By Beth Samenuk
April 10, 2019
There is a good chance that, despite the best of intentions, you don’t know your practice’s contact-lens capture rate. Many practices don’t know this metric due to the difficulty of tracking it.
Additionally, many don’t track exam frequency with contact lens patients either. But knowing these numbers are important to improving service and sales to patients, and increasing profitability. Once you know where you are, you can strategize ways to make it more likely that patients buy their contact lenses from you.
Here are the challenges of retaining contact-lens sales, and a few suggestions for how you can keep more of these sales in-house.
The Challenge of Tracking CL Capture Rate
Do you know your contact-lens capture rate? Is 50 percent good? What about the patient you “technically” captured with that one-box purchase? How do we factor those in? Do we really know the percentage of patients walking with a prescription?
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Low contact-lens capture rate is under 80 percent, according to the Management & Business Academy.
We try to track annual supplies at the office level. Usually this results in physically tallying purchases of full-time contact lens wearers on a piece of paper for a week, maybe two, to get at least a snapshot of what’s trending. We rely on publications, manufacturers and distributors to feed us data points we can benchmark against. So far, the best option for tracking are dashboard-management systems like Glimpse and The Edge, which can accurately capture and analyze contact-lens sales.
Online Competitors Enable Patients to Buy on Their Own Terms
Many practice owners say they’re fighting a losing battle. Too much online competition (1-800-contacts, Lens.com), bad business practices (Hubble), or not being able to compete with big box and wholesalers (Costco), could all be culprits of the loss of contact-lens sales. With over 45 million contact lens wearers in the U.S. alone, this is a business we need to remain involved in. And with patients at the heart of our practices, we also need to pay attention to how they want to buy from us.
It’s no coincidence that companies like Warby Parker, Zenni and Hubble, to name just a few, have become so popular. If we take the emotion out of it, we can see exactly why patients buy outside our four walls – options. Unfortunately, the optical industry has done doctors a disservice over the years when it comes to contact lenses.
Build Trust & Loyalty with Patients to Keep CL Sales In-House
Historically, the only options provided to doctors to incentivize patients to “buy now and buy here” have been rebates and insurance benefits. But to get a rebate you have to buy in bulk and pay upfront. Not a great option when contact lens prices continue to rise, and more doctors prescribe daily disposables. The conversation only gets harder after a patient quickly gets online on their phone and does a Google search on the lens you’ve prescribed. So how do you give your patients options, build trust and loyalty, and keep sales in-house? Here are three keys:
Understand. Continue to place a high value on understanding patient needs and meeting (perhaps exceeding) them.
Know. Know your value, but know your competition and be ready to tackle that head on.
Assume. Assume an annual supply sale always, and offer it with an equal-but-different annual supply option.
Develop a Script for Staff to Capture CL Sales
At boxsee, we recommend the following script for staff: “The doctor has approved you for an annual supply today. Would you like to pay for and receive those lenses upfront, or would you like to pay for those lenses monthly and have them delivered to your door?” Patients now feel comfortable asking questions and digesting those two options, and weighing the benefits of both.
Partner with a Subscription Service to Give Patients Flexibility & Convenience
Paying for things in smaller increments, and having goods delivered to the home, is now the preferred shopping method for many consumers. Hubble has gained popularity for this reason alone. Patients don’t come into the office asking for Hubble the contact lens, they come in asking for easier, more convenient ways to buy and receive their contact lenses.
Think of your own payment schedule in your home – most things are billed monthly. Contact lenses are expensive. Many patients want to budget their money and not blow their recent paycheck on a $600 annual supply. Think about how patients feel when they come to see you for contact lenses. Anticipate their fears and their needs, and then wow them with options.
There are companies providing white-labeled online storefronts that you can partner with to make it easier for patients to buy online while continuing to profit from sales of the lenses. But keep in mind that not all online options are good for both the practice and the patient. Some options are one-sided, and not a good business decision for the practice. Sending patients to your online store may seem like a great idea (capturing the online shopper), but in reality, you’ve just let a patient walk out of your practice without purchasing anything and sent them online where it’s easy to price-shop and compare.
What to Look for in a Subscription Partner
One solution is to partner with a company, such as ours, that makes it easy for your patients to buy contacts online, in whatever amount they choose, as often as they choose, while you retain a percentage of the profit from the sale. Whichever subscription vendor you choose, you need a partner that will support what you’re doing as an independent OD competing in a highly competitive space, and will help you protect what it took to get to where you are (patients, industry relationships, etc). Like any vendor partnership, the subscription service you partner with should make your life as practice owner easier, streamlining your contact-lens sales process.
If I know one thing, it’s that the contact lens landscape is changing. More companies are coming to market with their own brand of contact lens and disrupting everything from manufacturer to supply chain. The result is disruption of the relationship between your patients and practice in the sale of contact lenses.
This “trend” is quickly becoming hard data that supports how the patient wants to buy. Instead of fighting this, try to find a subscription service to work with that aligns with your mission statement. You can create a win-win for patients and practice in which they buy online, and your practice continues to profit.
Give your patients a reason to be wowed all over again after all these years with you. Give them a reason to continue visiting your office–and buying both their glasses and contact lenses from you, whether in-office or online.