Q: How do you talk to patients about purchasing glasses online; educate and market for high-end options and manage frame boards effectively?

A: Here, I answer your questions.


Everyone places different value on the things that they buy. Each of us selects certain things we buy and assigns higher values to them. This is called “trading up.” Patients who desire the best in lens technology and the newest frame designs from quality manufacturers are willing to “trade up” because the benefits are important to them. Patients who see glasses as more of a commodity are drawn to the convenience of online shopping, as well as the low prices.

Some patients start out as consumers who mainly value price. But they may be converted to people who value eyewear, possibly enough to “trade up.” When patients express an interest in buying their glasses online, I say something like: “You can buy a pair of glasses online for less than a Big Mac and a Coke. Obviously, you’re not getting the products we just discussed that we use here. When you buy glasses online, how will you know how they will feel when you wear them?”

These statements may cause patients to reconsider and place a higher value on quality eyewear. This transformation happens through patient education. For example, the doctor should spend time during the case presentation to explain how the digitally surfaced optics of the latest progressive lens will improve the patient’s vision or how much better they will see at night with the newest AR coating. These discussions add value to premium eye care products.

The same principles apply in the optical showroom regarding frames. A staff member who can intelligently discuss how the frame is made, who designed it and the materials that are used in it may change a patient’s idea of the value to place on glasses.

The final step I take when talking with patients who wish to purchase online is recommend they look at the website of the well-known online eyewear company. I want them to see what it is like to have that difficult online experience, with its small thumbnail images and poor color rendering. If patients buy online after that discussion, then they fall into that segment of consumers who don’t place value on eyewear, and that is OK. There’s enough business to go around for everyone.


As consumers, we all want the latest thing. We want what is new and improved, whether it is a cell phone, a car or eyewear. That is why optometrists should establish a practice philosophy of always presenting the newest technology. Patients want their O.D.s to curate all the new developments available and present the best options to them. When optometrists adopt this type of mentality, they will find their patients expecting the latest technology from them each year.

Clutter-free optical showroom. Dr. Ziegler recommends this as a best practice for managing frame boards. Here, you see the optical floor at Ziegler Leffingwell Eyecare.
All photos courtesy of Babboni Photography and Ziegler Leffingwell Eyecare

As technology improves, the price goes up, at least initially. When optometrists discuss the newest ophthalmic lenses with patients, they should give them a compelling reason to spend more than last year. Since consumers buy benefits, not features, O.D.s should start by discussing a feature and follow up with its benefit. AR coatings are a feature, but improved night vision and better appearance are its benefits. Digitally surfaced lenses are a feature, but improved acuity and increased peripheral vision are their benefits.

Here are ways that optometrists can help their patients make the decision to purchase better lenses.

Consensus: People look to the actions of others to determine their own. So, if I say, “When choosing progressive lenses, nine out of 10 of our patients choose the (name of lens),” it guides the patient to make a similar choice.

Authority: Consumers follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. So when I say, “The lens that I recommend for you is the same one that I use,” it makes a strong statement to the patient to follow suit.

Scarcity: People want more of those things that there are less of. As a result, optometrists should leverage this principle when presenting exclusive frame lines. For example, when the staff says, “We are the only practice in the state that sells this brand of frame,” or, “These are limited collections that may not be available next month,” it creates an incentive for the customer to buy. O.D.s should talk about what is unique about their offering and what patients will lose if they don’t utilize it.

There are a lot of technology and design features in high-end eyewear that attract the interest of patients. While they appreciate the clarity of the lenses prescribed, it is their frame that they see each time they look in the mirror. Their frame is what gets them compliments every day. Optometrists should train their optical staffs in the brand story, design and construction features of all their frame offerings and hire an eyewear sales expert on the best ways to sell eyewear.


Blue Light Protection


While some differences of opinion exist on the value and necessity of blocking high-energy blue light with ophthalmic lenses, the general consensus is that it has value to eye health. Specifically, it has been shown that absorbing a large band of the blue light spectrum (visible light between 380 nm and 500 nm) may be detrimental to biological systems, such as the circadian rhythm. For that reason, selected wavelengths are targeted that have been linked to eyestrain and even retinal cell changes. Ways to reduce blue light exposure include coatings that reflect selected wavelengths of blue light away from the eyes and substances in lens material that absorb that light.

Sources of blue light include LED technology, such as light bulbs and cell phones, but also, the sun. Direct sun exposes patients’ eyes to hundreds of times more blue light than they would get sitting in front of a computer all day. Therefore, light-adaptive lenses and sunglasses are also a necessary part of the blue-light blocking conversation.


Here are some main points that will assist in building frame displays that work: (Find out more in this four-part frame board management series at: ; ; ; and .)

  1. Map out every spot on the frame boards to know how many frames to display. Then, allocate those spaces to different vendors, so each brand gets a certain amount of board space. I recommend 35 SKUs to 40 SKUs per brand. This can be outfitted with seven to 10 styles in three to four colors each, in both men’s and women’s, or in 13 to 15 styles in three colors for a single-gender frame. O.D.s should ask frame representatives to identify their top sellers and order these, with some variations to suit the practice’s specific patient base.
  2. Create a frame notebook that contains the brand story for each frame manufacturer. Distill that story to three talking points that each optical sales person memorizes for presenting to the patient. The notebook has all the SKUs listed with the colors displayed.
  3. Create a clutter-free optical showroom. Replace pegs with shelves for frame displays. Add white space between collections to help each brand to stand out on its own. (See example photos on p.32 and, for images on how this looks in my office, visit .)
  4. Minimize back stock by ordering replacement frames on Friday for the frames that the office sold that week. This method of just-in-time ordering keeps top sellers on display, while reducing inventory investment. Have only five to six frames of the best-selling style and colors for each brand in back stock to replace those sold.
  5. Meet with frame reps every four to six months to review sales reports. Remove styles that aren’t selling or are discontinued, and replace them with new styles. Visits to trade shows, such as Vision Expo East, each year can help keep O.D.s abreast of the styles and provide another venue at which to buy new frame lines.
  6. Make a graph of the frame price distributions in the showroom that plots what the optometrist displays vs. what he sold in each price segment over a given period of time. This will guide optometrist on what price points may be over-represented or under-represented on the displays, so they can make any changes.
  7. Remove non-performing frames. Move frames the optical won’t carry anymore to a closeout section of frames, reduce the price by 50%, and give a financial incentive to the optical staff to sell them down. OM