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HomemibusinessTapping into the Millennial Market

Tapping into the Millennial Market

The millennial market is a massive opportunity for optometry practices in Australia and New Zealand. However, to tap into this market, you need to have the most appropriate tools for communication, stock the ideal products and be prepared to shower these patients with attention.

Millennial consumers are today’s economic engine room. A report by Nielsen predicted that over the five years 2016-2021, they will account for AU$6.1 billion of growth in the retail sector.1 Suffice to say, there’s a huge opportunity for brands to connect with this growing demographic, but with opportunity comes competition. Brands need to be strategic with their marketing and sales strategies to stand out in a crowded marketplace, including eyewear.

They boast significant purchasing power, but their decisions are calculated, rarely making a purchase until they’ve compared all options for price and quality

Travel, fashion and lifestyle blogger Shaun Birley


When connecting with ‘millennials’ in store, it’s important to know what motivates them as consumers.

Firstly, let’s consider what is meant by ‘millennials’. The definition varies but it’s generally assumed to be those who were born between 1981 and 1996. This means the oldest among them are heading towards 40, and may well be homeowners and/or parents, whereas the youngest will be just out of university, entering the workplace and perhaps enjoying disposable income for the first time.

Millennial consumers are often characterised by their ubiquitous digital usage and connectedness. They’ve grown up with social media being the norm; 84% of those aged 27 to 32 use social media daily.2 They boast significant purchasing power, but their decisions are calculated, rarely making a purchase until they’ve compared all options for price and quality. Importantly, because businesses in all sectors have been responding to this increasingly profitable market, this generation of consumers has become highly accustomed to being actively ‘courted.’


Travel, fashion and lifestyle blogger Shaun Birley has worked with numerous global brands, with a particular focus on fashion. For just under a decade Shaun’s business focused on helping brands grow their business internationally in the e-commerce world.

He’s identified a movement among millennials away from the age of ‘fast fashion’ purchases, with preferences evolving to embrace more quality products. This, he believes, is partly attributed to changes in financial circumstances as the group ages and has more disposable income.

However, he says it is because this audience is also very savvy when it comes to their image and personal brand. “You’ll find social media is becoming a more visual version of a CV when it comes to professional accomplishments as well as the lifestyle their occupation is creating for them. Associating yourself with high quality brands is a part of the image.”

This is particularly pertinent to eyewear. Purchasing a new pair of frames and lenses can be a significant investment, so millennials will want to ensure they’re buying a brand that exudes style and quality. It might not necessarily be about the big global names – quality and attention in the craft of the design is equally important.

With a recent report finding that 73% of millennials are willing to spend more on products that are sustainable,3 it comes as no surprise that Mr Birley has also seen a growing trend among millennials in favour of handmade, European-designed, but Australian-made products, particularly those with an association to an ethical or non-profit organisation.


Millennials are particularly influenced by suggestions from others. Often a combination of mutual recommendations from different circles – friends, family, or public figures – will ultimately push a patient to make the final decision.

being able to engage and connect with style-conscious glasses wearers while they are young can lead to lifelong customers

Remember that even before they enter a store, it’s likely a millennial customer will have already researched and have a clear idea of the style and brand they want to buy. It’s important to listen to the patient and understand their pre-existing ideas, so you can offer meaningful recommendations that respond to their personal preferences.

SUMMER 2019/20

Now that we’re well into the warmer months of the year, there are some clear trends in the world of clothing and eyewear that are on the wish list of millennials. ‘Nineties’ with a contemporary twist is going to be big. Animal print continues to be a strong trend, as are pastel shades such as lavender. Lighter fabrics and bolder patterns are becoming more prevalent.

Mr Birley predicts “loose light denim jeans, T-shirts and older patterns, especially in floral,” are on their way. This will translate to eyewear with the narrower frames of the ‘90s making a comeback, along with classic frames.

Transitions Style Academy

The clear transparent framed glasses that have been particularly popular with a younger demographic will continue, as well as eye-catching animal prints and the classic tortoiseshell.

Of course, lens choice needs to complement frame selection and Transitions Style Colours offer some great options that millennials have embraced since their launch. When recommending these lenses, consider which colour suits the patient’s tone, hair colour, and style preferences as well as their frame choice – an amber lens, for example, beautifully suits a tortoiseshell frame. If you’re opting for a simple black or grey frame, consider emerald, which suits many skin types and aesthetics.


Millennials are also very engaged in health and fitness compared to previous generations. Mr Birley notes, “The posts on social media tend to be about yoga, pilates, or the gym, eating acai bowls then going out that night, followed up with a quote the next day ‘sweating out last night’s Champagne’. It’s about balance – keeping well and healthy, but equally having fun and not denying yourself the good things in life.”

This awareness of the importance of looking after yourself extends to young people’s understanding of eye health. They’re aware of sun damage as well as the effects of laptops and phones. They’ve heard of blue light, and while they may not have a full understanding of what it means, this provides an opportunity to educate and inform. Bear in mind, however, that an emphasis on health can’t come at the expense of style. Glasses wearers who are concerned about UV and blue light won’t choose lenses that are practical and offer protection but are unfashionable. Engaging customers on this topic provides an opportunity to recommend Transitions Style Colours, which block 100% of UV rays and potentially harmful blue light while also being available in four different colours, to suit the individual’s style.

With 10 million Australians (52%) aged over 14 stating that they swim, cycle or run,4 dispensers have an opportunity to recommend glasses that make a transition from indoor to outdoor activity much easier. Once again, keep in mind that style will still be a priority, and this can go hand in hand with practicality, thanks to many of the new adaptive lenses available, such as Transitions Style Colours and Transitions XTRActive Mirrors, which capitalise on the ‘mirror’ trend. It’s worth asking a patient if they spend time exercising outdoors and if they do, recommending a pair of glasses that allow for the seamless transition from work to sport to socialising without compromising on style or quality.


As part of the new Transition Style Academy initiative, which is rolling out across Australia, Essilor is providing support to practices and dispensers so they feel more confident when communicating to younger patients, particularly in relation to trends and style.

Eyewear has never been more fashion-led and being able to engage and connect with style-conscious glasses wearers while they are young can lead to lifelong customers. It’s therefore worth taking the time to find out what these patients are looking for, and how to relate to them, then providing recommendations and advice that relate to their personal preferences and wider trends. If your patient knows your practice prioritises style, understands different tastes, aesthetics and evolving styles, they’ll keep returning for decades ahead.

The world of style and fashion can seem intimidating, but it needn’t be. Rather than going in cold, put the ball in the patients’ court. Ask them what colours they usually wear. Are they conventional, or happy to go a bit ‘out there’?

As Mr Birley says, “Focus on customising both frames and lens colours available to the consumer. It doesn’t mean they have to choose that lens colour or frame, but it allows them to pair colours that suit each other.”

When you are approachable and able to encourage a two-way conversation, your patient is likely to place their confidence in your advice and feel more empowered to take your recommendations.

Tara McCabe is the Marketing and Business Development Director at Essilor Australia. Ms McCabe has over 20 years’ experience in business marketing, specialising in optical, fast moving consumer goods, and consumer health across the Asia Pacific region. Leading the team within Essilor Australia and New Zealand, she has developed and implemented strategies to build brand awareness and increase penetration of key brands across the optometry industry. Since 2017, Ms McCabe has directed a number of high profile launches including Varilux X Series, Crizal Sapphire UV, and the OSA rebrand. She managed the conception and roll out of the Transitions Style Academy program across Australia in 2019. 


  1. Nielsen Australian Millennial Report March 2017 www. shopnielsen.com/all/nielsen-millennials-report-march-2017 
  2. Deloitte Media Consumer Survey, 2016: www2.deloitte. com/au/en/pages/media-releases/articles/deloitte-mediaconsumer- survey-150816.html 
  3. Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 2015: www.nielsen.com/us/en/press-releases/2015/consumergoods- brands-that-demonstrate-commitment-tosustainability- outperform 
  4. Roy Morgan, 2016: www.roymorgan.com/findings/6700- australians-who-swim-run-and-cycle-and-do-triathlonsdecember- 2015-201603010006