Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of visiting over 8,000 opticals around the world. With those visits come lots of eye exams. I’ve probably had more eye exams than most people — oftentimes averaging two per week as I help my clients understand ways to enhance the patient experience. When it comes to the opticals themselves, some are small, others massive, yet most are somewhat in between in size and thought. In this article, I will help to shed some light on the past, present, and most importantly, how to plan for a future that attracts, engages, and converts patients into customers.
My first job out of college was as a frame rep specializing in covering open territories. It was a terrific way to become familiar with the good, the bad, and the ugly in the industry, and believe me, at that time, the latter was way more common than the former. I visited opticals that were extremely well curated and merchandised and were places most people would want to shop. Quite often, in fact, I would buy something at one of them because the space and people were just that good! I also saw spaces that were so old and crusty that it seemed a miracle that anyone would spend their cash there. The odd thing I found, however, was that a lot of those outdated opticals were doing amazing business. But as we all know, all that glitters is not gold, and most were leaving a dollar or more on the table for every one they collected.
This theme has remained true throughout my different roles in the eye care industry. I have become obsessed with learning the do’s and don’t’s of optical presentation and sharing them with other professionals in the field with the ultimate goal of making the eye care/eyewear experience delightful. It’s so gratifying to see how far we’ve come. However, I am reminded that the overall state of optical presentation is still around a letter grade of a C, so we’ve got a long ways to go. The good news is there are solutions, and a new mindset among independent practitioners is quickly shifting the tide!
The bottom line: a great optical must be clean, well branded, easy to shop, engaging, and very well lit.
Improving Your Optical Presentation
Here are a few things any practice can do to enhance their optical performance and increase customer enthusiasm:
- Brand the space properly. There are more licensed names in eyewear than any other consumer product category, so why not make them highly visible? I recommend ditching most vendor point-of-purchase (POP) material/signage and creating consistent brand and story signs that also have the practice name on them. This is the approach that a few of the major players in our space take, as does almost any other successful retailer. It’s critical that people can tell what brands you are featuring from a distance. There are resources out there that are well equipped to do this work for you. A local graphic artist/sign shop is a good place to start.
- Employ digital signage. This is beneficial throughout the practice, including in the optical and in windows. Currently, 88% of retailers employ digital signage, but in the optical it’s less than 10%. The opportunity to tell stories, promote brands and services, and add life to the space with this cloud-based, instantly updatable technology is spectacular. There are a great many resources out there for digital signage. Contentlinq is the only optical-specific digital signage platform.
- Use a digital measurement system. In my visits to opticals, I am often struck by the disparity between a high tech pre-test and exam and the good old Sharpie lens mark/PD stick in the optical. I recently had 10 pairs measured using the Spark system by Shamir in under 10 minutes, and every single one of those progressive lenses came out perfectly. I can also recommend Optikam, Smart Mirror, and VisiOffice 2. The experience with digital measuring devices is key, as it creates trust among patients. They perceive the technology, combined with the expertise of the optician, as a very valuable service.
- Have great lighting throughout the space. If patients regularly comment on the dispense, ‘I didn’t realize that frame was so purple, pink, blue, etc.,’ then you have a serious lighting problem. Cool white, LEDs, 6500k evenly spread throughout the displays will bring the space to life and create a dazzling atmosphere that mimics a jewelry store. That instantly elevates patients’ experience in your optical.
- Ditch the frame boards. Use shelving with risers instead. Traditional frame boards were created in the 1950s as an inventory presentation system for labs in their customers’ offices. At that time, the average optical carried 30 styles in four colors and three sizes. The right shelving combined with lighting, signage, and digital can make 400 frames on display have the feel of 1,500 on outdated frame boards.
- Employ a detailed lifestyle questionnaire/optical treatment plan system. When the patient has told you in writing and verbally all about who they are and how they use their eyes, it’s our responsibility to present them with a detailed optical treatment plan that ensures perfect vision. This typically consists of three different visual solutions and often times many more. I have hundreds of clients who have adopted this system, and they have seen their multiple pair rates skyrocket along with patient satisfaction.
- Have at least three colors on display in any given style. No one’s favorite color is tortoise. Bring on the color and variety and see how your patients respond!
- Make the process digital. Enable online browsing, virtual try-on, and make buying eyewear, contacts, and related products easy online. We are drastically behind other industries in this area, and we need to make the change.
This is the best possible time to be in the eye care/eyewear business! By employing these tips, I am sure you will see very strong growth in your optical.
For a few examples of modern, clean, and highly effective opticals check out https://omghome.net/optical-design/