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Michael Karlsrud: The New Norm In Retailing




The world of optical is a war for the spoils — consumers. On one side,
those who succeed if the traditional model of optometry remains. On the other,
the disrupters who succeed if the model changes.

After two decades of driving buyers to the Internet, eyewear e-commerce is
a reality that has steadily gained market share over the last five years.

The traditionalists have responded as expected to defend their stake in
the war; controlling PD measurements, instilling fear about buying eyewear
online, creating doubt about product quality, and warning “buyer beware.”

The disrupters have taken a completely different approach. They’ve met
the consumer where they are shopping. They have found a way to significantly
cut costs to consumers by eliminating several steps and markups. They too,
are defending their position and are gaining ground.

While the consumer? The consumer is the one really winning. They are
more empowered than ever with abundant
choices, regular advertising about low pricing,
and incentives to buy inexpensive eyewear online.
It’s mass commoditization of the industry.

So, where can the two sides meet? By choosing
their battles. For example, opticians and
doctors have very different views on the battle
for the PD. Opticians see it as an affront to their
profession that can lead to lasting negative feelings toward the practice. Doctors
want to keep the patient happy
and make sure they leave feeling
they are welcome back no matter
where they buy glasses.


Lose the battle, win the war.

Recognize that people are curious
about buying glasses online —
at least once. Society has trained
them to go there, many since birth,
so don’t punish them if they do.
Will you lose some revenue from
single vision patients? Yes. Will
you more than make up for it when
they need a progressive? Absolutely.
Do you have the opportunity
to educate them on your value if
there are issues? Always.

Optometry is the only industry
that has a medical and retail
function under the same roof. In
a typical practice, 60 percent of
revenues are driven from retail.
You are in retail.

Make your retail space warm, inviting and keep it
fresh and up-to-date. Offer loyalty programs. Merchandise
the store to make it an easy place to shop.
And stop thinking you can only sell to consumers
on their exam day! Insurance may only contribute
every two years, but consumers are buying almost
two times faster than we let them.

Finally, become less transactional and more relational.
Consumers are not interested in paying
big dollars for a transaction but they will pay for an
experience. We have become very good at moving
patients through the office in an efficient manner.
But do we create an experience that is memorable?
What will they share with their friends and family
about your office and staff? Increases in no-shows,
returns, refunds and lost sales can all be attributed
to an experience that has little real or perceived value
to the patient. Taking time to build a relationship
with the patient will reduce these major indicators.


What does the new norm look like? Like accepting
the current marketplace, developing a strategic
plan to deal with it, and a focus on customer service.

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

is the founder of The
Karlsrud Companies,
a resource for sales,
customer experience
and leadership excellence.
An international
speaker/trainer, he
also hosts The Vision
Council’s On The Road
Sales Coach. More
information can be
found at and




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