Let Them Touch the Merchandise

By Peter Shaw-McMinn, OD

Most of us are careful about presenting our products in the proper lighting and addressing what our patients see. After all, we are in the seeing business. While it is difficult to position products with what a patient hears, smells or tastes, we can affect a patient’s buying habits by what they touch.

The most effective retail stores engage the customer by appealing to all five senses, according to Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy:The Science of Shopping and What Women Want.

Signs encouraging patients to touch are far less common than signs imploring them not to. But research shows that we may be missing a rather lucrative boat. According to Joann Peck, an associate professor of marketing at the Wisconsin School of Business, touching an object can inspire a person to pay more for it.

Give the patient information that he or she can’t get otherwise, such as the lightweight feel of a titanium frame. The tactile experience of hydrophobic AR or a thin lens is far more powerful than verbal or written descriptions. More surprisingly, Peck says, apart from any information or pleasure it gives you, simply touching an object can make you feel a certain sense of ownership. “And you’ll pay more for anything you feel like you own,” she asserts.

True story: Bob, a post-lasered baby boomer who could no longer see to drive at night, dragged himself to the optometrist determined to spend the absolute minimum on eyewear. Asking to see only the most economical option, the optician helped him select a frame. Since Bob had not needed reading glasses for many years, he was bothered by the weight of the glasses and bulky appearance on his (balding) head.Sensing this, the optician placed a titanium frame and the first-selected frame in each of Bob’s hands. “Wow,” Bob said at whisper level. Sold: titanium frames, AR coating and clip-ons!

“Everyone is different as far as how much people like to touch things,” Peck says. But the rule of thumb should probably be, “If you want them to buy it, let them touch it.”

For more information on Joann Peck and the importance of touch in making purchasing decisions:

Peter G. Shaw-McMinn, OD, is an assistant professor of Clinical Studies at the Southern California College of Optometry. He is the senior partner of Sun City Vision Center, a group practice including five optometrists.Dr. Shaw-McMinn has served as chairman of the AOA Practice Management Committee and the Association of Practice Management Educators. He was the appointed Benedict professor in Practice Management for the University of Houston College of Optometry for 2001-2002. To contact Dr. Shaw-McMinn:

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