Consumers are no longer content to wait. They want to access product, information and appointments from wherever they are, whenever they are ready they want to do it now. Optometrists who build a presence online can successfully pull patients in-store.
Once upon a time, a customer would research a product by simply wandering into the local store to peruse its shelves. Today, the modern customer is more savvy, aware and technologically empowered. Australians have, on average, access to three internet-capable devices3 and will use multiple channels (often simultaneously) to browse, buy, and access customer support.
Last year, a global survey of 18,430 consumers found that 12 per cent had bought eyewear online in the past year. Twelve per cent said they would do so within the next 12 months1 – virtual try on Apps and online refractions may encourage many more.
For many patients, getting a prescription has become the sole reason for booking an appointment with an optometrist but instead of being a threat, the online habits of customers can be leveraged to lure them back into brick and mortar stores.
Companies should be channel agnostic…
Margaret Lam from theyecarecompany says we need to educate our patients about all the other benefits of sitting in the chair… this is the only way to beat online retailers that offer eye wear without the eye care.
Online Shoppers: Not The People You Think They Are
You may be surprised to note that that, according to the 2017 KPMG report ‘The Truth About Online Consumers’, Millennials are not the biggest online buyers (preferring instead the instant gratification that comes from in-store purchasing).1
Indeed, Generation X consumers (born between 1966 and 1981) made more online purchases than any other group and Baby Boomers shopped online just as frequently as Millennials.1
Men spent more than women and were more inclined to buy luxury goods.1
Given that Generation X is living with, or developing presbyopia, it’s important for optometrists to be aware of, and working to satisfy, these preferred buying behaviours.
Gen X is busy – they’re working full time, bringing up kids and trying to squeeze in some fun. It’s hardly surprising then, that they’re leading the charge when it comes to online shopping. To catch their attention and win their business, you need a presence that your patients can access anytime, from anywhere.
That means developing your business across multiple channels, according to Paul Martin, UK head of Retail at KPMG, “Companies should be channel agnostic, meaning it does not matter if they start with online or offline, what matters is that all channels are interlinked to give consumers the convenience they need. Online plays a major part in the customer journey or ROPO (research online, purchase offline).”1
Indeed, research has shown that even customers who buy in-store will often conduct much of their research online.
According to Google, mobile searches for ‘best’ have grown over 80 per cent in the past two years2 with people searching out the ‘best’ products to suit very specific and personal needs, as opposed to just the ‘best quality’ or ‘best seller’ for instance.
Interestingly, despite the proliferation of smart phones, most of research is conducted via traditional desktop PCs, laptops or tablets (54 per cent of Australians prefer desktops or laptops; 5 per cent said their preferred researching on their smartphone; 8 per cent a tablet and 33 per cent had no preference.)1
Retail websites and online sites were the most common source of product awareness, with shops being the second most common source.1 Reviews and talking to friends were also important – mobile searches for ‘product reviews’ have grown over 35 per cent over the past two years, with consumers increasingly searching for mobile video reviews.2 This makes it essential for businesses with an online presence to monitor and carefully manage customer reviews posted to their site.
Interestingly, millennials were nearly 50 per cent more likely than Baby Boomers to research a product by visiting a store or talking to friends and family.1
When it came to buying online, all consumers valued trustworthy websites that dealt with feedback honestly and openly, ensured data security and offered flexible payment options. Purchasing decisions were driven by price and promotion (38 per cent); brand (22 per cent); product features (19 per cent); online reviews (12 per cent) and other reasons (9 per cent).1
Pull Your Patients In-Store
As eye care professionals, it’s fine to make sales online but what you really want is for patients to come in so that you can provide them with the very best eye health care.
For this reason, Ms. Lam believes your online presence should promote your expertise and the importance of professional eye care (by providing educational information) and building loyal followers (by building your community on social media) as opposed to selling product.
In doing so, optometrists can become an eye health advisor to potential as well as existing patients, and successfully differentiate themselves from online eyewear retailers.
“Retail websites are commodity based – you create your brand to appeal to your market, your website aesthetic, show your products and the price and offer a smooth transaction process. That’s the customer experience, and it can be difficult to stand out in this process.”
In optometry, when we use our website to drive patients into the practice, we have the opportunity to win their loyalty by offering exceptional personalised eye care and information the patient would not otherwise receive that promotes their long-term eye health. When we do this well, our patients are more inclined to buy from us and so the purchase cycle is completed,” said Ms. Lam, whose practice, theeyecarecompany is now part of the George + Matilda group.
George + Matilda’s website has a focus on quality of care with a listing of services offered, a directory of eye conditions, a smattering of products available (with a brand listing) and a directory to find your local optometrist. In short, it’s a great educational site that drives new patients into the practices.
Ms. Lam uses her theeyecarecompany’s social media site to nurture existing patients.
“I firmly believe that social media is not for making new customers or patients. It’s about enhancing your existing relationships with the really strong fans in your patient base by keeping them engaged. Our Facebook page is very personalised; it features team members, school screenings, our work volunteering in the community, conferences we’ve helped with, practice awards, and news about our patients.
“It really strikes to the core of who we are and what we do – we do it because we love helping people with their eyes and that’s what we try to convey.”
Eyecare Plus has a similar strategy with a corporate website and social media platforms reserved for individual members to engage with their communities at a localised level.
“The strength of digital is in the local content – we can run national campaigns and recommend patients to particular practices but the local stories are the ones that attract the most interest,” said Jodie Green, Marketing Services Manager at Eyecare Plus. “We encourage our optometrists to engage people who are new to their communities and keep giving them reasons to stay engaged, because it’s only every two years that they will receive a recall letter.”
Ms. Green encourages members to use Facebook but also advocates the use of other social media platforms as well.
In terms of share of social media users, Facebook remains king, with 95 per cent of users. The 2016 Sensis Social Media Report indicated users, on average, spent 12.5 hours a week on the site on average – four hours more than the previous year.3
“Younger people are still using social media differently to the older demographic, with a definite skew towards more visual platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat for 18 to 29 year olds, and LinkedIn and Google+ for 40 to 49 year olds,” the Sensis report says.3
The report found the penetration of Twitter increased by two percentage points to 19 per cent.3
Doing Business Online
Whereas Eyecare Plus and George + Matilda stay away from selling products online, OPSM launched an eCommerce platform in 2014 and according to OPSM President Anthea Muir, it’s going well.
“Our website offers eye health information, the ability to book eye tests online in addition to the eCommerce of optical frames, sunglasses and contact lenses. For our contact lens customers, we also offer our subscription value plan enabling them to receive their contacts when and where they would like.”
Ms. Muir said it is an area of optometry her organisation believes will continue to grow and for this reason, OPSM is investing in website functionality including its own virtual try on technology. “It’s a fun and accessible way for us to be connected to these customers and increase conversions online,” she said.
The augmented reality concept is similar to a mobile application, already being used by the new online store Speqs. The App lets patients click on the frame they like, hold their phone up to their face and see the frame sitting perfectly in place, from all angles and even as they move around.
Make Everyone Feel Important
Whether you are online or in-store, selling product or providing information; excellent customer service, honest responses to their feedback; loyalty programs and a personalised approach will make the difference to your success.
Your online presence gives you the perfect opportunity to observe customer behaviours, find out what they’re searching for, interact with them and finesse your offers. By segmenting your customers into unique groups according to their demographic, buying behaviour, personal likes and dislikes, you can tailor information, products, offers and services to make them feel valued and important… Ultimately, you will win their loyalty.
Speqs Online Launches Virtual Reality Try On App
In September this year, a new online optometry store opened in Australia.
Speqs launched its store with a ‘world first’ augmented reality virtual try on App for eyewear. Neven Botica, who co-founded Speqs with optometrist Bjorn Russell said, “the online store offers customers more choice in eyewear and access to the best frames in the world”.
“The world is changing, everyone is buying online. We developed our App with (US based) Image Metrics, leaders in facial recognition technology. It’s a fun, engaging way for customers to virtually try frames on and share the experience with friends. The technology is highly sophisticated. One customer shared the App generated image of him virtually trying the frame with a photo of him wearing the actual frame. He couldn’t see the difference,” said Mr. Botica.
The App, available on iOS and Android, lets patients filter options for frame brand, style, colour, material; choose a frame from the online store; hold their phone up to their face then instantly see the frame sitting perfectly in place, from all angles and even as they move around; choose lens coatings; and upload their prescription.
The App measures the patient’s PD and segment heights, allowing Speqs to retail bifocals and multifocals. Delivery is free in Australia and health fund rebates can be claimed post purchase.