More and more customers consult the internet before purchasing a pair of glasses. An online survey conducted by GfK among 6,002 consumers in five European countries at the end of February shows that 20 percent of them used the internet to gather information about spectacles and 26 percent for sunglasses, but they didn't necessarily buy the products online. That includes the use of social networks.

This trend means that consumers are becoming less loyal to specific brands and banners on rational grounds, as they are comparing them with one another. The physical store remains the preferred point of purchase, and here emotional factors play a role. Greater personalization services can help this channel to withstand the competition. The advice of an optician remains an important factor of choice, but younger consumers feel they should provide more of it in terms of fashion, design and fitting.

Commissioned by the Mido and Silmo trade shows, the twice-yearly Optical Monitor of GfK showed that the proportion of purchases of optical glasses actually made over the internet has remained at three percent in the main European countries for the past three years, growing only in Italy and the U.K. while declining in Spain and Germany.

The proportion has varied between 10 and 12 percent for sunglasses, with uneven results from one year to the other in the various countries. Fashion stores have remained the preferred channel for sunglasses in the U.K., aggregating 16 percent of the purchases in the most recent period.

The latest OMO showed that 60 percent of the respondents purchased an optical product in the last 12 months, with peaks of 71 percent in Italy and 67 percent in Spain, and customers used a larger portion of their disposable budget than before.

The average spend on optical glasses was €273, up from €268 that the survey showed a year ago and from €255 in the survey release at the 2014 edition of Mido. The highest consumption rates were recorded in France and Germany. For sunglasses, the average spend increased to €82 from €79 a year ago, but it was down from the €96 level recorded at Mido 2014. France and Italy led the market in the last 12 months.

The survey noted that customers took advantage of discounted sales in 42 percent of the cases for optical glasses and in 43 percent of the cases for sunglasses. The average discounts were more than 40 percent and 30 percent for these types of products, respectively

While female customers preferred plastic frames, male customers had a slight preference for metal frames, especially if they were over 40. Full frames remained dominant.

The survey indicated that online purchases of eyewear products are expected to increase, especially of sunglasses in France, the U.K. and Germany. Total expenditures on optical glasses should decline slightly, however.

One-third of the respondents suggested that opticians should have a dedicated children's corner. One-third of the children in the European Union use an optical product, with 21 percent wearing corrective glasses and 14 percent wearing sunglasses. For both types of products, the proportions are highest in Italy and Spain. They are lowest in Germany. At 19 percent, France has the highest rate children's use for sunglasses.

Looking at the use of contact lenses, the OMO survey showed that almost every second user is exceeding the recommended wearing frequency. Daily contact lenses are used the most in Italy and the U.K., while monthly lenses are most common in Germany and Spain.