Tips and Trends to Boost Optical Sales


Retail is changing at light speed, thanks to apps that allow on-the-spot price comparisons, online sales and promotions, and even virtual reality, among other things. To capture the most customers, retailers—including eye care professionals—need to keep up. Here are six retail trends to be aware of if you want to boost sales and increase revenue for your optical dispensary in 2016.

Customer service is not a trend, but how optical shops are providing it is evolving. Extended hours on evenings and weekends, walk-in appointments, and same-day service are smart ways to attract today’s breed of customers, who are used to instant gratification and around-the-clock access. For more tips on delivering better customer service, see our last post.

Virtual try-on technology, such as the app, allows customers to see what different frames look like on a 3D model of their face. They can either upload a photo of themselves or choose a similar-looking model to try on glasses on a computer screen. You can even have this app available on iPads for customers to try on frames you don’t carry in stock.

A focus on hip, tech-savvy consumers has helped New York City eyewear startup Warby Parker earn “well over” $100 million in annual revenue as well as the title of Most Innovative Company of 2015 by Fast Company. Love them or hate them, the company sells directly to consumers online for a fraction of what a similar pair of glasses would cost at a typical optical shop, but it’s touches like free shipping, donations to nonprofits, and a celebrity-studded social media presence that sets the brand apart. Note to eye care professionals: getting involved with charities is a great way to give back to your community and encourage patient engagement at the same time.

DIY designs and customized frames are increasingly popular among people who don’t want their glasses to look like everyone else’s. Japanese eyewear company JINS allows customers to design their own frames using an app. According to a recent poll of 1,000 shoppers, as many as 30 percent are interested in purchasing items customized to their own particular taste, reports The Optical Vision Site. Sometimes going the completely DIY route doesn’t yield the best results for customers, however, so encourage them to collaborate with you, an experienced eye care professional, on the customization process.

Online eye exams are also capturing customers’ interest and health care dollars. In July, online eye exam Opternative passed clinical trials and was approved in 45 states and is available in 27 of them. Launched by an optometrist, the online test— which requires a computer or smartphone, WiFi, 24 hours, and $40—is “statistically equivalent to the refractive exams done in the doctor’s office,” says its founder. While this is concerning many optometrists and ophthalmologists, online eye exams cannot detect eye-based medical conditions, so they will never replace doctors entirely. Make sure you convey that message in your practice marketing efforts.

Smart glasses and augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) is another big trend, and not just for gamers. With the launch of the much-hyped Oculus Rift, purchased by Facebook for $2 billion last year, AR and VR are poised to enter the mainstream in 2016. Smart glasses including this virtual technology will change the way people shop, predicts The Optical Vision Site, citing a retail survey that found 66 percent of consumers surveyed were interested in virtual shopping. Eyewear professionals have a few years before virtual reality catches on with the average consumer, but now is the time to get your marketing and web site up to speed so you’re not left behind.

Well-managed optical dispensaries can be great profit centers for the eye care industry, according to Ophthalmology Times, which reports that about 60 percent of an optometric office’s total revenue is from frame and eyeglass sales. Check out their article on seven common misconceptions about optical shops to make sure yours is on the right track.

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