Insights From Our Editors

Market Opportunity: Be as Consumer-Friendly as Online Eyewear Retailers

March 9, 2016

You have a diversity of online competitors, results of The Vision Council’s VisionWatch 2015 Internet Influence Report suggest. While many consumers generally turn to internet search engines for assistance when buying eyewear, there were some differences in the types of web sites used based on the type of eyewear being purchased. For Rx eyeglasses, people tend to use web sites operated by known eyeglass retailers. For people who recently purchased plano sunglasses, web sites operated by general online retailers, or sunglass specialty stores, were most often used by consumers. For consumers who recently purchased OTC readers, web sites operated by general online retailers (like Amazon.com or buy.com), as well as web sites of mass merchant / wholesale club retailers (such as Wal-Mart and Costco) were often visited to perform some basic functions.

There is a big message for us in The Vision Council’s VisionWatch 2015 Internet Influence Report: People are buying optical goods other places than our offices. We’ve known this for years. Nothing is more frustrating than writing a prescription that walks out the door to be filled somewhere else.

The central question for us to consider this week is: what have you done in the last year to get patients to buy from you rather than someplace else?

The Vision Council’s VisionWatch 2015 Internet Influence Report tells us the areas to consider are: prescription eyeglasses, plano sunglasses and OTC readers. We could easily add contact lenses to this list. Put yourself in your patients’ shoes. The questions in patients minds when they are in our offices are: is there enough selection, is the selection within my price point, and is it easy to pay?

Stand at the entrance to your optical. Look around. Most opticals are just seas of beige frames on white back-lit laminate display boards. All the frames look the same from the door of the optical. If you were a patient, would you feel there is enough selection for you to be able to find what you need? Do you recognize enough brand names that give you comfort?

Is there any signage in your optical telling the patient that you have frames for all price points?

And how easy is it to pay? Do you offer multiple methods beyond cash, checks and credit cards? Do you offer CareCredit or PayPal? Are you communicating that you make it easy for the patients to pay?

In a 2014 report in Adweek.com, titled “81 Percent of Shoppers Conduct Online Research Before Buying,” Kimberlee Morrison notes that the things that people fear when purchasing online (in addition to not having a “real” buying experience) are:

69% avoid purchasing online because they view returning a product as too complicated

61% will not purchase if there is not free shipping

60% were concerned about credit card fraud

That’s helpful information to know. Consider your own in-office processes. What are your patients’ perceptions on how easy it is to return products, and how strongly are you communicating to your patients that you are protecting their credit card information against fraud?

In that same article Morrison identifies the things people search for online.:

66% for warranty information

52% for pricing

47% for payment information.

Walk around your office and see how clearly you have communicated your warranty information, your pricing and your payment systems. As a patient, do you feel confident you know the answers?

Take this week to look at your practice from the patient’s perspective, and make changes that will help patients buy from you rather than someplace else.

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