Key would be providing a 360-degree client experience

Jack Vernon on owning an eyecare business

Although I’d love to design an optical shop for myself I would let go of my ego and ask several questions first:

  • Who is my customer? What does she wear? Where does he shop? What music do they listen to? What kind of service do they want and need? If I needed help defining my ideal customer, I would ask a marketing company that specializes in branding to help me out.
  • Where do they hang out? I really enjoy a vibrant pedestrian retail zone with cafes and shops, yet I must ask myself, “Is this where my customer would want to come for eyecare?”
  • Being a successful independent optometry business is more than providing top-notch professional patient eyecare, it also means providing a great customer experience — and a well-trained staff is the key to that experience. 

Once I knew who my customer was and had identified a great staff to serve them, it would be time to design a 360-degree experience for our client.

The storefront would be our first opportunity to connect naturally with the public to present our services and products and draw clients in. We wouldn’t hide behind eyewear marketing posters. Instead, our storefront would communicate the essence of what can be found on the other side of the glass to make our clients feel comfortable approaching and venturing over the threshold. 

“Once I knew who my customer was and had identified a great staff to serve them, it would be time to design a 360-degree experience for our client.”

Once our client enters they’d be greeted by a dedicated assistant who would guide them through their entire visit. Upon greeting, the customer would travel a choreographed path through the optic area with their assistant introducing them to merchandise as they proceed to reception.

The optic area would be the heart and soul of the customer experience. I would design it to be a user-friendly space with well-coordinated lighting, fixtures, furniture, and materials that reflect our professionalism and attention to detail. 

After checking in at reception, the client would be guided to the lounge where comfortable seating integrated into the optical area would allow them to browse the eyewear while waiting for their exam.

 For their examination, clients would be welcomed to an exam room featuring colors — floor, walls and ceiling — that convey a relaxed professionalism. After an excellent exam and eyecare consultation the doctor would accompany them to reception to schedule any follow up appointments.  

Then the client would be escorted to the optic area by their same assistant where a variety of coordinated wall and floor displays create visual interest and flexible merchandising. Some display companies offer free design services which tend to make all optic areas look the same, acceptable for a chain store, but wouldn’t express our individualistic brand. 

To make selecting the right frame easier, part of the assistant’s job would be to photograph the customer in each frame and post the images to a mirror to provide a side by side comparison. The assistant would then discreetly complete the purchase and coordinate the lens/frame order to be fulfilled on-site. 

How I invite my clients in and lead them through the optometry experience via design and service is critical to creating an environment that I believe will attract and keep clients.


Jack Verdon, AIA, is a licensed architect and the principal owner of the San Francisco design firm Verdon Architects, specializing in contemporary solutions for service retail boutiques. His firm offers design and architectural services to assist clients from concept through construction, as well as lighting design and custom furniture design. Verdon Architects also offers a free downloadable 8 Step Optometry Office Design Guide at invmag.us/031701.

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