What Image Are You Presenting in Your Optical?

Here’s how to create the complete “modern dispensary” experience, from first impressions to the final moment of truth.



What Image Are You Presenting in Your Optical?

Here’s how to create the complete “modern dispensary” experience, from first impressions to the final moment of truth.



What does a “modern dispensary” mean in today’s market place? This question comes up quite often these days, and I think it is the right question.

Interestingly enough, we are surrounded by the answer in our everyday lives. I am sure Starbucks asked this very same question, as they set themselves on the path to recreate how a cup of coffee is sold. And now we find ourselves paying $5 for a cup of coffee without thinking twice about it. Or better yet, how about some of the “cake” pops. OMG!

What Starbucks understood then (and still does today) is that “we,” the consumer, needed a new experience that included how we sit, where we sit, when we want our coffee, how we want our coffee and what we want to buy in addition to our coffee. Hmmm, sound familiar? Our patients/consumers want the same thing from us. That brings us full circle to the question of what is a modern dispensary?

Let’s look at the components.


Have you gone shopping in a large mall lately? Or, have you stopped by an Urban Outfitters or perhaps had dinner at a Seasons 52 restaurant? The shopping malls are providing nicer and nicer sitting areas and eateries. They are using living room furniture in the center of the walking areas to make you comfortable. Or, have you seen the new Microsoft or Sony stores that are competing with the Apple stores? Wow, they really make sure the environment supports and promotes your comfort level with buying the latest and the greatest.

Recently, I stayed at an ALT Hotel and, it too, was quite impressive. From the rooms to the lobby, I was provided an experience for a very reasonable price that made me feel at home in their home. As a matter of fact, the lobby lounge would be the perfect look for the modern optical. It contained comfortable lounges and seating, like your own living room.

Imagine how comfortable this environment would be for your own patients to enjoy. Let’s get rid of the stale, old “sales desks” and clutter of boxes and papers and books of codes and allowances. It looks more like an administrative office than a showroom to present fashion products and high-tech lenses. It’s time to deliver a whole new environment, the way Starbucks re-created the cup of coffee experience. Lounge chairs and café style tables with wireless laptops or tablets to support a more relaxed social environment is the modern dispensary.

If you don’t make the investment in your environment to dramatically change it from yesterday, your “consumers” will find another “coffee shop” for tomorrow.

Product offering

Just because you like one product, does not mean your patients like it too. And if you are still of the mindset to buy one of a style, then you are losing sales every day. Collection, collection, collection. You must provide a full collection of a brand to support the confidence needed by a consumer to make a trusted decision and fulfill their emotional need to shop.

Consumers would prefer to see 12 styles from three brands, vs. one style each from 36 different brands. Each year, look for new brands that let your consumers know you have the latest brands and styles. And when it comes to “Suns,” there is only one way to purchase. Go deep. It is better to carry two or three brands and offer 60 to 80 of each brand than to carry 12 brands with six or 12 of each. Visit a Sunglass Hut or any other sunglass store, and you will find large collections of every brand. You may not have the room for every brand, so pick those two or three that you can support and, again, go deep.

Social conversation

OMG, what are we saying? Why are we saying it? I have seen all too often the philosophy of “it is better to be right than to do the right thing.” This knee-jerk reaction to requests and questions from “your” consumers is chasing them out the door.

First of all, everyone needs to relax their conversations and de-stress. We are so consumed with over-explaining the technology of our products, along with hitting our patients/customers over the head with what they are not entitled, we completely disregard what our consumers want and need to hear. We need to de-robotize ourselves, and refine our conversations to be much more social and relaxed. Greeting and acknowledging in a timely manner is not new, but how often does it really happen? When was the last time you simply asked someone, are you happy with everything we have taken care of for you today? Or how about, what else can we do to make you happy? Engage, and really get to know your patients. Have fun with them, and remember to think about that great experience you had when somebody made you feel special and went out of their way to “do the right thing” rather than to prove to you they were right.

Electronic presence

Does your website look like everyone’s? Does it have a picture of the outside of your office and your team wearing scrubs on the front with you in a lab coat? Big red flags here.

Your site needs to be as much of an experience as your office. It should not look like it was designed by a research facility containing more medical content than the medical journals. Social and relaxed, shopping and fun, professional yet personal are all the qualities of a great website. Think destination location. Your website very often is the first “hello” you are giving someone. You don’t get a second chance.

Personal image

Speaking of scrubs and lab coats, are you still wearing them along with your crazy-colored sneakers? Ouch, it is really time to upgrade your look too. You can use nice cotton polo style tops with embroidered logos along with dark dress pants and comfortable dress shoes that have sneaker bottoms, but you must get rid of the scrubs and lab coats ASAP. For our folks in optical, we need to show a sense of fashion to support a more social and fun environment. The optical is not a clinic. I don’t buy my suits and clothing from somebody who looks like they were working with medical specimens or on an assembly line.

Borrow a page from successful retailers, whose comfortable seating promotes a more relaxed social and buying environment.


We can’t say and do enough in this area. Please get rid of all those cute 99-cent “things” hanging from the frame risers or gathering oversized dust bunnies on the shelves. When you have the opportunity to go shopping in a clothing store, take note of the displays and the support products they use to create value for the brands. We can easily have these made at our own sign stores and work with our vendor representatives to make the displays fun and exciting.

Cute is not fun and exciting. And separating your frames by plastics vs. metals and women’s vs. men’s is never going to support a great shopping experience. It may make it easier for you to know where everything is, but from the consumers’ vantage point, it looks like a flea market.


NOVEMBER 2013 The Optical Sales Process • page 59

MARCH 2013 Maximizing Optical Displays • page 44

MARCH 2011 Improve Optical Profitability • page 46

Visit LensCrafters, Pearle Vision or a Sunglass Hut. Brand merchandising and the right messaging is the reason patients shop there. Even though they may have the same number of frames as you, their merchandising is more visually aligned to consumers’ needs.

Last impressions

The final moment of truth takes place when the eyewear is adjusted and dispensed. Quite frankly, just the words “adjusted” and “dispensed” are wrong. You go to a chiropractor for an adjustment. You “dispense” with things you don’t want.

Let’s take the opportunity to support all the hard work you have done and to make sure your consumer is completely happy and satisfied. We can start off by saying, “It will be my pleasure to custom fit your beautiful new eyewear for you.” Bring the eyewear out on a serving platter as a fine restaurant would with food, not in a dirty old lab tray. And have the case ready with a mini York Peppermint Pattie at its side. The last words your patients/consumers should hear are:

“Thank you for the opportunity to take care of you, and don’t be bashful about telling all of your friends how wonderful we are.” OM

Mr. Binkowitz is the president of GPN, an optometric consulting company. He has had extensive experience in retail operations, merchandising and marketing. E-mail him at or visit him at, or send comments to