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HomemifeatureB2B Online Ordering: Shaping the Future

B2B Online Ordering: Shaping the Future

According to leading wholesalers of frames, lenses and contact lenses, eye care professionals are increasingly embracing the opportunity to order stock via their desktops and online.

There are many options when it comes to placing a stock order – from accessing a portal hosted on the cloud that links directly into the distributor’s production system through to placing an order via a wholesaler-supplied desktop software application.

There are also the more traditional methods of placing orders via email, fax, phone and face-to-face. Those old fashioned sales methods may be beautifully personal but they have their downsides.

Fax and phone orders can be subject to error – handwriting can be misread, spoken orders misheard. Even email orders can easily be misinterpreted or the information provided incorrect. And then there’s the chance that the person receiving the order at the wholesaler’s office will get it wrong when they enter the details into their internal production system.

According to industry sources approximately 10 per cent of lens orders placed using traditional ordering systems have to be clarified and corrected prior to manufacture, which costs time, money and unwanted angst.

By using online and automated desktop ordering systems the practice placing the order can have far greater certainty that what they order will be what they get – there are even checks and balances in the online lens ordering systems that will let you know if the lens measurements entered just don’t make sense.

Speeding Things Up

Another great thing about online ordering is that it will maximise the time you can spend with customers. There’s no need to step away from a customer interaction during a busy sales or clinical period to speak to a sales rep or phone through an order. That can all be done at a time to suit… outside practice hours if necessary.

According to Steven Johnston, CEO at ProVision, the savings you’ll gain in administrative and handling time by ordering stock online can be immense. “Placing a frame stock order online is likely to save 25 to 33 per cent of the time depending upon the ‘normal’ method of placing that order e.g. phone, versus fax, email, online or in person to a rep,” said Mr. Johnston.

Then there are the marketing opportunities – the fact that you’ll always have the latest available stock accessible to you, and often available to show your customers tool. As well as the ability to take advantage of distributor promotions as and when they arise.

Reps are Here to Stay

Of course there will always be a place for sales (or customers service) reps – always a
need to hear first hand about the latest innovations in technology, new trends, and individual offers; and the need to touch and feel new collections… as well as the enjoyment that comes with building long-lasting business relationships with reps who really understand you and your business.

ODMA Customises Terminology

One criticism that has been levelled at existing online and desktop B2B ordering systems is
the lack of consistency in terminology, which can make placing orders confusing. This is all about to change, thanks to an initiative from the Optical Distributors & Manufacturing Association (ODMA).

“Currently, every supplier, every optometrist and buying group uses a different reference to describe every aspect of a frame – its SKU, shape, the material its made from, colour, whether its an adult’s frame or a child’s, a man’s frame or a woman’s, whether its scriptable or not, the price and so on,” said ODMA CEO, Finola Carey.

“As a simple example, while some may code a woman’s frame ‘w’, others may code it ‘f’ for female – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“There are a number of problems with this arrangement – when it comes to customers searching for products, they’re not able to drill down effectively enough to get the results they’re after. Also, suppliers are constantly being asked to provide frame descriptors to buying groups and software providers in different formats – which costs them unnecessary time and energy.”

Cameron Hawke, Vision Care Business Group at Carl Zeiss, and ODMA board member, said standardising frame information will ensure “everyone is speaking

the same language – because if you don’t speak the same language, errors will result”.

He has been primarily responsible for developing a new ‘language’ for frames in the optical industry and according to Ms. Carey his recommendations have been embraced.

As well as creating a series of mandatory descriptors there is a host of optional
descriptors that frame suppliers can include for each product entry to give customers a more complete picture of the product and help them refine their searches.

Mr. Hawke said the new system will “bring the industry forward into the digital era”.