The Battle For Optical Sales is On!
Local Eye Care Professionals vs. E-commerce
By Idan Tzror, VP of Retail Operations, Sunbit, Inc.
According to the Statista Consumer Market Outlook, by 2023 online retail is forecasted to account for 21% of optical sales. If you own or work in a brick & mortar optical business, this means that the Warby Parkers of the world are taking a larger piece of the pie. It’s time for traditional optical retailers to take action, protect their ground and grow their businesses.
COVID-19 stay-at-home policies have pushed more people to adopt e-commerce faster than expected. The smaller, independently owned shops are struggling to keep pace and provide the shopping experiences that consumers are growing accustomed to from e-commerce platforms.
Now that consumers are slowly returning to physical stores, they’re expecting the same experiences they get online. From working closely with successful optical retailers, we’ve seen that there are two things SMB optical retailers can do to win this battle: Learn from e-commerce trends to modernize their in-store customer experience and lean into the competitive advantage of old-fashioned human-to-human relationships.
The New: Buy Now, Pay-Over-Time
Across all fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), e-commerce shot up from accounting for $1 in every $10 spent to $3 in $10—in just 6-months! At the same time, consumers are becoming familiar with Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) solutions during the online checkout process to buy what they want and split their purchase over time. The results are higher average order values and increasing incremental revenue for online retailers. This new way to pay is becoming commonplace, and brick & mortar retailers need to adapt, quickly, or be left behind.
Innovators like Kent Inglehart, General Manager of Dr. Tavel Optical Group, leverages Sunbit technology to offer BNPL solutions and grow revenue. “After launching Sunbit, we experienced a significant lift in sales. To gain a full understanding of the impact of Sunbit on our business, we performed an in-depth analysis. The analysis compared the spend of patients who used Sunbit to their previous purchase amounts. We also looked at a control group of patients who did not use Sunbit within the same time frame. The results were jaw-dropping—Sunbit patients spent 123% more! It is overwhelmingly clear that Sunbit unlocks additional spending that patients would not otherwise have been able to make.”
At Sunbit we have built a brick-and-mortar-first technology that helps optical retailers provide a buy now, pay-over-time experience both in-store and online. Offering access to payment plans in-store is not easy, which is why other BNPL providers have shied away from it. It requires approving almost everyone who applies (with fair rates), providing a lightning-fast application process with little to no data entry, and not dinging someone’s credit score just for applying. Additionally, it helps to be a people business that trains store associates and provides the necessary shopper marketing and day-to-day support a retailer requires to offer a financing solution confidently.
For small retailers, getting paid right away is key, and we ensure they get quickly. Moreover, we extend the experience from their store into managing their customer’s payment plan, providing service that’s friendly, flexible and accessible. If their customer needs to reschedule a payment, they simply call us and our friendly and reasonable customer service team works with them. We boast an 82 Net Promoter Score (NPS) score because of it.
The Old: White Glove Service
What physical retailers have that can never be matched online is the human touch. Relationships still matter, especially when it comes to healthcare, in any form. While some online retailers have started offering online vision assessments, ensuring the health of your eyes still requires an exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Online vision exams are also often not covered by insurance. Exams become the main draw into the store, and a smiling staff and great in-store experience gets patients to stay and buy.
Dr. Raymond Brill, owner of Brill Eye Center in Kansas City, says, “We handle cases that are straightforward, as well as some very complex cases, and our customers appreciate both the time and the quality of the interaction they’re having with me and my staff. Each person who walks through my exam room door is given the focused and attentive treatment they deserve. There is no hurry up and wait here.”
Not everyone is going to interact with a chatbot, but nearly everyone will return a friendly smile from a sales associate. There’s a degree of human intelligence that has yet to be duplicated by machines and marketing algorithms.
When an employee greets a customer and asks if they need anything, the customer is much more likely to open up and share what they are looking for. In the process the shopper might give additional contextual clues that can help the employee make further recommendations.
Consider what Lisa Rollins, co-owner of Optical Matters in Denver, CO, says.
“Our underlying advantage is our friendly, bright team and our incredibly thorough doctor. Much of our business is driven by word of mouth, and online services such as Google Reviews or Nextdoor continue to drive new business into our store,” she said. “Once they’re here, our customers keep coming back because they’re able to trust our recommendations, and they appreciate the authentic and personal interactions we offer – each and every time. I’m confident that no online-only retailer could provide the same level of engagement.”
The battle has only begun and SMB Optical Retailers have a fighting chance.
It’s easy for physical stores to feel left behind by the online onslaught, but there’s no reason for in-store retailers to feel inferior; the truth is, the online experience is actually modeled on what’s offered in-store. By celebrating the benefits of an in-person experience: human interaction, attention, and assistance, retailers can create an exceptional customer journey that can’t be replicated online. Simultaneously, looking at what’s working online and replicating in-store makes for an enriched experience that will keep foot traffic and in-store spend on an upward clip.
Give your customers something to look forward to when they visit your store and they will keep finding reasons to come back. By prioritizing each stage of the customer journey, brick and mortar retailers can create their own superfans.
Learn more about Sunbit at www.sunbit.com. Financing offered is made by Transportation Alliance Bank, Inc., dba TAB Bank, which determines qualifications for and terms of credit.