Match Your Merchandise to Your Patients’ Individual Styles

By Maria Higgins, OD

Jan. 6, 2015


To succeed with a distinctive optical dispensary, train your opticians to recognize the personal styles of patients. An individualized touch increases capture rate and multiple sales.


HIRE PARTLY FOR STYLE. Your opticians should not only have technical know-how and a positive, friendly attitude; they also should be stylish, and express an interest in style.

EDUCATE YOURSELF & STAFF. Find books and online style references, and create on-the-job aids like capes or cloth that can be held up to faces to determine coloring.

SHOWCASE PRACTICE’S STYLING ABILITIES. Create window displays that emphasize personal style, like one about warm vs. cool coloring or one displaying both risky and conservative styles. Use social media to educate the public.

When I was the owner of  Unique Optique in Frederick, Md., I made an effort to understand my patients’ individual styles. We only sold independent brands, and we took the time with each patient to ensure they left with exactly what they had in mind.

Each of your patients has a personal style, and personal vision of themselves, in mind when they visit your office for new glasses. Increasing capture rate requires working with, and satisfying, each patient’s individual taste. Train your opticians to recognize this style, and match it with the frames on your board.

Two views of the optical window displays from Dr. Higgins’ former practice, Unique Optique, in Frederick, Md., showing patients their ability to work with individual needs, like face shape, and individual styles.

Hire Partly for Sense of Style

In addition to personality and technical expertise, the opticians you hire should show that they have a passion for style. The best opticians have the experience in both the technical aspects, as well as the aesthetics side, of the job. I find that to be really good at image consulting, it is beneficial if the optician has an interest in coloring and style and fashion for their own appearance.

You can see if they have an eye for fashion by their own style. Do they look put together, stylish and fashionable? You can ask which fashion magazines or style/fashion-related TV shows they enjoy, and what other ways they seek out information about style and fashion. You can see if they are willing to study the 1970s Color Me Beautiful guide, which provides a basis for the coloring of a person. Ask them to fit you in a frame and explain their reasoning. It is hard to sell something if they, themselves, do not seem to believe in it. They need to show they can walk the walk.

There are some excellent online sites that go over coloring and face shapes for glasses, which you can introduce your staff to:

This is one I love for frame shape: /index/frames/which-frames.

On coloring:

Create On-the-Job Style Aids

A big part of matching the most flattering frame with each patient is understanding how to determine the difference between warm and cool coloring. Click HERE for a YouTube video presentation on this topic.

I made two capes out of a matte satin material, one brown and one black, to help my opticians see at least if the patient had warm or cool coloring.

Educate Yourself About Your Patients’ Style

In my office, it was me and one staff person, and hundreds of funky fun glasses, so I was heavily  involved in frame inventory selection. I chose the frame lines, and could not wait to see them come alive on my patients’ faces. It was a fun part of optometry for me. However, if you have a medical, fast-paced office, or no interest in style, you may want to leave frame inventory selection to the opticians.

Recognize Classic & Conservative vs. Funky & Risky

To narrow down and keep it simple, a patient’s style seems to be either relatively classic and conservative or more risky and funky. Most people generally know their style, and will tell you if you ask.

We had patients who worked in the White House, or a law firm, who told us their glasses needed to be conservative. Then we had artists and teachers who wanted to make a statement. I would always try to push them as far toward adventurous as they would go. It seemed that usually they would grow into their glasses and want an even funkier style after they adjusted. They would come back year after year for more and more adventurous frames.

Have Individual Patients in Mind When Purchasing Frames

I often had patients in mind when buying frames, even to the point of calling them when the frame came in to tell them that we had something special for them. If you are interested in style, and take the time to get to know your patients, you will remember the young woman with a love for brightly colored cat-eye glasses, or the older man who likes angular, more conservative styles. These patients usually are representative of many other patient types in your practice, so buying for them means also buying for many others.

Emphasize Individual Style in Window Displays

We once had a window display where one window was about face shape and the other was about coloring. Patients, and those just passing by on the street, could see that we didn’t just want to fit them in a generic one-size-fits-all frame, but that we cared about getting their particular needs and preferences right.

Use Color Contact Lenses As Another Personal Styling Opportunity

Color contact lenses add a whole other aspect to the coloring of the face. You could have a Cosmetic Try On Party, like my old practice did, where participants can come in and try on colored contact lenses. We included a coloring consultation, an eye makeup makeover by a local makeup store, Smooch, and a clothing fashion analysis by a clothing fashionista from the local shop Shabby Chic Creative Studios & Boutique.

Publicize Your Practice Interest in Accommodating Individual Style

After you create an optical window to show off your ability to suit patients’ individual needs, be sure to then publicize it online, and through all the social media you use. For instance, we posted to our practice Facebook page about our Cosmetic Contact Lens party, as well as our Face Shape and Coloring windows.

Downtown Frederick, where our practice was based in Maryland, has an event called In the Street, where they close down the entire main street and businesses move themselves onto the street. For this event, we did a face shape and color analysis. It was a big hit, and we could then direct people up to our office to look at frames.

So, be sure to hire the right staff, train them to understand style and coloring, come up with interesting ideas to flaunt your abilities and use social media to inform the public. This is your recipe for success.

Related ROB Articles

Market Opportunity Analysis: Use Colors to Appeal to Teen Eyewear Shoppers

Optical Sales Booster: Know When to Use the Hard Sell vs. Soft Sell

Boost Frame Sales: Have Staff Model the Top Styles

Maria Higgins, OD, is the former owner of The Unique Technique in Frederick, Md. To contact:

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