Insights From Our Editors

Market Opportunity: Compete More Effectively with Online Retailers

June 1, 2016

More of your patients than you might have guessed are satisfied with their online eyewear purchases, findings from The Vision Council’s 2015 VisionWatch Internet Influence Report suggest. Most of the 812 consumers surveyed, who purchased eyewear online within the previous six months, were satisfied with their purchase experience. Indeed, 57.1 percent rated their recent online buying experience as “excellent,” and 35.1 percent rated their recent online purchase experience as “good.” Only 7.8 percent of recent online eyewear buyers rated their buying experience as “neutral,” “poor” or “very bad.”

Is your practice leaking eyewear sales to the internet? To put this another way, what would you do with an extra $11,000 per year per doctor? That’s approximately what the average doctor lost last year to online purchases of eyewear. According to The Vision Council’s 2015 VisionWatch Internet Influence Report, 3.6-3.8 percent of all recent eyeglass buyers used the internet to directly purchase eyeglasses. If the average doctor sees 2,200 “complete” exams with refractions per year with 61 percent of the patients seeing the doctor needing eyewear, and the average frame plus lenses is $225, then the math is:

Some 3.7 percent of patients buying eyewear online x (61% x 2200 patients) x $225/patient = $11,172.15.

According to that same report, 92.2 percent of online eyewear purchasers rated their experience as either excellent or good, and only 7.8 percent rated their experience as neutral, poor, or very bad.

This information raises a very important question: How do we keep from losing patients to internet eyewear sales? Since practice management rule No.1 is measure to manage, start by asking any patient who is taking their prescription from your office to purchase somewhere else why they are not buying from you. You must know, in the patients’ own words, what they think they can get somewhere else that they cannot get from you.

Once you do that, then you will know exactly what patients perceive that they can get somewhere else that they cannot get from you. Often, it is simply a misunderstanding. The most common misunderstanding is that because the glasses have their doctor’s prescription in the lenses, it does not matter where they are purchased. Patients perceive that all glasses are the same and the only difference is price.

Just look at the explosion in the number of progressive addition lens designs. In your office, do the doctor and the optical staff educate patients on how the best design is prescribed to maximize the patient’s vision and quality of life? What about lens manufacturing process? What about prescription verification and fitting process? Most offices only emphasize the prescription power change, which just goes to feed the patients’ misperception.

Then, we need to make sure the patient experience in the office is excellent. How can you know? You must ask your patients. If you don’t ask, then you are just guessing what patients think about your practice. Here are the three most important questions you need to ask your patients:

1. The most important question is the Net Promoter Score – On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to refer a family member or friend to our practice?
2. What did you like best about your eyecare experience today?
3. What would have improved your eyecare experience today?

It takes knowing the answers to all three of these questions to truly understand how patients view your practice.

Some 3.6-3.8 percent of patients taking their prescriptions online does not seem like that much. Eleven thousand out of the $700,000 of revenue a single doctor should be generating per year does not seem like that much. So, what does the future hold? What is your expectation? Do you expect online purchases to grow in the coming years? Think of it like a leaky faucet. One drip every six seconds is a loss of 347 gallons of water per year. The time to fix the leaky faucet is today.

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