20 Years of Digital Pioneering Partnership

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German Digital Award: One for the heart

Silhouette + Netural = Pioneers

In the digital business, 20 years is an eternity. For such an eternity, Silhouette and Netural have kept defining the future of the specialty retail and discerning eyewear buyers everywhere in the world.

The iPhone had not yet been invented, Facebook had not yet been founded, not to mention Instagram or Whatsapp, when in 2002 the global brand Silhouette commissioned the Linz-based digital service provider Netural to relaunch its website. During this project, the Netural team impressed with strict user focus, an understanding of the future role of digitalization of business processes that went far beyond simple web design, and with the appropriate coolness to suit a sophisticated premium brand. This was the start of a successful collaboration and the birth of a team that has consistently held a pioneering role in the entire industry.

3D with added value

The first step into the digital future was unspectacular at first glance, but it opened the door to unlimited possibilities: Netural digitalized absolutely all models in the Silhouette eyewear collections as 3-D renderings. The immediate effect was saving on costly product photography. The added value was the establishment of a direct, lean process pipeline from the design department through production to the end customer - with efficiency gains in every process step between product design and global product rollouts.

The iMirror revolution

In 2007, Silhouette and Netural demonstrated the unlimited possibilities of a digitalized product portfolio with the Virtual Mirror, the world's first photorealistic virtual eyewear try-on. It was the beginning of a development that rushed from highlight to highlight, in step with ever growing computer and transmission capacities: In 2009, Silhouette presented the iMirror, later followed by iMirror 2.0. In the summer of 2013, the company made headlines with a huge iMirror installation at Vienna´s International Airport. 2015 saw the first combination of virtual fitting and online product configuration for the adidas sunglass collection. Today, virtual fitting and configurators are indispensable tools in all interfaces between end customer, online store and stationary retail.

"I highly appreciate Netural both as a sparring partner and visionary. And especially as someone, who continuously directs our focus on seeing things from the customer's perspective and driving them forward."

Michael Schmied, CMO Silhouette International

Sales support is sales success

This interface is of particular importance to Silhouette. Eyewear, especially optical eyewear, is a complex product. Therefore, Silhouette takes great care of its partners, retailers and opticians. In view of the increasing predatory competition, highly qualified sales support is success-critical wherever branded articles are sold. Without creative, effective sales support, even the strongest brand will not make it into the assortment of a stationary retailer.

Portal to success

B2B processes therefore quickly became the focus of digitization activities. The first step was a daily updated online retailer search that covers around 30,000 partner opticians worldwide. This was soon followed by a comprehensive digital integration of the merchandise management system to make all current stock levels and the associated information available on all B2B and B2C channels, providing automated information updates online. 2007 brought the roll-out of a fully integrated B2B commerce portal. It has remained a mainstay of Silhouette sales to this day.

Netural CEO, Albert Ortig, and Silhouette CMO, Michael Schmied.

The be-all and end-all of digitalization

Here, Netural played out the qualities that have given the collaboration with Silhouette such extraordinary durability. On the one hand, an ability to think in terms of business processes instead of images: "The value creation process must be thought all the way through the entire company down to the design and production processes," says Netural CEO Albert Ortig. On the other hand, Netural has, like few other digitization service providers, mastered the art of hiding even the most complex process structures and breathtaking amounts of data behind elegant, clear user interfaces that are pleasantly comfortable to use: "The user is the beginning and the end of our work. The job is never done before the user is perfectly happy," says Albert Ortig.

The transformation toolbox

Once the digital structures were in place, Silhouette and Netural set out to create an unprecedented digital toolbox for retailers. The eyewear configurator for the licensed brand adidas eyewear was the first tool to be integrated on both the B2B and B2C sides. It allowed the individualization of sunglasses - on demand and digitally. The user configures his glasses and spontaneously orders them online in the same go.

The next step was digital store design assistance for the brick-and-mortar retail with the Roomle configurator developed by Netural, followed by the patented Vision Sensation app, a revolutionary tool that integrates the production and configuration process for frames and optical lenses in one step. With this app, opticians create a 100% individually optimized masterpiece with a customized wearing experience in the shortest, most convenient way.

B2B? B2C? B2X!

With increasing integration, B2B and B2C are merging into B2X processes that involve all stakeholders on all channels. "This is the next digital transformation step: brick-and-mortar retail, web and providers merge into one system," comments Albert Ortig.

An excellent example is Silhouette Click & Collect. This system uses the brand portal to generate and qualify leads for specialist opticians. Customers use virtual try-on to pick optical glasses and sunglasses online and make an appointment for individual fitting at the optician of their choice. They can also buy sunglasses directly online. Silhouette thus offers consumers the best of both worlds - an attractive, convenient online shopping experience combined with qualified specialist service.

An emotional “Thank you!”

"B2X is the future, and Silhouette it is already there. This is the nicest return on investment for all the steps we have taken over the years in B2C and B2B," says a delighted Albert Ortig.

Article: 12.07.2022




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