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Thursday / May 19.
HomeminewsOnline Contact Lens Sales Slow

Online Contact Lens Sales Slow

Online contact lens sales have declined slightly in the past two years, despite the perception that online retailers are eroding the business of optometry practices.

The 2011 National Australia Incidence Study, conducted by the market researcher Taylor Nelson Sofres, showed 10 per cent of contact lens wearers purchased their disposable CLs online in 2011, whereas in 2010, that figure was 12 per cent. The study surveyed 5,572 people aged 15 – 59 yrs. In 2010, 822 of those people were disposable contact lens wearers, in 2011, 904 wore contacts.

Johnson & Johnson Vision Care’s Professional Affairs Director for Aust and NZ, Luke Cahill said this stat may come as a surprise to many optometrists, as the perception is the number of patients purchasing online is significantly higher.

“The issue of online sales has been an area of concern for many optometrists in Australia & New Zealand. What this study highlights is that contact lens usage and consumption in Australia revealed no increase in the percentage of patients purchasing their contact lenses over the internet,” said Mr. Cahill.

Factors that drove customers to purchase online were delivery, price and the convenience of shopping after hours

Joshua Clark, an optometrist based in the Sydney suburb of Hornsby said the statistic is interesting. “I would hope the main reason for this slight decline is that optometrists are offering greater patient care and taking a genuine interest in the health of their patient’s eyes. As a result, patients are seeing contact lenses as a health device, not just a commodity. In turn, that means patients are more likely to spend a little more to have an eye health check and buy their lenses from their optometrist, rather than just buying online”.

According to the 2011 November Neilsen Shopper Study, customers chose to buy from chain stores because of locations, the chain’s transferable history, delivery, pricing and after hours service. Those who chose to purchase their contact lenses from independents identified that they did so because “independents offer trusted eye health”, “personal and customised care”, “personal service” and “the independent was in their local community”.

Factors that drove customers to purchase online were delivery, price and the convenience of shopping after hours. According to Mr. Cahill and Mr. Clark, these are areas that optical retailers in Australia and New Zealand are starting to address effectively.

“It’s pleasing to see an increasing number of optometrists responding to the perceived convenience advantage of the internet, by holding contact lens stock in their practices to provide contact lenses to patients at the time of their eye examination,” said Mr. Cahill.

And in terms of meeting the market with pricing, Mr. Clark said: “I’d like to think that optometrists have dropped their prices on contact lenses to compete. There’s no need to have a large gap between the online and practice pricing if the optometrist is charging proper consulting fees.”

Data from Independent Panel (Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain) showed that despite the current economic climate in Europe, the soft contact lens market continues to grow solidly, providing increasing opportunities for savvy optical retailers to expand their business.

To support practitioners, contact lens companies in Australia and New Zealand are designing services that can be offered to patients and can’t be matched online. In doing so, they aim to help optometrists build patient loyalty and discourage patients from shopping around.

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