There is a staggering number of everyday processes that have moved online in the past decade. Everything from setting up bank accounts, to applying for loans, to ordering prescriptions can be done over the internet - and it won’t stop there. Even in the eyecare industry, there is a transition happening.
Online eyewear sales: love them or hate them, the trend is here to stay. Online sales continue to be a growing part of the industry, particularly for discount sites such as Vision Direct or Glasses Direct. One report even projected the online market to reach £193.5 million by the end of 2015.
Why This Growth in Online Sales is Occurring
Much of this expansion can be attributed to the more relaxed law in the sale of glasses and contact lenses that took place in 2005. An amendment to the Opticians Act of 1989 declared that opticians performing an eye test on patients do not have to require them to purchase glasses or contact lenses. Patients have a right to their prescription after the eye examination and have the ability to shop around to find the best prices if they choose.
From a consumer standpoint, this amendment is clearly beneficial. From a practitioner perspective, it makes strategizing a way to not lose sales that much more complex.
How to Combat This Growth
As an eyecare professional, the first step to dealing with the surge in online eyewear sales is to stop fighting it. Don’t spend time formulating ideas on how to prevent customers from taking their prescriptions to shop elsewhere - instead, brainstorm ways in which you can develop relationships with your patients so they won’t want to shop elsewhere. Here are a few simple ways to achieve that:
- Talk to your patients. You won’t know if customers are interested in new eyewear if you don’t ask. Make it a point to broach the topic each time you see a patient - and be ready to offer personalized suggestions. This might also be a good opportunity to ensure your entire office staff is able to comfortably discuss products and selling points to further this effort.
- Offer in-store promotions. If possible, offer sales or discounts on products that customers can only receive on-site. Consider establishing a loyalty program for patients who consistently purchase eyewear from your office. Even if you cannot directly compete with online discount sites, rewarding customers for choosing your products can be an excellent tactic for increasing your competitive edge.
- Stock the products. As important as it is to form relationships with your patients to encourage them to buy eyewear from you, it’s equally as important to have the eyewear. Stock quality and attractive products so your customers have options to choose from. If there are specific frames that patients are after that you don’t have available, then at the very least, point them in the direction of a reputable and high-caliber retailer.
Don’t let yourself feel threatened by direct-to-consumer online eyewear sales. Though it might not be feasible for your practice to compete with the lower prices of these larger retails sites, there are certainly ways to implement customer attraction. Do your best to differentiate yourself from the Internet by reinforcing your skills and abilities, and you should see some positive patient response.