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John Marvin

Consumer Eyecare Requirements: Affordability and Availability

Part one in a two-part series on the findings of some post-pandemic consumer focus groups and their eyecare and eyewear priorities.




“You want to enhance the journey and create a better experience for all by reducing friction. Why? Because where friction exists, frustration exists — and frustrated buyers and customers will seek out the path of least resistance.”— Caitlin Burgess, TopRank Marketing

RECENTLY, OUR COMPANY conducted a series of focus groups to determine if consumers’ behavior has changed due to the pandemic. We took a two-pronged approach. The first topic we explored was if the pandemic changed how people select a new location for their primary eyecare. The second was to learn the critical factors of consumer loyalty in primary eyecare. What we discovered was astonishing. This column is Part 1 where we will explore our findings of how people select a new location for their eyecare.

When consumers select a new eyecare location, they impose precise requirements. We can summarize it into two areas: affordability and availability.

Affordability: It probably comes as no surprise that consumers want to be sure they are not spending more money than necessary on their eyecare. However, this decision is full of Ms. Burgess’ “friction.”


Many consumers use a third-party payer to ensure they are not overpaying for clinical services or Rx eyewear. When customers say they only want eyewear that a third-party payer mostly or entirely covers, they are not being cheap or defensive. They believe that if they limit their purchase to what their benefit plan provides, they will not be susceptible to spending unnecessary money.

We have made the purchase of these services and materials confusing and intimidating. The infamous “two pair and a free exam for a flat fee” is appealing because it simplifies the expense of both eyecare and eyewear, not just because it is low in price. This is an important finding…

Simplicity in pricing is fundamental to consumers.

If you are not fully knowledgeable of your competitors’ prices, you are pricing your services in the dark. Remember, the value of anything is what someone else will pay for it. You don’t have to be the least expensive, but you do need to be competitive.

Availability: This is one of the more significant findings of this project. Over the past 20 years, we have become an “on-demand” society. We want what we want when we want it. This has become a much more critical demand post-pandemic.

Prospective patients and customers are no different regarding eyecare services and Rx eyewear. Consumers reported they will pay more to get what they want when they want it. But they reminded us that with competition among providers, they are confident they will not have to pay more for this convenience.

I imagine everyone reading this column has called a healthcare provider only to be told it will be several weeks before they can get an appointment. If you are looking for a new provider, I will bet you called someone else hoping for a more available appointment. People seeking a new eyecare provider don’t have to wait. A new patient has several choices if you’re in an urban or large, populated area.


You choose to be less available when you close on Saturday, but your competitors do not. If you decide to strictly limit the number of exams you perform without making exceptions for those requesting an appointment “today or tomorrow,” you are choosing to be less available.

My father, a practicing family physician for over 50 years, told me that when he was in medical school, he was told by a professor that to be successful as a physician, you had to embody three A’s. You must be available, you must be affable, and you must be able.

In my next column, I will report what we learned about creating loyalty among patients and customers to ensure years of support and purchases.



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