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TRENDSPOTTING Q&A

The EB Convo with… VSP Retail’s Bill Vaughan

Bill Vaughan, president, VSP Retail

VSP made news in July when it officially entered brick-and-mortar retail by opening two Eyeconic stores in Chicago. Its motive: “to serve as an extension of VSP’s e-commerce site (eyeconic.com ), connecting products, services, and a VSP network doctor to consumers looking for experiences that bridge the divide between digital and physical.”

Here, EB talks exclusively with Bill Vaughan, president of VSP Retail, about the move.

EB: Why does expanding VSP’s online retail business to brick-and-mortar make sense for the company?

Bill Vaughan: We’ve been listening to the needs of our clients and benefits managers who increasingly require a wholly owned, in-network retail footprint from their managed vision care plan. A solution like Eyeconic helps meet those expectations and contributes to a healthy and competitive network, which in turn strengthens VSP’s position to win and retain more clients and drive more patients into Premier Program practices.

EB: Why the Chicago area?

BV: After conducting consumer research and evaluating claims data, we saw an opportunity to help minimize some VSP members from going out of network in Chicago—particularly those members who prefer to get their eye care and eyewear in a retail setting.

The interior of VSP’s Eyeconic store in the Bucktown section of Chicago.

EB: Who + what is Eyeconic’s focus?

BV: Eyeconic is focused on providing a differentiated eyecare and eyewear experience through transparent pricing, seamless digital and physical access, simplified insurance processing, and a philosophy that champions health and wellness. Through research, we’ve identified a unique, uncommitted consumer who’s looking for a careful balance between price, quality, and experience. Eyeconic meets those requirements and the needs of roughly 20% of consumers who prefer to get their eye care and eyewear from retail or online-based solutions.

EB: What are the stores like?

BV: You’ll find an assortment of 500 optical and sunglass styles from over 30 brands, plus virtual try-on and endless aisle integration with eyeconic.com that greatly expands that choice to more than 2,000 styles across 60 brands. We’re also testing a new prototype from our VSP innovation lab called Fit Concierge, which provides algorithm-based frame recommendations using facial scan technology.

EB: How is VSP/Eyeconic avoiding competing with local network doctors?

BV: Our goal in Chicago is to bring members back into the VSP ecosystem—particularly those who are drifting out of network to other retail destinations instead of private practice and who are looking for more personalization, access, and choice. Each Eyeconic store is located at least a 20-minute walk from the nearest Premier Program practice, and member communications do not target patients of those doctors. —SUSAN TARRANT