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How Important is Internet Eyewear Sales to the Independent Optometrist? Very.

Kremer Eye Center is dedicated as always to helping you grow your practice. Today we’re sharing an article by Rochelle Nataloni, sponsored by Essilor, entitled “Assessing the Internet and Eyewear Sales” which provides good detail on a topic of growing importance.

Today the online sales of eyewear are only 3% of the market, but that number is expected to rise to 10-15% of the eyewear market. Since 2007, online sales of eyewear have increased 650%. Online eyewear retailers started around 15 years ago, consisting mostly of inexpensive eyewear for bargain prices. This is not the case today. High end, name brand eyewear can now be easily purchased from any number of online retailers for discounted prices. Popularity of buying eyewear online has risen and is expected to become even more popular and accessible to consumers with technological advancements. Such advancements will enable patients to measure their own PD and seg heights with smartphone apps. What was once a stumbling block for patients will now be easily obtained.

Bob Main, eyewear industry pundit and Internet consultant states “independent optometrists have the most to lose if they ignore the changing marketplace.” Main proposes that to protect and expand your market share, the independent optometrists has to make a significant online presence. They need to have a professional quality website that appeals to internet savvy consumers, with options to make appointments online and also a Facebook page.

Michael Block of the Block Buying Group has a few suggestions for the independent eyecare professional to help reduce the number of their patients that will buy eyewear online. First, contact their optometric state board and inquire about the legality and lack of supervision that online retailers are allowed to dispense eyewear without a licensed professional. Block also suggests that you should tell your patients that they are paying for your expertise in measuring and fitting eyewear that is suitable for each and every patient. He suggests having a fee for giving information such as the PD measurements to someone who chooses to purchase eyewear online. A study done at Pacific University College of Optometry in conjuction with the AOA found that of 308 lenses ordered from 10 of the most visited internet vendors “44.8% of spectacles failed at least one parameter of optical or impact testing.”

There are also options that allow independent eye care professionals to have an online store that lets their own patients buy eyewear from their practice. S Howard Purcell OD, Vice President , Customer Development at Essilor, says the purpose of an online store is “to offer the independent practitioner an opportunity to have a presence in this online retail space because if the independent eyecare professional embraces the concept then it will be the independent eyecare professional who will dictate how this channel evolves and the rules and regulations by which it does business.” “Essilor would prefer that all eyewear be dispensed face to face with the expertise of a qualified dispenser. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case today.” “Patients are consumers just like us, and who among us has not made a purchase online. When used correctly an e-commerce site can be a growth and retention tool for the practice.”

The paper concludes with the 2011 Internet Influence Report showing that existing consumers of online eyewear will continue to purchase eyewear online and “if these Internet-friendly consumers are not already buying eyewear online there is a good chance that they will do (at least once) at some point in the future.”

Kremer Eye Center has partnered with two very talented firms — EggZack and MyEyeStore — to offer website, marketing, and e-commerce tools that you can leverage at a significant discount as a Kremer affiliate. For more information, please contact your PRC.

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