Jamie Shyer of Zyloware chaired The Vision Council Frames Division Meeting a couple of weeks ago in Las Vegas and he did not waste anytime getting our attention with a very hot subject! The main topic of this meeting was a an Online Eyewear Sales Panel discussion. The panel consisted of Ed De Gennaro of Vision Care Product News, Hal Wilson of CyberEyes VTO (Virtual Try On) and Mark Agnew of Eyeglasses.com.
It was very interesting so I would like to share some of the key points that were made by the panel members and participants from the optical industry. The panel talked about how Blockbuster lost control of the in-home DVD/video market to companies like Netflix and Redbox out of fear of change when they could have embraced the Online change and held market share. Also mentioned was the fact that veterinary professionals have lost a vast market to Online companies like PetMeds. With these examples in mind the following points were made
- We must not lose sight of that fact that it is the consumer who is in control, not us (manufacturers and retailers)!
- Most eyewear consumers are using to the Internet for information not necessarily to make a purchase but to examine brands, types of eyewear, find optical retailers, compare prices, customer reviews and where to buy
- There are over 200 online eyewear sites although the majority of sales are from just 2 or 3 companies
- About 7% of all retail sales (all consumer products not just eyewear) are on line VS <1% of eyewear sales online
- Very few eyewear brands have the power to drive Internet sales alone
- Only a small number of Rx sales are made on the Internet currently but the forecast is that this could grow to 12/14% as technology becomes more user friendly
Everyone involved in the panel discussion emphasized that all optical retailers, must have an Internet and Social Media presence. The Internet can actually be a benefit to even the smallest retailer as it opens up the market. A good website with good photography, the right links and engaging tools are essential. An engaging and user friendly website can help bring optical customers to a retail location.
One of the biggest fears voiced is the dreaded online “price shopping” but with thousands or different frame styles, brands and lens permutations it is not that easy for a consumer to price shop more than a few brands. We have to look at how we can make online eyewear shopping, information gathering etc., a better experience for the optical consumer and what we can do to embrace it rather than fear it.
The future might be that optical customers can input information, preselect frames, colors and lenses but will still purchase at a retail location. Whatever it is, we do agree that having an Internet and Social Marketing presence is a must and staying current with how this is changing is just as important.