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John Marvin

Consumers Always Get What They Want … Are You Providing It?

Consumers’ demand for convenience has accelerated, will you accept and respond to those changes?

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WHEN PEOPLE PURCHASE a quarter-inch drill bit, it is not because they want a drill bit, it is because they want a quarter-inch hole!” – Harvard Business School Professor, Theodore Levitt

When it comes to consumer behavior, people get what they want. The challenge for many small businesses is that what people want, changes. Recently, I purchased a two-pack of fine-grained sea salt from Amazon. I did not make this purchase because I could not purchase fine-grained sea salt from my local grocery. What I purchased was not fine-grained sea salt. What I purchased was the convenience of having it delivered. In fact, this convenience persuaded me to buy two packs.

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Consumers’ demand for convenience has accelerated due to concern over coronavirus, and now that consumers have a taste for it, they have become insatiable.

Large corporations, who monitor the behavior of their customers, pay close attention, and are investing to provide what their customers want. Most small businesses don’t have the expertise or resources to do this. In the end, this is why small business will have difficulty competing with larger, more sophisticated providers of the same services or products. We are seeing this happen through consolidation in our industry. An independent ECP does not have the resources to measure changing consumer demands. They learn of these changes when they lose business to a competitor who can respond to those demands.

During the months of restrictions, there was a lot of discussion about the effective use of tele-optometry. By August, it was just a small bit of chat among early adopters. When their offices were shut down, doctors were interested and wanted tele-optometry. When their offices reopened, interest waned. That is, unless you were a consumer. Consumers like the convenience of conducting their follow-ups online or over the phone versus traveling to an office.

The consumer always gets what they want. If demand is strong, then someone will fill that need. This is how Warby Parker started. Three college friends thought the amount they were paying for glasses was ridiculous and there had to be a better way.

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They were consumers who wanted something different. They didn’t find anyone doing what they wanted, so they created it. That’s how consumerism works. Customers get what they want.

Optometry and the optical profession would be wise to learn this lesson. The way eyecare is delivered today — and will be delivered five years from now — is different from 20, or even 10, years ago. The demands of consumers change. If we as a profession don’t recognize this and change with it, then we will be replaced.

There is no villain in this story. It is not some form of corporate oppression that is driving these changes. It is your customers. They are having new experiences and they like these experiences better than what they had in the past. They are demanding this new experience in all aspects of consumerism. According to the Business Insider Intelligence Report, in 2019, 24 percent of consumers purchased groceries online sometimes or often. In 2021, that number is 55 percent. Do you think this will change and go back to the way it was in 2019? No chance. In fact, it will grow. The traditional big box grocery store will change its format. Why have an 80,000 square foot store if half of your customers never come into it?

The demands and wants of our patients and customers are also changing. The question is, will you accept and respond to those changes?

Remember, the customer always gets what they want.

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John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the practiceprinciples.net blog. You can email him at [email protected]

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