By Linda Conlin,
Oct. 10, 2018
Your patients’ income level, cultural preferences and lifestyle choices–their demographics–impact the frames they will want to purchase.
How much a patient can afford to spend, whether they prefer an urban or suburban environment, their age and other personal factors, can influence the products that are most likely to sell in your optical. Here’s how to figure out who your patients are, and then select products that they will be excited to purchase.
Look at Statistics & Eyewear Sales
The first step, for quantitative information about your practice’ demographics, is to do a search for your town or city on the U.S. Census web site. Specifically, go to the part of the web site called the American FactFinder. There, you can type in a city and state, and get the latest statistics available about the area’s population.
You also can look up your city and state on Wikipedia, which will include a synopsis of what you would find on the U.S. Census site, along with other information. Another useful tool is Zillow, which allows you to check home values of the zip codes in your patient base. This can tell you a great deal about income levels and spending patterns.
Keep in mind that if you are located near an office park, transportation center or college, patients will probably come in who do not match the local demographics.
Average sale amounts for eyeglasses are a good way to determine the price range for most of the purchases. Plano sunglass sales can reveal a great deal about your patients, too. For example, I worked in an optical shop in a town near the beach. In summer, the population swelled with seasonal residents who would come in just for plano sunglasses. We made sure our inventory was stocked with fashionable, top of the line, as well as moderately priced, sunglasses, and that our window displays prominently displayed them.
Managed Care Plans, Income & Age
You should never prejudge your patients’ ability to buy, and should educate all patients on the best possible eyewear to suit their lives. However, there are factors, such as managed care plans, income and age groups, that can impact the likelihood that they will buy specific products.
In fact, Managed care, income and age groups should be your strongest influences on frame selection. Be sure that your frames are accepted as an option for the major managed care plans your office accepts.
Next, determine if the price range is right for your patients. If most of your eyewear sales are for moderately priced frames, then set the larger part of your inventory in that range, but not all of it. You can’t know someone’s budget when they walk into your shop. One shop owner in a middle-income area used to say, “I always have some frames in case Mrs. Astor walks in.” Some frames on the higher end that have great style and quality will sell to more discriminating patients. At the same time, some lower-priced frames for bargain hunters or spare pairs can save sales.
Age range is important to your inventory decisions, too. If yours is a college town, or there are many young professionals, your inventory should be geared toward the latest styles. If your office is near a retirement community, a more conservative frame selection will work better. Don’t underestimate the buying power of either group. Many college students and senior citizens will spend what it takes to look good and see well.
Different Ethnic Groups May Mean Different Frame Fit Needs
The ethnicity of your demographics also plays a part in your ideal frame selection. We know that Asians and African-Americans have special fitting needs for bridges, lens shapes and temples. There are several frame lines dedicated to manufacturing frames that work well for people with those facial features. If your demographics indicate that you carry those frames, be sure they are displayed together with POP materials showing appropriate models wearing them.
Consult with Your Sales Reps
When you meet with your frame vendors, the frames in your inventory that sell well, and those that don’t, are critical to the conversation. Be direct and don’t hesitate to refer to other vendors. For example, “This line from (vendor) has been very popular. What do you have that’s comparable?” Or, “This line hasn’t done well. We need something that’s different in (price, style, colors, size range, etc.)”
Sales representatives know their territory well, and they know what your competition is doing. They know the styles that are selling well in your area. They also have records of the frames you reorder frequently, and they know which ones are still on the frame board. A good representative will be willing to guide you in the right direction without prompting. You will want to be competitive with other opticals while having a selection that differentiates your practice. A good relationship with your representative will enable you to work together to achieve that.
Use Social Media to See What Patients Like
Getting patient input regarding frames is valuable information. Not only will you get a sense of the style’s appeal, you are engaging your patients and letting them know that their opinions are important to you. Wouldn’t we all like to be part of the decisions about what any retailer offers? It’s easy to imagine a patient liking a frame on social media, then purchasing it. Bragging rights come with that, such as, “I told my eye doctor to carry this frame!”
You could show pictures of two frames, and post a question on your practice Facebook and Instagram pages about which patients like best. Then, if one of the frames gets many votes of approval, add it to your frame board. You could even label it on your frame board as “By Special Request.”
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Linda Conlin is a licensed optician and managing editor of 20/20 Magazine’s Pro-to-Pro Newsletter. To contact: LindaConlin@OpticalCEU.com