Thinking Like a Retailer

Thinking Like a Retailer

By Suzanne LaKamp, OD, FAAO


One of the insidious trends to affect private practice optometry is the increase in online spectacle purchases made by patients. This is a real threat considering that more than 45% of optometric practice revenue comes from spectacle sales. It’s difficult to deny the convenience of online retail. These websites also promote great sales and carry a wider selection of spectacles than most privately owned practices. But don’t panic, it’s possible to compete and capture these sales in private practice by learning how to think like a retailer.

Create Value

A patient wants know that he’ll derive some benefit from a product. Avoid reducing costs, as it will be impossible to offer the same low prices as online retailers. Instead, focus on creating value that websites can’t offer. For instance, a more expensive progressive addition lens design with the latest technological advances can provide better vision. When the benefits are clear, the patient is more likely to make a purchase from you, the professional.


You could measure a patient’s interpupillary distance with a ruler, but that’s unimpressive. Offices equipped with the hottest technology attract patients. So, consider investing in the OPD-Scan III 3D Wavefront System (Marco), an all-inclusive refraction station. Investing in new technology delivers a wow factor for patients and may improve the bottom line for you.

Make Sound Recommendations

One pair of spectacles should never be adequate to suit all the needs of a patient. Every optometrist must make the effort to learn about his patient’s real life needs and personality. An online service doesn’t make a customer feel special. Examples of recommendations include the following: prescription sunglasses, nighttime driving or TV-watching spectacles, computer spectacles, reading glasses or specialty designs for low vision patients. Internet services simply can’t address the specific needs of your patients. You can, and should, offer them a range of choices — from modest to designer spectacles. You wouldn’t drive sales by pushing an elderly woman on a fixed income to purchase flashy frames she doesn’t need. But you can make her feel like the modest frames she picks out are plenty fashionable and it’s still a sale for your practice. While websites can make people feel like they’re getting a bargain, professionals make people feel like they are truly cared for, respected and appreciated.

Designer Dispensary

Your dispensary must be a showcase for product. A poor appearance will cheapen even the most expensive frames. Create ambiance with soft lighting and reduce clutter. A good use of space should consist of spacious walkways without obstacles. Large mirrors can make a smaller area seem larger. It’s also a good idea to position smaller mirrors throughout the optical area for privacy as patients try on frames. Choose comfortable seating. Light music in the background and a relaxing atmosphere also encourages shopping. Offering amenities such as bottled water and self-service coffee or tea can enhance the shopping experience. It’s all about service!

Excellent Customer Service

Keep the optical well staffed at all times. No one wants to wait. How many of you have walked out of a store, leaving behind a pile of merchandise? I’m a millennial, and my generation is used to instant gratification. Service is your product, not just a nice set of frames.

A patient should have immediate assistance when scheduling an appointment, checking into the office or receiving help with frame selection. Keep in mind that the majority of patients ask for a second opinion when choosing frames. If they’ve come alone, they’ll be relying on your staff to provide helpful and kind feedback.

Arguably, the most difficult aspect of practice management is learning that your patients are also your customers. Learning how to cater to the customer and stand out in the profession can help you develop a successful practice. nOD

images Dr. LaKamp completed a Family Practice and Ocular Disease residency at the Northeastern State University College of Optometry. She recently joined the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Augusta, Georgia.