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Article Date: 1/1/2017

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2017 TOP 10 MEGA MARKET TRENDS
MARKET TRENDS REPORT

2017 TOP 10 MEGA MARKET TRENDS

OUR EXCLUSIVE EB RESEARCH REVEALS WHAT’S TRENDING—AND WHAT’S NOT—FOR EYECARE PROFESSIONALS IN 2017

BY STEPHANIE K. DE LONG

GET AN INSIDE LOOK HERE

Welcome to the new year. Thanks to the most unforgettable election season in memory, there’s no question that 2016 closed with a bang.

So, what’s ahead? To find out, we scoured our Annual Market Trends Study, which is compiled from our exclusive research of ECPs on every key category throughout 2016. Here, we offer a must-read look at the Top 10 optical business and product trends that will help you position yourself for pure success in 2017.

1. BOOMERS ARE YESTERDAY’S NEWS.

Baby boomers have been optical’s “safe haven” for as long as many of you have been in business. Though boomers remain the fastest-growing segment in most practices, millennials are definitely on optical’s radar this year. While you tell us boomers still account for 36% of patients, for most of you "Gen Me" now represents a quarter of your patient base. Food for thought.

2. ONLINE SELLERS = TODAY’S EVIL EMPIRE.

Each year, EB asks readers what challenge is looming largest on the horizon. For 2013, 2014, and 2015, it was healthcare reform, while from 2009 through 2011 the Big Bad was a stagnant economy. For 2016, despite the fact that 29% of you report that more than half your business is managed care, the biggest challenge you tell us you’re facing is competition from online sellers.

3. PRICING STRATEGIES THAT RING THE REGISTER.

Most of you report competing with online sellers in one of three ways: discounting products (60%); lowering prices (30%); and by bringing BOGO back (22%).

In terms of overall strategy, you report basing your pricing on: an across-the-board markup (58%); a scaled markup (44%); MSRP (29%); competitors’ prices (18%); and how robust the economy and marketplace are (10%).

4. BLUE LIGHT LENSES WILL DELIVER PROFITS.

A whopping 84% of ECPs predict that blue-light-blocking lenses will increase in sales over the next two years. In fact, in the South, the sale of blue light/digital eyewear now surpasses sunwear sales. Clearly, this is a notable business trend to keep on the radar.

Don’t believe the hype? A full 77% of respondents say they believe that blue light is not just hype. This is evidenced by the fact that eyecare professionals says they offer blue light protection to 41% of their patients.

Another 68% of ECPs also believe they have proper training and understanding of the harmful effects of blue light. As such, 71% of them offer blue light protection to their younger, single-vision patients.

5. FRAME PROFITS RISE + POLARIZED DELIVERS.

A look at how ECPs are merchandising eyewear reveals where the category is headed in 2017. In fact, eyecare professionals report that 67% of total dispensary sales are in Rx-ready optical frames (excluding sunwear, sports, and safety glasses). In addition, a third of you say you’ve seen an increase in sales within this category over the past two years.

The majority of you (73%) work with between six and 15 frame companies. Most ECPs (57%) have more frames on display than in the previous three years, and 66% of you believe featuring five to seven brands with deep collections makes it easier for both you and consumers.

As for specialty categories, Rx sunwear—especially polarized product—grabs the most frame board space. Within sunwear, polarized product continues to lead the pack, with three-quarters of you increasing polarized sunwear inventory over the past two years, and 53% of you increasing sales of sunwear with photochromic lenses, as well.

6. LENS PROCESSING PROFITS GROW—A LOT.

While the number of practices edging in-house isn’t up from last year, profits from in-office finishing are—skyrocketing from $39,160 in 2011 to $106,192 last year.

In terms of spectacle lenses, you report that 58% of your total dispensary revenue comes from them, though that number is down from 66% last year.

As for lens materials, honors go to polycarbonate (74%), high index (45%), and CR 39 (44%). AR coating is still the top lens treatment, up to 70% last year from 63% in 2015. Nine out of 10 of you now recommend AR to all patients, with three-quarters (77%) of the AR sold in a premium package or as a premium add-on.

Nearly three-quarters of you offer blue light protection to younger, single-vision wearers. As for digital eye strain, 38% of you discuss it with every patient, while 59% wait for patients to complain. When recommending products, 48% of you dispense computer lenses and 35% dispense lens treatments and specialty AR.

7. MULTIFOCALS TO GROW CONTACT LENS SALES.

A full 71% of you see multifocals as the soft contact lens category with the most growth potential over the next year.

The average percentage of a practice’s gross revenue from contact lens sales is 30%, and 75% of you have seen an uptick in that number over the past year of 1% to 9%.

When asked how contact lens sales will change over the next six to 12 months, most of you are optimistic, with seven out of 10 (71%) ECPs saying sales will increase.

Monthly disposable contact lenses rank as No. 1 (39%) among soft lens modalities, although 43% of you said you believe more patients will be wearing daily disposables in a year or two.

Spherical lenses represent nearly half (49%) of the soft contact lens business at brick-and-mortar locations, followed by torics (25%) and multifocal designs (18%).

8. ONLINE MARKETING IS KEY.

When trying to reach consumers with brand information, you say the most important help you want from vendors is: content/images for web promotions (65%); branded displays/merchandising materials (64%); and direct-to-consumer advertising (61%).

In terms of messaging, marketing brand names is more important in some categories than others. The luxury category relies on brand-name recognition the most (49%), with sunwear a relatively distant second (29%).

As for contact lenses, 66% of you actively market contacts, with point-of-purchase displays the top choice for promotion (54%).

Though consumer advertising has continued to increase on the supply side, only 23% of you say direct-to-consumer advertising is important. That’s a 10% drop over the past 12 months.

Instead, you point to the most effective consumer promotions in frame sales as discounts, “free” eyewear, package pricing, gift with purchase, and contest tie-ins.

9. SOCIAL MEDIA + FACEBOOK RULES.

Half of you tell us you now offer Wi-Fi in your waiting room. And, for business purposes, 30% of you use tablets and/or mobile apps for scheduling or ordering.

Other key applications: 32% of you use tablets to educate patients; a quarter of you use your practice website for e-commerce; and nearly three-quarters of you (70%) use social media to promote the business, with Facebook your primary outlet of choice.

In terms of buying and selling online, 83% of you surveyed say you plan to buy online from your vendors, while 28% of you report plans to sell online.

10. WEARABLES = OPPORTUNITY.

Attitudes are changing about wearable technology. Of ECPs surveyed, 43% of you think wearable technology will become a useful dispensing tool, and more than a quarter of you (27%) see it as a new and viable revenue stream.

The bottom line for 2017? A continued strong economy is predicted and opportunity abounds for eyecare professionals in numerous existing categories and truly exciting new arenas.

WHEN IT COMES TO WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY IN OPTICAL, I THINK:

Answer Choices Responses
It will become a useful dispensing tool. 43%
I will use it as a new revenue source. 27%
I am waiting to see how the frame companies roll it out to me. 35%
It's just another fast-moving trend that will come and go. 9%
The price point is too high to be a viable item in my inventory. 23%


Eyecare Business, Volume: 31 , Issue: January 2017, page(s): 64-68

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