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44% of Eyeglass Buyers Looked to Internet for Help in 2020, Survey Finds

Special interest consumer report examines the role of the internet among consumers who recently purchased eyewear.

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ALEXANDRIA, VA — More than 44 percent of adults who purchased eyeglasses in 2020 used the internet to assist in their acquisition of prescription eyeglasses, The Vision Council has found.

That was up from 22 percent in 2017.

“Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Vision Council’s research indicated that US eyewear consumers were migrating to the Internet to make eyewear purchases. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have accelerated that movement,” said Steve Kodey, senior director of industry research at The Vision Council. “Even though some of the heightened online buying activity has cooled in early 2021 as consumers return to physical brick and mortar retailers for eyewear purchases, online sales of eyewear are still incredibly higher than pre-COVID times and we expect that level of buying to continue increasing over the next couple of years.”

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The Vision Council recently released the results of its Internet Influence Report. Conducted in December 2020, the special interest consumer report examines the role of the internet among consumers who recently purchased different types of eyewear. The Vision Council fielded the survey to 4,909 adult consumers.

To download the Internet Influence Report, visit The Vision Council’s Research Download Center. The report is available as a complimentary download for members of The Vision Council and is available to purchase for non-members.

In addition to recording direct online purchases of eyeglasses, contact lenses, plano sunglasses and over-the-counter readers, the report explores the different “window shopping” functions that consumers conducted online before making a purchase in person at a physical brick and mortar retailer, including finding an eyecare provider or eyewear retailer, examining different styles of eyewear, and comparing prices. The report also examines different barriers that hinder people from buying eyewear online and includes data on anticipated future online eyewear buying activity. The report provides a trended comparison to previous research from 2017 and 2018, as well as demographic differences in answer patterns for 2020 online shoppers.

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With 14.1 percent of 2020 eyeglass buyers using the internet to directly purchase eyeglasses throughout the year, about 30 percent of 2020 eyeglass buyers used the Internet to compare prices, find the type or style of eyeglasses they wanted to buy or find the ECP or retailer they bought from in-person later.

Consistent with the results from The Vision Council’s past research, when Americans do access the internet to assist with their purchase of eyewear, most only use one or two different types of websites to aid the buying process. While many consumers generally turn to online search engines like Google for assistance when buying any type of eyewear, the study found that prescription eyeglass buyers tended to go to websites operated by known eyeglass retailers without any physical brick and mortar presence, while plano sunglasses buyers tended to visit websites operated by general online retailers or mass merchant retailers. Furthermore, the study found that over the counter readers buyers usually visited websites operated by general online retailers, or websites of conventional chain retailers when performing basic shopping functions.

The report also found that 20 percent of recent eyewear buyers claimed that they will not use the internet for any assistance when purchasing eyewear in the future, an all-time low number. The other 80 percent of recent buyers reported that they will use the internet to some extent when buying eyewear in the future. Most will likely use the internet to conduct the same window shopping and direct purchasing activities that people are doing today online.

According to the report, all consumer groups embraced the Internet to a greater extent in 2020 when buying eyewear; however some demographics, including men, younger Americans, people from households with annual income over $60,000, residents of the Northeast region of the U.S. and people who bought eyewear from a conventional optical chain in the past, were more likely than other consumers to have used the Internet when purchasing eyewear in 2020.

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