Merchandising

Compete with All Retailers for Share of Patient Dollars

By Scot Morris, OD

When merchandising, we tend to look at other optical retailers. Fact is, we compete with all retailers for share of patient dollars—and we can learn from looking outside our field.

As I write this article it is the Christmas season and I am overwhelmed by the amount of merchandising that goes on in the U.S. I have noticed the rapid increase in toy advertising on TV that starts right before Halloween. It makes me consider how much eyecare providers are competing with all of those toy manufacturers for the same limited consumer dollar. What makes people want to spend their limited funds at your clinic or my clinic rather than on the new HD-3D TV, iPhone 4S, iPad2, the new Leopardito boots from Old Gringo (my wife wants a pair) or the two-page list of overly expensive toys that their children gave them as their “Gotta Have” Christmas list?

Here is my challenge to myself and my readers: Take a hard look at your office when you get done reading this. Could you merchandise your products and services better? Where would you do this? How would you do this? Does your office have literature, signage or educational materials prominently displayed that convince, persuade, educate or in any way help enhance the perceived value of what you are selling?

It is not enough to think in general about your merchandising strategy. Address the following specific points:

• Remind your patients about the convenience and value of buying a year supply of contact lenses.

• Educate your patients about the medical eyecare services you provide. For example, point out that you treat conditions like red eyes and ocular allergies.

• Put your frames cost in perspective. Your frames cost twice as much as the advertised two for $99 special down the street because, you know… better materials, better hinges, screws that actually stay in the hole, and metal that won’t corrode off in the next 10 days leaving a beautiful green strip along the side of your patient’s face.

• Inform your patients about the visual differences between the anti-glare (AR) reader lenses that you recommend and those lenses that are three for $7 at the local gas station which cause visual fatigue. Perhaps illustrate why you promote polarized lenses instead of tinted lenses for sunwear. Explain the enhanced visual performance and protection afforded by the polarized lenses you sell.

• Maybe even put up a display that illustrates why UV protection is so necessary in contact lens wearers and point out that your office gives a discount when a contact lens wearer also buys non-prescription sunglasses.

Zero In On What You Most Need to Change
In every area of your practice pick two to three things that you can merchandise better. Then hunt down one of your patients who is a graphic designer and trade them for their work. They may need a little help on content but they can make it look good. Think like a retailer—because that is what you are if you sell contact lenses or eyewear. Rotate your displays monthly or quarterly and see how much the sales of the “featured” products go up.

End Goal: Hold Onto Market Share

As we start the New Year let’s all try to focus on doing some really inexpensive things to help enhance our patient’s (consumer’s) knowledge about our products and services. Increasing our consumers’ perceived value of our products is the surest way to increase our revenue or, at least, hold onto our market share in an increasingly competitive market.

Scot Morris, OD,of Eye Consultants of Colorado in Conifer, Colo., is an international speaker and educator on optometric subjects. He directs anophthalmic consulting service, Morris Education & Consulting Associates, as well as Ocular Technology Solutions, Inc. To contact him: smorris@mecace.com.

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