Buying Guide: Website Designers


Savvy web designers who build slick sites can help ECPs differentiate from their competitors.

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 edition of INVISION.

Once upon a time, a well-designed website was considered just a nice thing for a small business to have. Today it’s a must. The modern patient is likely to research your practice online, and probably a few others, before she ever walks through your doors. Steve Freed, vice president at EyeVertise, calls your website the “billboard” of your practice. If your billboard looks weathered and dated, it probably won’t persuade potential clients to get off at the nearest exit and see what you have to offer. Your site should also adhere to a few best practices and inform visitors about what you bring to the table. If done right, a newly redesigned website can convert visitors to clients and help you outshine your competition. — JESSE BURKHART

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Buying Guide: Kids' Eyewear Retainers



This article originally appeared in the May 2016 edition of INVISION.

Getting children in frames is one hurdle; keeping them on is another. Kids run, jump, play, climb trees, fall down, roll around ... you name it, and those little adventure-seekers have tried it (or are just about to). And when you’re dealing with a little one who wears glasses, his physical well-being isn’t the only precious commodity at risk. As eyecare providers, it is not only your job to provide your wee patients with healthy, clear vision but also with the security they need to keep track of their glasses. Eyewear retainers for kids offer a practical solution to keep eyewear in place, not to mention an opportunity for an add-on sale. — DEIRDRE CARROLL

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Buying Guide: Optical Lighting



This article originally appeared in the April 2016 edition of INVISION.

My brain gets a little bothered when it can’t decide what color something is. That’s when things get chatty upstairs: “Blue? No, it’s black. Or maybe it’s dark purple? No, it’s blue. It’s definitely blue. ... Right?” Now imagine your customer is having that same one-way conversation in her mind as she’s trying to determine the color of a pair of sunglasses. Think she’s likely to purchase? I don’t think so either. That’s why it’s important that ECPs use optical lighting that reflects the true colors of frames. Well-considered, strategic lighting can also make your shop look more welcoming to passers-by and create better ambiance. We turned to the pros for tips on lighting solutions. You might also want to plug into their expertise to make your eyewear pop and brighten the customer experience. — JESSE BURKHART

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Buying Guide: Optical Displays

Carry On

As optical display trends evolve, think ‘breathing’ and ‘branding’

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 edition of INVISION.

A marketing campaign from OMG shows an old block-style mobile phone next to a tired-looking tier of tortoise frames and the line: “The ’80s called. They want their eyewear displays back.” Although frame display trends don’t change as quickly as phone technology, if you’re using the same frame boards and display props you had a decade ago, it’s time to reboot.

Think breathing and branding. However you display them, don’t crowd your most beautiful frames. Give them space and help them tell their stories via signage, classy point-of-purchase lifestyle images and creative props. And don’t forget your windows.

Plenty of optical industry companies are ready to help you maximize your display space. But talk with local craftspeople, too, as they did at Eye Elegance in Houston, TX. Working with a concept from owner Daniel Protz, the shop turned to a local cabinet maker to realize the vision. The results: beautiful walnut cabinetry with LED-lit glass shelves and locally sourced quartz counters. — JULIE FANSELOW

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Buying Guide: Shopping Bags

Carry On

From customer service to advertising,
little bags are big multitaskers.

This article originally appeared in the February 2016 edition of INVISION.

In a lifetime of eyeglass purchases, I’m not sure I can remember a single time I received my new glasses in a bag of any kind. And it’s true some people won’t want or need a bag: They often leave wearing their new glasses after all, and they can easily store their old ones in a purse, backpack or briefcase. But smart ECPs are learning the value of presentation, and that includes offering a shopping bag of some sort, especially if you’re a high-end shop (or you aspire to be, or you’re giving someone a six-month supply of contact lenses).

National vendors and local advertising specialty shops can help you find the right bag for your needs. If you’re not ready to spring for special bags, here’s a hint from Island Opticians in Palm Beach, FL. “For now, we use Dollar Tree colored paper bags with handles and use jute to tie a hole-punched business card to them,” says owner Bryan Finley. “Not ‘custom,’ but clients say they are nice!” — JULIE FANSELOW


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Category Focus: Cleaning Cloths

Roundup of cleaning cloths for eyecare professionals


Quality cleaning cloths can add value to the customer experience

This article originally appeared in the November-December 2015 edition of INVISION.

Picture this: A man is pushing his grocery cart down the soup aisle when, suddenly, he stops, pulls off his glasses and wipes them with the end of his shirt.

The average Joe may not see the harm in this commonly used method for cleaning glasses. But if you’re an eyewear pro, you cringe at the thought of someone grinding dust and debris into an innocent lens with whatever they happen to be wearing at the time. Such guerrilla eyewear maintenance can be stopped, but only if your customer is equipped with a high-quality, microfiber cleaning cloth or another equally effective cleaning product.

Some ECPs offer their own cleaning cloths when they aren’t satisfied with the ones provided by the eyewear manufacturer. Many vendors can supply quality cloths branded with an ECP’s logo that not only do a good job of keeping lenses clean and clear, but also remind people where they bought their glasses.

The right cloth should add value for your customer while enhancing your image. If you provide your clients a cloth that’s worth keeping, you may just keep your clients for life. — JESSE BURKHART


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Category Focus: Exam Chairs

Roundup of exam chairs for eyecare professionals


Exam chairs should boost comfort
for your patients (and for you)

This article originally appeared in the October 2015 edition of INVISION.

Sitting in an exam chair will never feel like plopping down into your favorite armchair at home. But design and style advances can help patients feel more at ease — and that helps you provide the best possible exam experience.

Geoff White of S4Optik lists a few features to look for. In addition to a range of recline styles, from no-recline to fully motorized, look for a headrest that is adjustable with one hand; armrests and footrests that can handle a patient’s full weight; and a lift mechanism that can retract low enough for elderly or infirm patients and high enough that the doctor can easily examine shorter patients (and have adequate force to raise heavier patients over years of service). Ready to upgrade? Most manufacturers sell very basic setups all the way up to a completely automatic chair, so consider your options to make life easier for you and your patients. — CAROL GILHAWLEY


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Category Focus: Buying Groups

Roundup of buying groups for eyecare pros


Many ECPs find advantages in
aligning, buying with others

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 edition of INVISION.

Strength — and savings — in numbers. That’s the basic idea behind buying groups and practice alliances. By banding together, ECPs can reap discounts on everything from frames and contacts to lab services and practice management solutions.

The top groups among 353 ECPs surveyed by The Vision Council last year: Vision Source (used by 45), C & E (37) , OOGP (32), Block Business Group (31), ABB Concise/ABB Optical/Primary Eyecare Network (28), Vision West (27), ADO (25), Alliance and HMI (24 each), with IDOC and PECCA close behind.

Nearly a quarter of the respondents said they have no affiliation. About a quarter said they use more than one buying group or alliance, and some INVISION Brain Squad members agree. “We use PERC, IDOC and C & E,” reports Susan Kantor of Central Phoenix Eyecare. “They do help with some discounts, although, with our volume, the best discounts usually come by going direct with a company.” And some ECPs pick and choose, using a buying group for some products and services, but not for others. Dr. Dave Schultz of Urban Optics in San Luis Obispo, CA, uses a buying group for lab services but not for frames since, he notes, “most independent frame lines don’t participate.” Many optical pros find that smaller groups serve them well. Douglas Manhire of Manhire Opticians in Hackettstown, NJ, joined Villavecchia Buying Group when it started in 1980 and is still a member.

As with any business decision, it’s smart to do your research and talk with colleagues before signing on with a buying group or alliance. Remember, too, that what works for you today may not be the best solution next year. So be agile, flexible and ready to do whatever will best serve your business and your customers. — JULIE FANSELOW


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Category Focus: Computerized Vision Testers

Roundup of computerized vision testers


Automation and digital technology give
refraction equipment an update

This article originally appeared in the July-August 2015 edition of INVISION.

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany, Babe Ruth pitched for the Red Sox and the Woolf Ski-optometer and DeZeng Phoro-Optometer emerged. Basic refraction technology hasn’t changed much since then, but digital phoropters — also known as computerized refractors or automated vision testers — offer updated options. The newer phoropters easily fit in an exam lane and can provide a more accurate refraction in less time. Designs are user-friendly and the units often come with built-in pre-programmed tests. Visionix’s VX 55, for example, uses a tablet to control the whole refraction process, including the LCD charts display.

Dr. Lisa Genovese and her husband, Dr. Jason MacLaughlin, chose Reichert’s Phoropter VRx Digital Refraction System for their new practice in Williamsville, NY. “Connectivity to our EMR can make me more efficient by decreasing click and points as well as transcription error,” she says. “The VRx allows me to seamlessly compare an old Rx to a new Rx,” so patients are more likely to fill the new prescription, she adds. Joel Kozlowski of Reichert says the VRx was designed to make refractions more efficient, “which results in additional revenue on the exam side as well as the dispensary.”

A relative newcomer to this field is Vmax Vision, whose products use math to calculate a prescription. With Point Spread Function technology, their digital phoropters allow patients to discern more subtle differences in focus than those obtained using Snellen letters. This way, prescriptions can be refined to 0.05D, rather than to the 0.25D found with traditional phoropters. — CAROL GILHAWLEY


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Category Focus: Contact Lens Solutions

Contact lens solutions for eyecare businesses and practices


Help patients stay healthy and comfortable
with customized care regimens for contacts

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 edition of INVISION.

Imagine if the old TV series Kung Fu did an episode on ECPs. A young student asks the wise Master Po: “Master, when it comes to the proper care of contact lenses, what is the answer?” The old sage replies, “Ah, Grasshopper. You have much to learn, for the solution to your question lies in the solution.”

Not everyone wears daily disposable contacts, so users of other lens types need effective solutions to disinfect and moisten lenses for comfort all day long, says Dr. Benjamin Chudner of Bausch & Lomb. The Centers for Disease Control estimates nearly 1 milllion annual visits to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms for contact-related problems. Dr. Charissa Lee of Johnson & Johnson says that although people should know to read and follow labels, ECPs still ought to talk with patients upfront about effective lens care. This “show and tell” is something mass merchandisers can’t do, so helping patients learn good lens hygiene is a way to keep them coming to you for their contacts. — CAROL GILHAWLEY


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