Insights From Our Editors

Top Psychological Drivers to Spur Shopping in Your Optical

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

Sept. 18, 2019

Small businesses are becoming as aware as their larger counterparts of psychologically based retail strategies that increase the likelihood of people making a purchase. What are these strategies, and how can you use them in your practice?

There are two books by the same author that should be required reading for anyone involved in marketing in the practice. These books, written by Robert Cialdini, are “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (published in 1984)” and Pre-Suasion (published in 2016). Ciadini, a professor of selling and marketing, lays out seven principles in sales psychology:
1. Reciprocity
2. Commitment and consistency
3. Liking
4. Authority
5. Social proof
6. Scarcity
7. Unity

If you are involved in marketing in the practice, you should be applying these seven principles daily. Let’s take these one at a time to make sure you know how to do this.

This means when someone gives us something, we feel compelled to give something back in return. Costco uses this technique very well. While in the store have you ever ended up making an unexpected purchase because you stopped for a free sample?

Here’s how to use this technique in your practice:
• Give a free bottle of water at reception
• Give a free gift with purchase
• Utilize a fun quiz to reach recommendations for frames or lenses
• At dispensing, throw in a free gift (sometimes this is called “Surprise and Delight”)

Commitment and Consistency
People will go to great lengths to appear consistent in their words and actions. If you can get people to make a small commitment to your brand—like signing up for your e-mail newsletter, they’re more likely to eventually purchase from you. And, if you can actually get products in their hand, like trying on frames, your chances increase even more.

Another way to use this principle is to create a tray for the patient to carry around the optical. The frames in that tray belong to the patient.

Still another way to use this principle is to make it easy for the patient to commit by having an easy return policy. In a study conducted by Narvar, nearly three-quarters of people said they would be more likely to buy from a company that has a “no questions asked” returns policy. But will they make a return? Maybe not, since they’ve already committed.

The psychology in play here is that we are more likely to say yes to a request if we feel a connection to the person making it. Here’s how to make this principle work in your practice:
• SMILE. We tend to like people who smile. Walk around your practice today and see if you can catch your staff smiling. Your practice should be filled with smiles.
• Use relatable models. Do the pictures on your walls look like your patients or are they super models? (Just an observation: Most of us do not have a practice filled with super models.)
• Include social links on product pages to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, so patients can easily tell their friends.

All of us appear hard-wired to respond to authority, or at least, the appearance of authority. Sometimes called The Halo Effect, it is the tendency for positive impressions of a person, company, brand or product in one area to positively influence one’s opinion or feelings in other areas. Here are the top three ways to use this in your optical:
• Expert creation. Highlight hand-crafted frames produced by trained artisans. Tell the story behind the frames.
• Expert curation. “Curation” continues to be an industry buzzword because there are just too many products for our patients to wade through in one office visit. Create marketing materials with the top picks from your opticians and doctors for the season to help your patients.
• Expert endorsement. A stamp of approval from an expert in our industry can provide just the authority needed to instill patient confidence and persuade people to buy.

Social Proof
According to Nielsen, 83 percent of people trust product recommendations from their friends and family. If you’ve ever purchased anything from the internet, and while making your purchase a page pops up and says: “People like you who’ve purchased this item also purchased these items.” This is a classic example of Social Proof. Well, of course, if people like me have purchased Transition Lenses, then I should too.

The straightforward application of this principle to patients is to use that same wording, “People like you found this [insert product name] to also be helpful.”

People are motivated by the thought that they might miss out on an opportunity. The ways to use this in your optical are:
• Sales that are ending. Show a countdown for how long the product will be available at the discounted price and give your patient enough information to act on the opportunity.
• Impending out-of-stock announcements. These items have an element of scarcity built in.
• Seasonal or limited products. These items too have an element of scarcity built in.

This principle is based on the idea of shared identities. Patagonia is an excellent example of a brand that has done this. The group of people they’ve identified are not only lovers of the outdoors, but activists who are fighting to preserve the outdoors. Can you do this in your practice? Think about the patients who share these identities in your practice. How could you market to each of these groups?
• People who are runners, campers, bikers, tennis players, hunters
• People who are volleyball players, basketball players, swimmers
• People who are online nine hours or more per day (e.g.: gamers, office workers)
• People who love to read books, sew, play cards and watch TV

Pick one of these seven principles and put it into play in your practice this week. Measure sales before and after to see if it is working. Give it three months for a fair trial.

Understanding the psychology that helps patients make buying decisions can make a difference in your practice.



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