Use Digital Coupons and Let Patients Scan and Save

By Sarah Salvador

It happens more and more: Patients use smartphones to scan bar coded price tags on your frames to see if they can buy them cheaper elsewhere. Give tech-forward consumers what they seek–value–with digital coupons they can scan to capture savings.

Earlier this year, something happened that surprised me–while I was fitting a patient for eyeglasses, she scanned the barcode on a pair of frames. I had heard of patients and other consumers doing this to comparison shop with online prices, but I was still taken aback. I wasn’t sure at first what to say to her if she asked for an explanation of why our prices may be greater than those found online or elsewhere. Knowing the bar code-scanning patient is something we are bound to see more and more of, I have since come up with the following selling points to explain our higher-than-online prices.

Create Your Own BarCode

Creating your own digital coupon, which can be scanned with a smartphone and featured on your web site, Facebook page, or even in your optical shop, is easy to do. Here are just several of the many web sites that offer free tools to create your own barcodes:

Emphasize Value Proposition

When a patient asks why your price is 10 percent–or more–higher than what she found online, point out the service and security they get buying from you, and explain that those value-adds are part of what they are paying for in your optical shop. For example, if you offer a warranty on all purchases, as we do, I would point that out since most online retailers offer no such thing. Also point out to the patient that they are paying for custom service in your shop, with in-person, literally hands-on opticians there to guide them through the selection process and conduct the measurements that ensure their new eyeglasses fit perfectly.

You’ll Be There for Patient–Online Optical Won’t

Even if the patient finds that rare online optical retailer that offers a warranty, it is unlikely the online retailer will be able to handle emergency repairs. I explain to comparison shoppers that we have relationships that go back as long as 15 years with frame vendors and optical labs. These relationships and our location right in their community allows us to turn around replacement eyeglasses much faster than our online counterparts.

We Know Who You Are

I explain to patients skeptical of our price that another value-add is that we know them. Unlike an optical retailerthey probably have never purchased from before (and maybe even some that they have purchased from in the past), we have a thorough record of their past purchases and corresponding vision needs. That gives us the ability to know exactly the way the patient likes to wear her eyeglasses, including minor adjustments,such as the tightening of the temples, that were made in the past. If a remake was required, we have in our records what caused the remake so it can be avoided this time around.

Explain Able to Use Benefits in Practice

In my experience, most online retailers do not enable consumers to use vision benefits to pay for eyeglasses, and when they do enable use of benefits, the reimbursement to the patient is not as good, as online retailers are considered out-of-network providers. Suggest that the patient compare the level of coverage they would receive for eyeglasses purchased from the online retailer with the lower prices to the amount of coverage they would receive purchasing the eyeglasses from you. The sometimes $50 to $75 difference in the amount they would pay using their benefit (or not being able to use it at all) with the online retailer versus your optical shop may make up for the difference in price.

Offer Your Own Digital Coupon

The ultimate equalizer may be the digital coupon, which you can offer either on your web site or on one of your other online pages such as your Facebook or Yelp page. It can be something as simple as a coupon you e-mail to some or all of your patient base, which they print out and bring to the office, or you can purchase a software program that enables you to create your own barcodes. If you want a simple barcode, you can even create one for free online (see blue box above). You then can stick that barcode in online and print advertising, or someplace in your optical shop, for patients to scan with their phone to obtain a coupon they can print out and use for their next purchase.

Creative idea: stick discount coupon barcodes on some of the frames in your optical shop. Patients can then take a picture of these additional barcodes to get a discount on whichever frames the barcode is placed on.

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Sarah Salvador is an ABO-certified optician at EyeLux Optometry in San Diego, Calif. To contact her:

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