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Posted by Erik van Dijk

Erik has previously worked for 10 years at Philips in various parts of the business and in different roles, most recently at Philips Healthcare in R&D management. Since his start at EasyScan in 2015 he headed the operations (supply chain/technical support) and R&D team. In 2017, Erik became the CEO. Erik has a PhD in Physics from the University of Twente.

For brick-and-mortar optical stores, the competition has been brutal. Retail chains have gained popularity among consumers and have eaten a large chunk of the customer pool. Independent opticians now have to make changes in order to differentiate themselves from corporate giants and online retailers.

If you’re an independent optical store, you need to adapt your strategy in order to stay competitive in this dog-eat-dog optical world. Retail giants have changed the game for consumers, and there’s no turning back. At this point, it’s either adapt or be forgotten. So, what can you do to set your optical store apart from the rest of the competition?

Focus on Personalized Interactions

Optical giants are like fast food chains. You can get cheap food that tastes ok and there’s no real meaningful interaction — each time you walk through the door, you’re treated like it’s the first time you’ve been there. An independent store is like going into a locally owned and operated restaurant that you’ve been going to your entire life. You walk in, they know you by name and ask how your mother or your kids are doing — it’s a human experience.

Everyone wants to feel special, and this personalized treatment is what keeps customers coming back. So, what does personalized care look like for an optical store? Let’s look at two examples:

1) Patient education — Patient education is the process of empowering your patients with information, allowing them to assess choices and take a proactive role in making decisions regarding their health. By individualizing education and recommending products according to your customer’s needs, patient education encourages customer loyalty and can significantly help increase sales. For example, if your customer works on a computer all day, you may recommend anti-fatigue lenses to help relieve symptoms of eye fatigue.

2) Extended Eye exams — Extended eye exams with a retinal scans are an important tool used by some independent optical stores to differentiate their services. By taking standard retinal scans of your customers creates a space where optometrists can provide patient education — they can explain what they look for with the scan’s image as well as discuss anything abnormal that he/she finds. Taking the time to explain this process can promote customer loyalty. For example, educating customers on the importance of regular extended eye exams may encourage a customer to proactively schedule eye exams with your store. Retinal scanning technology itself will not add value to your optical store, but how you use it can make a big difference in customer loyalty and sales.

Personalized interactions show very clearly that you’re invested in the customer’s general eye wellness, not just in selling glasses. Customers want to feel that you care. When customers feel taken care of, they’re more likely to be loyal and to keep coming back.

Be aware that personalized attention translates to all interactions, both online and offline, including email and social media. Consistency makes a big difference in customer service.

Use Your Website as an Online Platform

Contrary to offering personalized service, big chains win out over independent optical stores with their online presence. Retail chains invest in a solid website that emits a certain image and provides a certain level of convenience that customers want. Most independent optical stores usually lack a solid online presence.

One way to differentiate yourself is to have a website that attracts customers. What makes a website attractive to customers? Convenience. Some ways you can update your website include:

  • Adding a chatbox to your website, so potential customers can ask questions without having to pick up the phone.
  • Allowing customers to make appointments online.
  • Showcasing your catalog of frames on your website, especially frames that are unique to your optical store.

With an attractive website, you can offer customers the best of both worlds: A website that’s just as good as a chain website, but once customers walk through your door, they’re getting the service only an independent store can provide.

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