Digital technology is transforming every nook and cranny of our lives—redefining how we work, play, travel, and shop. It’s also refocusing the consumer products we buy—and shaping what we expect from them.
The Internet and smart phones, alone, have granted shoppers unprecedented speed and convenience, along with instant and limitless access to information, services, and goods.
It all adds up to an on-demand consumer economy that is enabled by digital technology. In fact, a recent report from intelligence firm Euromonitor specifies just this: “Consumers are now more demanding of products, services, and brands than ever before and are using digital tools to articulate and fulfill their needs.”
Technology is making its mark on the eyewear and optical market, as well, ushering in the rise of high-tech frames and lenses that offer the promise of heightened performance, comfort, style, and vision health.
“Eyewear has been around for 700 years and is already the world’s most successful wearable,” says Matthew Alpert, O.D., of Alpert Vision Care in Woodland Hills, CA, and a member of VSP Global’s board of directors (and its chairman of Optometric Innovations). “So, it’s exciting to see the platform evolve and integrate other features that could enhance that experience and even draw in new adopters and new revenue streams for doctors.”
Got the edge on selling new technology in your eyecare business? Here, EB checks in with tech-savvy ECPs to score their trade secrets to selling high-tech frames and lenses to today’s digitally connected patients.
TIP #1: Frame High-Tech Eyewear As ‘Wearable’ Health
Optical’s tech evolution calls for ECPs to “underscore the value of eye care and overall health and wellness” to patients, says Dr. Alpert. “As experts in eyewear and eye health, O.D.s have a unique opportunity to serve as critical resources for their patients when it comes to smart eyewear. Whatever the features, whatever the technology—eye health must remain central to that conversation.”
TIP #2: School Patients on Digital Eye Strain Symptoms
The rise of digital device usage—people check their smart phone an average 150 times a day, according to a Nokia Study—comes with attendant symptoms that often go unaddressed by patients, as they’re insidious.
So, alerting them to the signs of digital eye strain (DES) is key, says Bridgitte Shen Lee, O.D., of Vision Optique in Houston, TX.
Run a symptoms checklist by your patients, including eye fatigue, blurred vision, dryness, headaches, neck strain, and back pain. There are myriad high-tech solutions to alleviate the DES problem.
TIP #3: Probe Patients’ Digital, Analog Habits
Ask patients detailed questions about their daily digital device diet, including how many hours they stare at a computer monitor, smart phone, and tablet, and how they use these devices—be it working, reading, playing games, or watching movies, Dr. Shen Lee says.
Also, query their reading habits around printed materials, like books and newspapers, and complete the 360-degree picture with sleep-related questions, such as, “Do you have trouble falling asleep? If you wake up and can’t go to sleep, what do you do? About an hour to 90 minutes before you go to sleep, what are you looking at?” Dr. Shen Lee says.
The benefits of high-tech visual solutions are more concrete when a specific problem has been pinpointed.
TIP #4: Reveal High-Tech Light at the End of the Tunnel
Patients with digital eye strain symptoms often don’t know they don’t have to live with them. Spell out the relief that awaits via premium high-tech lenses: better overnight vision, improved driving vision, and feeling “more energy and less tired throughout the day, much better-quality sleep, and long-term eye protection,” Dr. Shen Lee says.
TIP #5: Demystify Blue Light Protection
Drive home the growing need for blue light filters that counter the effects of harmful blue-violet light emitted by digital screens. “Our lives have dramatically changed with the addition of smart phones,” says Justin Bazan, O.D., owner of Park Slope Eye in Brooklyn, NY.
As a result, how we protect our eyes must also dramatically change, he says.
Vladimir Mordukhayev, optician and owner of Modern Day OptX in New York City, explains to patients that blue light protective lenses “act as suntan lotion for your eyes.”
TIP #6: Deliver a Primer on Lens Options
Educate patients on the basics of high-tech lens designs, materials, and treatments, says Dr. Shen Lee. Regarding lens designs, she says, “there’s anti-fatigue lenses for patients under 45 and premium progressive lenses for patients 45 and older; lens materials—the better the material, the better the sharpness of vision; and lens treatments, such as UV protection, anti-glare, and harmful blue light protection.”
TIP #7: Control the Narrative
When it comes to telling the high-tech frame-and-lens story, Park Slope Eye takes an unconventional tack by dispensing with in-store marketing materials on the topic. That’s because the benefits of high-tech eyewear are so important and complex that an optical expert should be the one to cover them with patients, says Yasmin Johnson, Park Slope Eye’s optician and frame buyer.
At some optical shops, “you’ll see an associate wearing a pin saying, ‘Ask me about [so-and-so] lens’—that’s not our vibe,” she says. “I’m confident in my training and what I’ve learned. I want to be the one to present patients [with the information], make it personal, and navigate them through it,” Johnson says. And she’ll spend unlimited time doing so, even if the customer doesn’t spend a dime. That personalized, high-tech primer ends up creating a “memorable experience and repeat business.”
TIP #8: Let Them Feel the Light
Have patients feel the benefits of lightweight frame technology with eyewear made from new materials such as TR-90 plastic and pressed titanium.
“I will put a basic plastic frame on them, and then a lightweight frame,” says Johnson. Patients instantly “feel the clear [comfort] difference.”
TIP #9: Woo With High-Tech Personalized Specs
As consumers increasingly seek out one-of-a-kind looks, woo them with customizable frames. Modern Day OptX sells iGreen Eyewear that’s high-tech “because the temples are interchangeable, giving the client the option of custom-making their own design with over 300-plus options and designs,” Mordukhayev says.
TIP #10: School Staff Via a Promotional Upgrade
Subscribing to the premise that practice makes perfect, Dr. Bazan offered patients a free upgrade to blue-light-filtering Eyezen lenses to get comfortable fitting patients with the lenses. This method might also be a fit to get your business’s patients on board with today’s high-tech frame and lens technology.