Top 13 Ways To Compete With Online Eyewear

Wikimedia Commons-2009 Tavurvur Volcan Pictures of the Year Collection || Image by Taro Taylor edit by Richard Bartz

As usual at Vision Expo, rumors eyebound, the latest rumor is 1800 Contacts is going to start 1800 eyeglasses.com. I think we all know what 1800 contacts did to the ECP business. It is estimated and this is rumor only, that their projections were something in the neighborhood of $125 Million the first year. That is a lot of eyeglasses.

No matter whether that rumor is true or not, the hot topic at the show is online sales, which is one of our favorite topics.

That said it is time for the eyecare professional to go online. You have more resources available today to compete online and there is really no excuse, you can grow your business and keep those eyewear customers from shopping online.

Top 13 Ways To Compete With Online Eyewear Companies

OptiKam Try On Technology

1.) Equipment:

  • Try On Technology- Optikam- is the perfect solution. Online retailers are currently using this technology and you can too. Try it on, share it with friends, educate the patient.
  • Digital Signage- Digital Signage can be used in windows, reception room to educate patients and even in the exam room, it is one of the fastest growing forms of marketing. Perfect balance of entertainment and education. Digital Signage is what we call shameless plugging about your products. It is the best thing you can do for your business. Digital Signage can be found at EyeStar TV

2.) Software Musts

  • Zip Eyewear- New concept that showcases all eyewear and sends the patient back to the eyecare provider. The shopper gets the convenience of shopping online and the value added service of seeing an eyecare professional.

3.) Social Media

  • A current, updated easy to navigate website has become increasing more important for shoppers and therefore it should become increasing more important for eyecare professionals.
  • Facebook- Need I say more, it’s free
  • Local Search- also free- I follow SEE Eyewear on Twitter and someone is always Tweeting they just got their glasses at SEE
  • Groupon- I have 10 friends that are Groupon Fanactics, they go on everyday to see what is new. And they buy.. again, need I say more?
  • FourSquare- I also follow Nate on Twitter and it’s constant about how he gets business from FourSquare
  • Twitter- I can’t even tell you how important this is today. I now get my news on Twitter, I find out what is going on and who cares why people will follow you, they just do.
  • Online Reputation Management (ORM) more on this in later posts. Justin Bazan OD, is really into his reputation management on YELP.

Digital Signage From EyeStar TV

4.) Product

  • I am not just talking about eyewear, it’s accessories, nutraceuticals, eye exams, retinal screenings, it is everything that is in your office. What can you offer that an online retailer cannot or doesn’t?

5.) Excitement

Are you a destination?? I get invitations every month from Justin Bazan (Park Slope Eye) on his Wii events and he just did another. Are you fun? Is your merchandising exciting, We have done tons of posts on Eyecare Events. I read all the Trunk Show Announcements from Europtics on Facebook. And if you think that online retailers aren’t exciting, they are really getting there. Posts about celebrity eyewear, posts about eye health and all sorts of events, plus the Try On eyewear.

6.) Education

Licensed optician, consistent training for all staff is becoming more important today than ever. I could go on a rant here. A consistent staff training program should be part of your marketing and sales plan and budget. Whether it’s taking classes at Vision Expo or OptoWest or locally, it has to be done. How else can they keep up on technology. When we little bloggers are getting 3-5 consumers a week asking us for information, because they cannot get it from their providers. Today even Lyle Rubin from Corning told me he gets emails from consumers asking about SunSensors??

7.) Technology

Even though we blog about this stuff, there is so much more we could be blogging about in technology. From emPower lenses, to Free Form to new eyewear hinge design (and yes we get consumers asking us about this) It’s 3D, its retinal scanning, it’s auto focusing lenses, it’s interchangeable lenses from Switch. You have to know what is available, because based on the questions from the consumers, I can voucher a guess they are much more informed or misinformed that you think.

8.) Lenses

Are there any lenses that they can’t get online? I am wearing Augen Optics right now, I love them. I also wear Hoya and Shamir, but Augen Optics is a small little lens company in San Diego and I don’t know if they are online, but you can always ask. Know your lenses, know the difference and experiment, you don’t have to be tied into one line.

9. ) Eye and General Health

One thing I can guarantee you, ordering online is not going to help the consumer if they have eye health issues. Let the consumer know how much you care about their eye sight. Offer nutraceuticals, give out information and have the product available to them to make a purchase. I take Biosyntrx health supplements every day.

10.) Fashion.

Many people think that fashion is just a designer name or something a celebrity is wearing. True style is not what you are wearing but how you are wearing it and if it suits you. I don’t care what the label says, if it looks bad who cares? That is what can be your expertise.

11.) Shop Local Factor (more on this to come)

Buy local is a huge, huge consumer trend. People are starting to want to support local business. Doug at Europtics in Encintas, CA has buttons made up Buy Local. In fact, BUY Local is a mantra in our little town of Encinitas, Stores display this in their windows.

12.) Personal Shopping And Styling

In the old days, there used to be sales people on the floor, they helped you, brought you clothes and if you had a good sales agent, they told you the truth as to what looks good on you. That one on one personal attention is key to personal shopping and styling. Brag about it, shameless plug your business and personal attention and you are a stylist as well as an eyecare provider. If you think that you have that, online companies also have that, they have chats, they have videos on YouTube, they have all sorts of testimonials. You have to be better and one up

13.) Become more efficient and track, track, track.

Do you have to do everything at once? No, but it is now the time, do not pass GO, is to make a plan and start to implement some of the above strategies. We will be doing more specific posts in the weeks to come. Stay tuned and pass it on to your other friends (Shameless Plug)

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Comments

  1. As a former SVP at 1800CONTACTS, I know them quite well. I have been gone for 4 years so I don’t have any inside information about if they are planning to sell eyeglasses online. However, we should expect that they will. It only makes sense. I expect (my guess) they will start slow, like SV only and will only market to their existing customer base. They probably will do very big numbers and sell a ton of eyeglasses online. My main thought is this – IGNORE 1800CONTACTS. As an independent ECP, you have a chance to compete on a level playing field with the online and big box retailers. By gearing up and using social media, you can engage your current patients on Facebook/Twitter and be introduced to your patients network of followers. By doing some inexpensive Facebook ads, you can attract new prospective patients. Monitor what the other online companies are doing (with RSS feeds, etc) to learn from them, but don’t let their actions influence what you do. These are exciting times for ECP’s. Learn how to use social media (by attending webinars, reading blogs and watching tutorials) to your advantage and you’ll have plenty of growth.

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