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Bill Gerber: Time To Learn the New Rules

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Sales flat? Customers going elsewhere? Try these 9 fresh approaches to optical retailing

The definition of insanity? According to my mother and other reliable sources, it is repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I believe it’s time to reclaim our sanity and get out of the flat-growth rut.

I developed the New Rules of Optical Retailing after a tour of over 75 successful practices. I realized that when basic retail fundamentals are ignored, it saps the industry of its ability to thrive. Here are nine rules to help vision care businesses maximize patient satisfaction and build practice income.

1. Optical clutter is out. Clean and simple is in. Buying eyewear is an infrequent event for most people. Make the experience pleasurable with a welcoming setting and by presenting your selection in an easy-to-understand, curated way.

2. Multiple pair sales begin in the exam lane with a written treatment plan. Progressive vision care practices have learned from dentistry that a written treatment plan from the doctor helps serve the patient’s total visual needs. Most eyecare pros say people need three pairs to meet their lifestyle needs, so why do so few patients buy what they truly need? Treatment plans combined with effective merchandising represent a big growth opportunity.

3. Gender, vendor and lifestyle signage are key to a thriving optical. Few retailers in other fields would open their doors without proper signage, yet studies show fewer than 5 percent of optical retailers have the signage they need. Signage and displays that visually support the doctor’s lifestyle treatment plan help boost the sale of multiple pairs and increase patient satisfaction.

4. Storytelling leads to discovery and more multi-pair purchases. Patients want to know the back stories of designers, collections and creations. Written descriptions and digital picture frames help share the inspiration behind what you’re selling.

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5. Frame boards are so ’50s. Eyewear design has radically outpaced this display method, and the individual details of each eyewear creation are lost when frames line up like soldiers on a wall. Shelving with minimal to zero cabinetry make your frames shine.

6. Lighting is important. Showcase your frames using the latest LED lighting. Good lighting brings out subtle detailing and stimulates the desire to own. Plan to spend at least 30 percent of a build-out or remodeling project on lighting.

7. Customers expect digital interaction. Incorporate tablets into all parts of your business: reception, pre-test, exam and optical. Technology makes your job easier, and it’s effective for lens presentation, digital measurements and retail storytelling.

8. The front windows are a major opportunity. Remember that frames are easily overlooked in window displays. Large-scale graphics (aka window clings) draw attention to the store, especially for people driving by and seeing the store from different angles and distances. Many frame and lens vendors will supply high-quality imagery that can be custom printed to fit specific window dimensions.

9. Waiting rooms are things of the past. You want to eliminate all barriers between the optical space and where patients spend time before their exam. Use comfortable lounge-like seating in what’s now known as the “reception area.” It’s a good way to encourage pre-appointment browsing and interaction between patients and the optical staff.

So there you have them: the New Rules of Optical Retailing. Use them to energize your business and boost your optical sales.

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Bill Gerber is Creative Director of OMG!, the Optical Marketing Group, which helps optical businesses fine-tune their spaces into a cohesive, customized modern environments where sales and customer satisfaction grow. Learn more at omghome.net.

This article originally appeared in the November 2014 edition of INVISION.

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