By Preston Fassel
June 26, 2019
Your practice’s location, target demographic and current patient base should all play a role in determining the brand and pricing mix on your frame board. Here are the keys to offering the most profitable selection of frames to patients.
With optical sales comprising 60 percent of the revenues in most eyecare practices, getting frame mix right, and keeping capture rate high, is essential to profitability.
In the last office where I worked, an independent practice in the Houston metropolitan area, our average frames ranged from the high $100s to low $200s. This placed them at a comfortable spot where the bulk of the cost was covered by insurance, and the difference was low enough that patients were comfortable paying it.
Understand Patients’ Economic Level, Lifestyle and Background
A helpful tactic to uncovering who your patients are, and the products they will buy, is to include a demographic survey on your patient intake form that features a household income question. After a year you can analyze the data and determine an average income level for your practice, and use that as a barometer to determine average frame price.
Something to keep in mind, though, is that even among wealthy patients, only a certain demographic—those used to buying high-end products—will be comfortable spending a high dollar amount. Having money doesn’t necessarily correlate to spending money, at least not on high-end goods.
For example, I worked for several years in a practice in a rural town just outside of Houston where many of our wealthy patients had just come into money in their adult lives as a result of work in the oil and natural gas industries. These were people who’d grown up lower income, or even below the poverty line. Many of them had nice trucks or vehicles, but were hesitant to spend high dollar amounts on glasses, which they’d always viewed through the lens of a medical necessity. So, it’s important not just to understand your patients’ economic level, but also their lifestyle and background. It’s a complex equation.
I had a patient who was lower-middle income, drove a used car and wore clothes from big-box retailers, but who came in every year and bought designer frames because she considered them her “one nice thing.” It’s easy to get locked into only looking at income numbers, but there’s a human equation in selling frames that can’t be underestimated.
Hold trunk shows, or other events, at your practice and focus not on sales necessarily, but on meeting your patients and learning about them.
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Understanding where you are, and who shops in the areas around you, is key to determining a profitable frame mix. In the Houston office where I worked, we understood that the majority of our patients came from a rural background, with a significant number newly affluent, and that many others were blue collar/farm workers. We would carry one or two high-end lines, but never anything too high dollar—we were never a Dita sort of office.
Luxury Shoppers Will Often Tell You What They Want
A mantra of mine has always been “listen to the patient.” Anyone who’s after high-end merchandise will tell you they’re after high-end merchandise. People who buy high-end goods are accustomed to asking for and receiving what they want; and if they aren’t satisfied with what’s on the board, that’s an indicator you need to rethink your buying strategy.
Create Convenient Purchasing Options, Including on Pricing
If the price is right, capture rates should be high. People value convenience. Other than price, it’s one of the reasons online shopping has exploded—why go to the store if you can buy what you want from the comfort of your living room? If a patient is already in your office for an eye exam, what’s easier—go home, get on the computer and browse glasses there, or just browse them in your store with the ability to try them on and order then and there? The latter, of course. Low price plus convenience equals purchase.
Listen to Patient Comments on Pricing
Questions like, “Where are your cheap frames?” or “Do you have anything less expensive?” are good indicators that your prices are too high. If patients are seeing prices they are comfortable with, they won’t feel compelled to ask for frames in a lower-price bracket. And of course there’s the age-old question, “Where are the frames covered by my insurance?”
For the patients who absolutely need to stick within a price range, it’s imperative to always keep an “insurance line” in stock, unless you’re specifically a luxury boutique. Conversely, if you’re noticing many patients asking, “Have you got anything nicer?” or if they’re name-dropping brand names, that’s a good indicator that your patients are looking for something higher-end.
Generally speaking, you should have enough of a selection on your frame board that there’s something for everyone, with designated percentages, based on your patients’ demographics and past buying patterns, of bargain, mid-range and luxury frames.
Pay Attention to Both Brand and Pricing When Stocking Inventory
It’s good to know the price points of different brands to begin with, and then to choose inventory based on an intersection of quality, price and brand-name recognition. You want to provide your patients with frames they can afford from brands they trust with a durability and quality that will keep the patient satisfied. Trying to approach it in a linear manner from only one perspective at a time will limit your buying choices and the quality of the product selection.
Preston Fassel is an award-winning author, optical writer and former optician. He worked for three-and-a-half years as an optician and optometric assistant and for one year in a finishing lab before transitioning into independent consultancy. He currently works full time as a writer, contributing articles to 20/20 Magazine and Fangoria Magazine; his first novel, “Our Lady of the Inferno,” won the 2019 Independent Book Publishers’ Award for Horror. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org