By Jennifer Lyerly, OD,
and Kevin Smith, optician
May 10, 2017
Retailing is an art and a science, and successful retailing begins with creating an encouraging environment that invites shoppers to touch and try on appealing products that suit their needs and excite their senses. Optical retailing is no different, and there is a lot we can learn from other retailers.
Over the past two years, our practice staff has studied retailing trends, and we’ve made a series of changes to boost optical sales. We paid specific attention to environment, and we upgraded lighting and added amenities that provide a sense of comfort.
We also updated our merchandising, and organized eyewear into focal points we call “capsules.” We brought the patient experience into the 21st century by incorporating mobile technology into our presentation. Finally, we streamlined the checkout process so that the last interaction a patient has in our office is a pleasant one.
Taking the time to think about how your optical environment impacts sales pays off, literally. For instance, specific frames that we moved off the frame board and featured in capsule collection displays have seen a 300 percent jump in sales. We see this upward trend when we feature both our luxury frame lines and our independent core frame lines in capsule displays.
Create Patient Comfort Zones
We incorporate a variety of options for our patients to get comfortable and interact with our opticians.
We have a bar-like station with a high counter and bar stools, traditional dispensing tables, and a waiting area with comfortable seating that’s within the optical, so even while waiting, patients have frames at eye level.
We use two full-length mirrors (one is kid-specific), and we also have desktop mirrors and wall-mounted horizontal mirrors at different heights for men and women.
The long mirrors were found at Home Goods for a total of around $150. We use Home Goods, or similar discount stores, for many furnishings in our optical. The full-length mirrors are a big focal point; people change their perspective when they move to the full-length mirror. Instead of viewing the “glasses on my face” in the desktop mirrors, they change to viewing “me wearing the glasses” in the full-length mirrors.
We use a combination of floodlights and spotlights–floodlights for overall illumination, and spotlights to focus light on key products. How bright can depend on the amount of natural light you get in your office. Lighting can be expensive, but we have found that there are companies that will upgrade your lighting to LED, and you can even report to your local power company to get rebates when you switch to LED lighting for being energy efficient.
It’s essential to have lots of different lighting environments in your office. Our optical is bright with tons of sunlight from floor to ceiling windows along the front of the office. Our exam room area is darker with overhead LED lighting. We have patients who will walk into the back of the office to try out the appearance of glare coatings like Prevencia in darker lighting conditions, and patients who walk outside to try polarized sunwear and Transitions lenses.
Keep it Casual & Engaging
Our waiting area is in the optical, not separate. We have table displays with product right at eye and touch level of where patients sit to fill out paperwork, so they are immediately seeing some of our most unique frame lines.
We use the bar height counter in the optical as the initial doctor/optician hand-off. It feels relaxed and casual in this area, less like a hard-sale where the patient is getting forced into an optician’s hands, and more like a conversation between the doctor, optician and patient.
The coffee counter is right in the optical, which enhances the feel of this being a place to hang out, and for the doctor, optician and patient to get to know each other better. It makes people more comfortable about what’s happening next–just a continuation of the conversation of how we can best help them that was started in the exam room. When the frame has been selected, and it’s time for measurements, insurance discussions and final billing, we move to the more traditional dispensing table. It has our laptops and tools for seg height measurements, all of our dispensing products like AR coating samples and lens tints, and it has that official feel that the bar-height counter lacks, so the patient realizes they are getting a precisely measured, high-tech and personalized pair of glasses.
Optimize Mobile Technology in Optical
We use laptops in the optical that have the capability of also being used as touch-screen tablets. We get double use from these by converting to the tablet feature to show product options, and then flip it back to a laptop for entering orders. We have one tablet on our frame board shelving dedicated for looping a product video, which we change as we feature different brands week to week. We love this feature because it shows the uniqueness of a product and breaks up our frame boards to draw visual attention. Many times vendors are willing to provide these devices at no charge for such purposes.
Create Focal Points, or “Capsules”
We use the “capsule concept” in our optical to display our products. This is when you create a focal point somewhere in the office to “show off” a product. We have used this display approach in many areas in our office: We will create a capsule shelve in the middle of a frame board featuring point-of-purchase product that the vendors supply, such as videos or photos, that capture a visual statement about the brand and pulls patients over. We also use a separate table in the waiting area to visually feature a product that we want patients to come over, touch and explore.
For example, our Feb 31st eyewear capsule has been a great conversation starter in this area because it’s made of all wood, which immediately invites patients over to touch. Vendors typically are happy to send you any POP and display items they have available, which it pays to take a step further, and use to try something fun and creative. The idea is to get the product noticed, so create something unique to display the product you are featuring most prominently.
In our practice, for Valentine’s Day, we used multi-colored roses to highlight our Feb 31st line. Out of that holiday-themed feature, it sparked the idea to buy wood roses from Amazon, so now we have something really different and unique year ’round that immediately pulls people over to investigate those frames. Patients spot the wooden roses first because they stand out in a sea of glasses, and then they notice that the frames they are with are completely different and unique. A great capsule feature pulls people over about the story first, and then they start zeroing in on the individual frames.
Emphasize Complementary Brands & Quality
We have a “value package” section, but we do not separate our frames based on price. We like to keep products together based on brand, and other brands that complement. For example, we may keep two titanium lines together even though they are different price points. We use bar codes on our frames for inventory purposes, and the price is listed on those bar codes, so there is complete transparency about pricing to the patient.
We highlight our luxury frame lines using the capsule concept. The unique displaying of your luxury product will naturally bring attention to those lines. Our philosophy is that we are not going to predetermine what someone might want, so we give everyone a luxury frame to try on and a frame in our mid-range pricing. We explain features and benefits, and then let the patient make an informed decision. Not everyone can afford luxury, but everyone should be offered the opportunity.
The key is that we’ve invested in luxury frame lines, and you can feel and see the difference. If a patient tries on a $150 frame and $600 frame, and can’t feel a difference in quality and balance, then we’ve created no value. Not everyone chooses the luxury product, but we know our patients can tell when they touch and try on the luxury product that they are investing in a lot more than a name on the temple. With so many online vendors marketing against the cost of glasses, we love giving patients a chance to try on a product they can immediately feel is superior.
Our opticians complete the entire checkout process in the optical. We don’t like bouncing the patient from one person to another for a simple task like taking payment. We have three different computers that can be used for checkout in optical, so we never run into a line for check out.
Our electronic health records, RevolutionEHR, also makes this easy for us because we are able to use the same system for checking in, checking out, ordering glasses and ordering contact lenses. You don’t have to log into any other system to generate the patient orders, billing and receipts. This makes it easy for one person on one laptop do everything for the patient without moving around the office.
HEADSHOT & BIO OF Kevin Smith…
Kevin Smith is the head optician at Triangle Visions Optometry in Cary, N.C.