By Gina M. Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO
February 18, 2015
New online retailers let consumers try on eyewear online–but purchase their eyewear in your practice. Your outstanding service makes them a steady patient.
OFFER MORE OPTIONS. Let patients know they can browse andtry on eyewear–virtually.
ADDINVENTORY WITHOUT COST. Greatly expand your inventory with online offerings.
PROMOTE.Appear on local media, thenpromote that with social media, web site.
Opportunities to buyeyewear online abound. In our practice, we’re not fighting this growing trend; we’re embracing it byletting our patients try on eyewear online–but make purchases and receive servicethrough our practice. The key for us was finding an online retailer–Iristocracy–that works with us by drivingthe sales back to our office. We’re not steering patients away from going online (which they are going to do anyway); we’re capturing the sales plus the opportunity for personalized services in fitting and dispensing, which, in turn, increases opportunities to serve patients.
Iristocracy is a web site that offers galleries of eyewear for shoppers to browse, and then be sent to their nearest eyecare provider to try the frames on and make a purchase.
I haven’t been working with Iristocracy long enough to fully measure the impact on my practice. Only a handful of patients so far (who were new to the office) have come to us through the site. In addition to bringing in new patients, I am focusing on introducing my existing patient population to Iristocracy as a way to extend their frame choice options. Every possible sale through Iristocracy is an opportunity to educate patients on premium lens options.
Be an In-Store Try-On Ambassador Clinic
Patients can shop on Iristocracy from the comfort of their own home, searching frames and brands that they may be drawn to and/or are interested in purchasing. They can select four frames, which are delivered to an “ambassador” office (one that is signed up with Iristocracy to be featured on their doctor locator), in what’s called a retail try-on kit. We then call the person who ordered the kit, prepare the kit for try-on, and have the person come in.
If they decide to purchase one of the Iristocracy frames, we get a third of the retail cost as our own cut. They will purchase lenses through us; Iristocracy does not fill Rx’s online as they defer to the “professional expertise” of their ambassador clinics’ doctors and staff, since that is the medical portion of the Rx. If the patient doesn’t like any of the frames delivered in the retail try-on kit, they can always shop the rest of the frames in your optical.
There is no cost to your practice, except the need to prepare your opticians for the retail try-on kits to arrive, and then to contact the consumer, and be prepared to style and advise the consumer who ordered the kit, as they would for any other patient or person who happened to visit the optical.
Add New Patients Who Come to Try on Eyewear
Online programs like Iristocracy are definitely great ways of bringing new patients into your office. If someone is looking for a specific frame brand and style, and they find it online with Iristocracy, they will need an ambassador clinic to create the glasses with their prescription. If they see us as their source of frame options, then we hope they will see us as a source of their eyecare needs, as well, and understand the quality of service and products we can bring them.
Avoid Having to Inventory Additional Frame Lines
I like that Iristocracy enables me to expand my “inventory” to include frame lines I don’t carry in my office. They honor warranties, just like any frame company would. I want to be competitive with online shopping, and this is a way to do it. You are able to capture sales that may have walked out the door because of not finding a frame to suit the patient’s needs or taste. Another benefit is getting patients to pre-shop before their exam, getting them excited to purchase. It costs nothing to work with Iristocracy, which is even better.
How We Talk About Try-Ons
Our participation in Iristocracy offers a great way to talk about the fashion and look of a frame, but also to emphasize that professional fitting is still necessary to ensure that an Rx will work with a frame, with the patient’s face, and with the activities that patient wants to do with that prescription.
We explain how we take computerized measurements and offer the greatest in digital lens technology. None of these things can be had online, and while it might be “OK” for some people, they are likely suffering from inaccuracy in fitting, as well as poor-quality lens and frame materials.
I like to point out they may be “seeing” OK, but should ask themselves what they may be missing with mediocre vision. A partnership that allows patients to browse a wide array of products online, but come to us–the vision and eye health experts–to fulfill the prescription, offers the best of both worlds: stylish eyewear that offers superior vision, too.
Market Participation in Online Retail Partnership
In addition to taping a segment on my local Fox affiliate about our office’s participation in Iristocracy, we featured information about it in our practice’s e-newsletter, we have Iristrocracy featured on our web site, we posted my recent TV appearance on our Facebook page, and will also post that TV appearance on my web site, as well as run it on the TV in my office. I see the biggest way to promote Iristocracy, however, as a grass roots effort on our part to speak to patients about it while they are in the office. We let them know they also can shop online through Iristocracy to see frames not featured on our optical’s frame board, and then come back to our office to see what the frames look like in person, and to make a purchase.