Article Date: 7/1/2013

Overcome Online Retailers
optical

How to Overcome Online Sellers

Three steps can differentiate your practice from the competition.

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DAVE ZIEGLER, O.D. , F.A.A.O.

Of the consumers who bought eyewear online, more than 50% rated their experience as “excellent,” while 40% rated their experience as “good,” according to a 2012 Vision Council report on Internet influence. In addition, online eyewear purchase satisfaction is slightly higher than the satisfaction rates among eyewear buyers who purchased from a “brick and mortar” retailer.

Glasses have always been available at discount stores, but now patients have easier access to them online. However, the prevalence of online sales offers the opportunity for private practices to differentiate themselves. Here’s how:

1. Educate your patients.

When patients say they are going to buy their glasses online, it becomes an opportunity for education about the differences between an online purchase and one that includes the services you offer. The first thing I ask is, “How will your online glasses feel?” This leads to a discussion that glasses should be tried on before bought.

Also, recommend lens options in the exam room that solve the patient’s vision problems. Show samples of quality and cheap lenses and frames, and highlight the differences. In addition, add value by giving patients specific information about their frame and lens choices. Our office uses a cloud-based app that I developed to create brochures with the personalized details of the patients’ glasses. This gives important information about the lenses (progressive lenses, tinting, anti-glare coating) and frames (shape and structure). If you don’t explain the differences, patients might have the misconception that all glasses are the same.

2. Improve the patient experience.

Set yourself apart from online opticals by showing unique eyewear collections surrounded by beautiful merchandising. Make your office look like the places that people like to shop, such as Nordstrom, Williams-Sonoma and the Apple Store. Frame boards with hundreds of frames displayed in one area are less likely to sell than individual collections set apart with interesting accessories, such as artwork or POP material.

Also, showcase the technology in your office. Impress patients by using state-of-the-art measuring equipment and prescribing digital lenses. In addition, utilize digital devices to further showcase technology. For example, use an app that shows patients how their new glasses look. Similar apps allow patients to send the pictures to their friends or to post pictures on Facebook.

3. Highlight expertise.

Emphasize the frame styling expertise of your optical staff. Say to the patient, “My optical staff is specifically trained on how to help you choose the best frame for your face shape and structure. Let them show you the latest styles that are available.” This shows the patient your optical staff’s knowledge and brings value to their purchase.

What does the future hold?

Currently only 3% of eyeglass sales are online, but this is projected to grow to 20% to 30% in the upcoming years, according to The Vision Council Research. This should motivate you to differentiate your practice. You’re not going to be able to do it cheaper, so look for ways of being better. OM

DR. ZIEGLER IS A SENIOR PARTNER IN A GROUP PRIVATE PRACTICE IN MILWAUKEE, WISC., AND A FELLOW OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF OPTOMETRY. E-MAIL HIM AT DZIEGLER@AMERITECH.NET, OR SEND COMMENTS TO OPTOMETRICMANAGEMENT@GMAIL.COM.



Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: July 2013, page(s): 51