IMAGINE THIS: Allen has just made an appointment for his annual eye exam at Yourtown Optics, a private optometry practice highly recommended by his co-worker, Anne. In fact, Anne has been raving about this spot during their daily lunch conversations for weeks:
“Really, Allen. This is the only place to go, in my opinion. In addition to an awesome doctor, the optical shop is stocked with a great selection of frames — and the opticians are super friendly, knowledgeable and organized.”
Given that an optometrist’s optical shop contributes to more than 50% of a practice’s revenue, every private-practice O.D. should want his or her optical shop to garner similar reviews. In an “experience economy,” private-practice O.D.s are competing with savvy retailers who are laser-focused on providing the most compelling consumer experiences, in store and online.
Here are seven things you can do to provide consumers with a stellar shopping experience.
1 VISIT LOCAL RETAILERS
A recent survey reveals that 62% of all optometry offices have not been remodeled in the last seven years, according to Eyecare Business magazine (a sister publication of OM.). With this in mind, I imagine that in a majority of practices, the frame boards are tired, the point-of-purchase marketing materials are dated, the shelves are dusty, and the staff is bored and underperforming. (Staff members interested in optical and knowing their achievable goals work hard to reach them. They understand the concept of “capture rate” and make it a team mission not to allow any patients to walk without a purchase!)
If this is your practice, push the reset button by first visiting nearby retailers that command high traffic and making notes of what sets them apart from your office. What would you like to incorporate in your optical shop to make it fresh and, thus, a magnet for today’s shopper? Look at traffic patterns, the type of fixturing used and the way products are merchandised. Also, listen to the way the employees approach you. Further, you should see whether this retailer has a website you can study. Does the website feel like the retail environment?
2 CLEAR THE CLUTTER
Just like those clever real estate-staging tactics that are proven to help a home sell more quickly, do some editing and cleaning to ensure your optical shop appears fresh and engaging.
For example, merchandise your frames by brand using crisp logos to draw attention, and make sure all the ophthalmic lenses sparkle.
A famous retail adage is: “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean!”
Be known for a staff that is energetic and always busy tidying up and merchandising.
3 GET BACK TO BASICS
This includes always fresh product assortments, attractive, bright lighting and comfortable fitting areas with gleaming mirrors, in all sizes. Did you know that consumers prefer seeing themselves in full-length mirrors when trying on eyewear?
4 FOCUS ON UNIQUE DETAILS
Think first of your product assortment. Has it been specially selected to differentiate your practice? Or, maybe you’re known for your coffee and hot chocolate bar? Or the sing-along tunes that come from your speakers? How about a playroom for children when parents are getting their exams? Your staff is your No. 1 asset here. Consider how you can develop and reward them to reinforce your unique message.
5 WORK ON CUSTOMER OUTREACH
It is said that “business goes where it’s invited and stays where it’s appreciated.” Post personalized, attention-grabbing content on your practice’s website and social media sites to “invite” consumers to check out your optical shop. All should be aligned in look and offer, creating a consistent and compelling message. (It is well known that today’s consumers are doing research online before making their purchases in a brick and mortar store.) If your offer is not unique and exciting, consumers’ eyes will simply glaze over, and they’ll go elsewhere.
In terms of appreciation, retailers are increasingly using software that enables them to quickly access individual consumer data, such as birthdays, product preferences and purchasing habits, so they can customize emails, texts and mailings that create feelings of appreciation on the part of the consumer and, in turn, increase the likelihood of additional sales. A side effect of this is that today’s consumer has learned to expect individually “curated” products and services.
6 COMMIT TO A ”NEVER SAY NO” POLICY
Find a way to say “yes” to your patients’ requests. Also, think about ways your office can become known for its hospitality. You will be remembered for this.
For example, offer custom frame sizes and shapes, better delivery times than what the patient is used to and home delivery. Hospitality means always welcoming the patient to the office by remembering his or her last visit, what was accomplished and thanking the patient for his or her business in person or with a personal note.
Benefits of Community Involvement
- Consumers consider corporate social responsibility when determining what to buy or where to shop (84%), which products and services to suggest to others (82%), which companies they want to see doing business in their communities (84%) and where to work (79%), reveals Cone Communications.
- A total of 56% of Americans say they will travel an extra 10 minutes out of their way to buy a product that supports a cause they care about and, 71% are willing to pay at least $2.28 more for a $10 product, reveals DoWellDoGood LLC.
- An employee’s view of a company’s corporate citizenship affects morale, spirit and pride; trust in their employer; and willingness to recommend their employer as a good place to work, reveals a Golin Harris Poll.
7 ENCOURAGE COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Give your office team “volunteer hours” that they can use in your neighborhood, away from the office to adopt a family for the holidays, work a few hours at a blood drive as a group and organize a Saturday park cleaning, as a few examples. Also, shop and eat where you work. Let the community see you dining locally. Show that you and your team are active community members. (See “Benefits of Community Involvement,” above.)
When Allen’s appointment arrived, Anne offered to take him, as she wanted a new pair of sunglasses and recently received an email about new styles in her favorite brand. She also wanted to see Mark, the optician, who had a good eye.
Just as Anne predicted, Allen was thrilled with his visit to Yourtown Optics and asked Anne to pose with him and the staff for a selfie — a memento he then posted on his Instagram feed! #ravereview. OM