingent on our connection, our clarity of communication between them and the brand. They are an extension of ME. We have to arm them with our passion and be prepared to listen, learn and iterate. Call and response.

Tell us where YOU pull inspiration from the Web. Are there any Tumblrs, blogs or Twitter feeds that you are currently hyped on?
Owning sort of has me spoiled—in terms of a steady feed of pertinent content I have access to. That said, I love wandering. I love this little extension called “similar Web” that I use in my Chrome browser. I’m sick for discovery. I also like good ole’ StumbleUpon, and more and more I like Pinterest.

Virtual Try-On can be quirky at best. How can you make the face-to-screen as effective as the face-to-face?
It isn’t intended to replace face-to-face. And I would challenge that it is only quirky if you are nostalgic about mirrors. It is a real technology and it is here to stay. Virtual Try-On is the future. Have you played the XBOX Kinect yet? Remote controller free, gesture based, user interaction is where your TV is moving to. Window shopping just got a 2.0 makeover, and it hasn’t even seen the light yet. Exciting times. More opportunities. Opportunities to drive deeper, more satisfying customer service and make consumers more educated about what it is they are about to buy. It’s not quite Stanley Kubrick time yet... we still need and will always need humans to drive that visceral emotional beat. You can’t program that!

Can you explain how the ECP can use this medium to their advantage?
A retailer is unlikely to carry the entire collection. This allows the seller to drive the consumer to see more, and if that piques their interest, it is easy enough to then drive the sale of a frame they may have otherwise skipped carrying.■