By Jessica Crooker, OD
March 31, 2021
Patients have been oriented toward purchasing products online for a while. That growing preference to purchase online only deepened during the pandemic. My practice implemented a technology last year that helped us capture contact lens sales that otherwise would have gone to an online retailer.
The convenience of buying online from me–versus from a large online retailer–has made a huge difference to our ability to increase contact lens sales.
Making Life Easier for Both Patients & Practice
When the pandemic first hit, I was doing everything on my own—from fielding contact lens refill requests by phone to manually taking patients’ addresses to personally delivering lenses to patients’ homes. It was a challenging and uncertain time, but luckily for me, I was part of a pilot program for MARLO, a technology from Alcon that enables patients to order their lenses online, with the revenue from the sale going to the eyecare provider who wrote the prescription for their contacts. During last spring’s shutdown, having MARLO in place allowed my office to keep our practice-patient connections strong and enabled us to remain our patients’ trusted source for contact lenses.
Driver of CL Sales Growth
MARLO sends me alerts whenever there is a new patient order, so I can keep tabs on our sales metrics. Our monthly contact lens orders are significantly higher now compared with before we implemented MARLO. We find that we have many more patients ordering contact lenses through MARLO over the weekend or later in the evening when the office is closed. Our monthly contact lens sales are approximately 30 percent higher now than before using MARLO. We are transacting 60-65 percent of our monthly contact lens sales through this technology.
There is a strong return on investment for my practice using this technology as the service and hardware is provided at no fee to independent OD practices and their patients at this time.
Freeing Up Staff Time
The system is easy for both patients and staff to use. Patients receive an e-mail from us, welcoming them to MARLO. They then are able to register with the system, so they can reorder their contacts online as long as their prescription is still valid. From a back-end perspective, my staff and I receive alerts whenever there is a new order and a need to validate a prescription. The rest of the process is taken out of our hands, with no need to call patients to alert them that their lenses have arrived, and no need to package and send the lenses to patients.
MARLO helps my team reduce time spent on fulfilling orders and instead increases our opportunities to deliver an optimal patient experience.
With patient-driven ordering and reordering and direct-to-patient delivery, the technology reduces tedious tasks. It does this by:
- Eliminating verification or pick-up phone calls for staff and unnecessary office trips for patients
- Simplifying trial inventory ordering, management and organization
- Cutting down time spent on placing, tracking, sorting and following-up on orders
- Providing dedicated customer service for practices and patients
My staff can now focus on patient relationships and increasing connectivity to our practice, not just patient transactions. They now have more time to tend to patient needs, whether that means answering phone calls, helping patients who need adjustments or other relationship-building activities.
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Facilitating Annual Supply Sales
We have always striven to sell annual supplies on the day of patient appointments. We offer discounts on annual supplies in addition to rebates offered by manufacturers, along with free shipping. Patients hear about the benefits of annual supply purchases across their experience in our office, from when they check-in at the front desk, to the technician getting them ready for the exam, to the doctor. It helps to have all our staff on the same page and relaying the same message.
Now we are able to tell our patients that they can order lenses however they prefer – via phone, text, online or in-office– even when the practice is closed. We also explain that they can reorder from desktop, laptop, tablet or their phone via a unique link our practice sends directly to them. The lenses can be delivered when and where patients prefer, and they can directly manage and track their Alcon contact lens order.
Making It More Likely Patients Return for Care
In addition to facilitating contact lens sales, MARLO sends reorder and annual exam reminders to keep patients coming back to their eye doctor year after year. In this way, patients stay connected with my practice throughout the eyecare journey.
Jessica Crooker, OD, is the owner of Scituate Harbor Vision Source in Massachusetts.