Competing with online optical retail

March 27, 2014

In order to compete with the onslaught of online optical retail Web sites, we have to be open and ready to change, says Barry Santini, ABOM.

 

New York City-In order to compete with the onslaught of online optical retail Web sites, we have to be open and ready to change, says Barry Santini, ABOM.

The optical business has been resistant to change because it has been a closed system for so long, but online optical retail is changing that, says Santini. Companies such as Warby Parker are changing the game by offering eyeglasses at a significantly lower price. Many eyecare professionals are quick to brush these vendors off as cheap, poor quality, or even dangerous, but Santini says that is too simplistic.

“They say that we’re the greedy middlemen. We’re the reason why glasses are so damn expensive. It’s our fault because we’ve never communicated our value beyond the product,” says Santini.

Understand that price elicits a complex set of emotions from your customers. The ideal price is at the flip point-the point at which perceived value overrides cost concerns. Don't be afraid to set a fee for your services. Santini says he has a set fee for adjustments but often waives the fees for those who have never been to his office before.

“You have to charge for people to think there is value,” says Santini.

You’ll never be able to compete with the online optical sites in terms of choice, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Santini says the average online customer looks at just 3 glasses before choosing an item. Instead, you must curate the frames you offer and display styles in a manner that answers your clients’ queries before they have to ask.

“Sell the story, not the style,” says Santini.

Santini offers these other tips:

• Have a service fee

• Have a printed set of fees

• Think professional, but not exclusively medical

• Surpass expectations

• Be ready to do the unexpected

• Welcome every day like it was your first day in business

• Comply with the Rx release rule (“The appearance of self-serving interests is a negative social trigger,” says Santini.)