It’s the start of another week. There are patients to see, issues to sort out… plenty to get done. The weeks roll by and before you know it, another year has gone…somewhere in there you had intended to plan for the future and make some changes.
FORGET THE FUTURE, IN OPTOMETRY IT’S ALREADY HERE!
The profession of optometry has seen significant change in recent years. Essilor is in the process of merging with Luxottica; LVMH acquired 10 per cent of Marcolin then set up its own design and manufacturing facility before investing in Gentle Monster. Many eyewear companies, particularly in the luxury eyewear sector, have adopted the D2C business model, opening up multiple locations in Asia and the US. Your bestselling eyewear may now be your competition. Buyouts and acquisitions are the new norm.
Optometry is being corporatised and new competitors are emerging both in Australia and overseas. As an example, early in 2015 Warby Parker raised approximately AUS$270 million of venture capital, valuing the company at over $1.5 billion.
There is more to come… this is just the beginning of significant disruption to the eye care industry.
TECHNOLOGY AND DEMOGRAPHICS
These changes, to a large degree, have been due to advances in technology, which have changed the way consumers are able to research and purchase goods and services. Major demographic changes have also had an impact. Millennials have replaced Baby Boomers as the dominant generation. They, and other digital native generations to follow, are more technically savvy.
This new breed of consumer is more connected to devices and data, more comfortable moving seamlessly across multiple media channels, and generally more informed than ever before. For the first time, they are in the driver’s seat and their expectations of retailers and the health care profession have changed.
This new ‘connected’ generation of shoppers is focused on experience and they expect their shopping experience to be like other facets of their lives: personalised and tailored to their needs and interests. Increasingly, they demand one-to-one connections and interactions business case study or becoming another ‘Kodak’, our profession needs to learn to respond by meeting their demands…to thrive, we must operate in this new seamless world and create engaging consumer-centric experiences.
TRENDS IN E-COMMERCE
Last year e-commerce amounted to a mere 8.5 per cent of the world’s retail spending. In America, the world’s biggest consumer market, e-commerce made up about 10 per cent of total of consumer spending.
A small proportion of total spending yes, but this is just the beginning – in fact, e-commerce has been growing by 20 per cent a year for the past decade.
Emotionally engaged customers deliver significant impact to business outcomes
Over the coming years, the effects of e-commerce on business and society will be huge; not only because retailing is a big employer that touches many industries, but because e-commerce is lowering the barriers of entry into markets by providing a simpler, cheaper way for small manufacturers to distribute goods and find potential buyers.
Consumers have already gained much from this, and there is more to come. They are enjoying a broader choice of goods and more price transparency than ever before. Instead of spending time travelling to shops, picking up goods and waiting in queues, they can now do other things. Companies compete to offer them
better products, greater convenience and improved service.
As a consequence of e-commerce, traditional retailing is going through revolutionary change. Traffic in shopping centres in Europe’s biggest markets has been declining. In America, the pain is acute. Fung Global Retail & Technology, a consultancy, expects nearly 10,000 stores in America to close this year. Between 2007 and 2017, the number of retail jobs in America shrank by 140,000.1
But all is not lost. The good news for optometry is that consumers in rich countries in particular, are spending more on services, health care and entertainment as opposed to goods… and this provides our sector with some powerful opportunities.
THE BRICKS AND MORTAR ADVANTAGE
Despite ever expanding online retail options, our new generation of connected shoppers will continue to purchase from bricks-and-mortar stores that offer an exceptional, differentiated customer experience. This is something that online shopping sites can never match and, fortunately for us, it works to the advantage of the eye care profession.
However, if you think you are already providing your customers with a ‘differentiated customer experience’ think again. The world has changed. We are talking about creating new, exciting experiences using technology’s full potential disrupt traditional retail environments.
There are plenty of smart people around the world working on disruption strategies.
In eye care for example, we have seen the rise of online eyewear and contact lens sales, telemedicine, smartphone refraction and advances in measurement technologies disrupt the way we manage traditional prescription eyewear transactions.
Advances in wavefront analysis, point spread function, metrics and high order aberration analysis are leading to improved prescriptions… they can be delivered remotely. Opternative for example, is an online prescription application service for eyeglasses and contact lenses that has a partnership with 1-800 Contacts in the US. This online service allows patients to update their prescriptions without seeing an optometrist in-person, making it easier for patients to order their updated contact lens prescriptions on line.
Recently US media reported the experience of a Virginia mother, who noticed her 11-month-old son’s eyes becoming red with a yellow discharge. She used a service called Teladoc, offered through her health fund, to reach a physician by video call on her smartphone. Within minutes, the condition had been diagnosed as conjunctivitis and within half an hour, an eye drop prescription was ready for collection at a local pharmacy.2
Compare that with the typical procedure of taking a child with worrying symptoms to the GP or eye care professional. First, if it’s a weekday, the parent and patient will have to wait for the practice to open, then, hope for a same-day appointment. The visit may take the parent out of work and the child out of school. It will take time to travel to the practice, wait to see the eye care professional if they’re running behind schedule, then queue up at the pharmacy and wait for the script to be filled. Eventually, the treatment can begin. Why wouldn’t patients choose the convenience of a digital diagnosis if it was on offer?
Why couldn’t an algorithm be used to analyse a retinal scan taken from the pharmacy or shopping centre kiosk and provide a diagnosis, report or referral?
EXPECTATIONS VS. DELIVERY: UNDERSTANDING THE GAP
Today, retailers cannot compete on product selection and price alone – they must compete on the in-store experience. Yet studies show that most are underdelivering, without realising it – there is a disconnect between perception and reality. Bain & Company reported a 72 per cent gap between what companies assume is an excellent customer experience they are delivering and the customers’ expectations.3
McKinsey & Co4 and Accenture5 highlight the consequence of not meeting customer expectations, reporting that 55 per cent of Australian customers switch companies due to a poor customer experience and 48 per cent are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.
Harvard Business Review tells us that this is vitally important because consumers who enjoy a positive retail experience are three times more likely to repurchase, recommend a company’s products and services, and less likely to shop around.6 Emotionally engaged customers deliver significant impact to business outcomes.
HOW CAN YOU DELIVER A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE?
Over many years, the eye care profession has become conditioned to receiving technology and products with no upfront price paid. Ultimately, these do come at a cost, even though they may not deliver the best solution to your patients.
To deliver unique personal experiences that win patient loyalty, it is essential to invest in purpose-designed technology that will enable your business to connect with staff and patients, and retain its relevance.
Patients expect advice, guidance and access to technology that empowers them to be part of the decision making process when it comes to managing their vision and any eye condition they may have – the paternal model of the eye health professional making decisions on their behalf are long gone.
Patients also expect consistent interactions and experiences when visiting their eye health provider, regardless of which team member they communicate with.
All of this means that your staff need to be equipped with technology that lets them deliver the highest level of customer service, expert advice, and an engaging experience.
Ultimately, they are the ones who will shape the customer experience with their ability to provide product knowledge, efficiency and meaningful connections with your patients. The qualities which will become most important are appearance, personality, sensitivity, empathy, problem solving skills, readiness, efficiency and ultimately, a willingness to own, manage and care for our patients’ total optical experience. Repeatedly consumers report that there is no online substitute for knowledgeable in-store assistance and a positive shopping experience.
Traditionally the eye care profession has been slow to embrace change. By nature, we wait for perfection. We tend to resist taking time out to consider the unknown, preferring instead to stick with what we know. If it isn’t broke don’t fix it!
But if it isn’t broke then someone will disrupt it!
Exploring the unknown, embracing change and evolving with the market will bring new opportunities and ensure your survival ahead of the competition.
Whatever comes next, the latest developments in eye technology are already providing a world of possibilities to enhance patients’ vision and eye care. It’s important to embrace the changes and work out how to make them work for you so that you and your team is equipped to provide the best possible eye care and visual performance possible.
As William Gibson said, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”
Jim Papas is an optometrist with over 30 years business experience in optical retailing, business and brand development, training, technology and software design and development. He is the owner of eyeclarity in Melbourne and the founder of myeyes, an innovative Australian software program for spectacle and contact lens dispensing.
Mr Papas’ dedication to business excellence, customer service and retail innovation has been recognised with over 25 national, local and government awards for retailing, customer service and software innovation. Mr. Papas was a finalist in the Australian Retail Awards 2017 Disruptor of the Year category.
1. Workers: Fear not the robot apocalypse – The Australian, 6 Sept, 2017
4. McKenzie – McKinsey’s 2013 findings for North American banking and customer experience implications.
5. Accenture Australia Strategy 2016
6. Magids, S, Zorfas, A, Leemon D. The New Science of Customer Emotions – 2015.
Myeyes Optometry Software
Delivering quality eye care and selling eyewear is complex. To be effective necessitates extensive technical training, product knowledge and experience. Without this, we see errors occur and variable results when it comes to achieving high levels of sales staff performance, customer satisfaction and profitability.
The myeyes algorithm, developed by optometrist Jim Papas, is an optometry driven software platform with a number of applications that give practices a competitive advantage. The software helps maximise traffic, engagement, conversion and fulfilment throughout the customer journey, from clinical management to dispensing. Additionally, myeyes helps practices build their brand by ensuring all staff, even across multiple locations, provide consistent service and advice.
myeyes personalises and improves the in-store experience by:
• Providing a training and management platform for optical stores
• Improving patient education through visual aids;
• Improving convenience and efficiency
• Improving stores sales
myeyes recently received the highly competitive Accelerating Commercialisation Grant under the Federal Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Program due to its unique and innovative approach.
Enquiries – www. myeyes.vision or call +61 3 9326 4266