What else is trending?
Read on for the big reveal.
Where is your business headed in the new year? Here, we reveal 10 must-know trends that will help drive the market in 2020.
Defined by Eyecare Business’ extensive research of eyecare professionals throughout 2019, compiled in our just-released Market Trends Report, this important roundup of key market trends will help ECPs chart their course for 2020—and beyond.
Our research tells us we are already off to a good start. That’s because nearly three-quarters (72%) of responding ECPs report annual sales volumes of $500,000 or more.
THE BIG BUY
So, who is buying and how does that impact purchasing? Baby boomers (patients aged 56-72) and Generation X (ages 40-55) are now equally represented as the largest segments of most practices (27% each). That’s a big change from just two years ago when boomers accounted for just over 30% of patients.
Where people live also impacts purchasing. In the West, for example, eyewear for digital/blue light devices is considered the fastest-growing segment by 68% of ECPs. That’s more than three times higher than in the South, where Rx sunwear outsells computer eyewear 2-to-1.
PRICING + POSITIONING
Performance and quality still lead the lens conversation for 70% of ECPs. However, that’s down from 82% in 2018. Another big change? More than half (51%) of ECPs say insurance coverage no longer has any impact on their pricing strategy.
In the frame arena, midrange product, representing 55% of inventory, now rules the roost. Value product currently accounts for 19% of inventory, and high-end eyewear represents 26%. See how that mix has changed since 2016.
Again in 2019, online companies are one of the biggest perceived threats to optical businesses. While the vast majority of practices still do not sell products online (75%), the ones that do are most likely to sell contact lenses. In fact, 24% do sell contact lenses on their own website.
Of those ECPs who currently don’t sell online, the charge to e-commerce will be led by West Coast ECPs, 47% of whom say they plan to sell online within the next two years. For now, however, only 25% of ECPs are selling product online.
Three-quarters of ECPs use social media to aid their business. Within that group, the majority posts somewhere between a few times a week to a few times a month. Very few post daily.
Among those users, more than 8 out of 10 (82%) use social media to market their business. That’s up quite a bit from 69% in 2016.
The average eyecare professional works with 12.5 frame companies. More than three-quarters (77%) of ECPs tell EB they have increased their midrange selection over the past three years. The leading frame material sold continues to be plastic (48%), followed by metal (34%), and then a combination of materials (17%). Material aside, 83% of frames sold are Rx-ready optical frames. That number is up from 71% in 2015.
The top three features impacting frame selection are construction quality (77%), styling (61%), and performance (53%). And, as shown here, women’s eyewear tops the chart. Literally.
Nearly one-fifth (18%) of total dispensary sales are attributed to sunwear. It also takes up more of the frame board (19% of total space) than any other specialty category.
While high-end sunwear has seen a big drop in sales, polarized product continues to lead the pack in sun option unit sales. In fact, 68% of ECPs have seen an increase in polarized sales over the past two years, while 65% also report an increase in photochromic lens sales for that period.
In terms of the fastest-growing specialty product, however, computer eyewear (38%) has overtaken Rx sunwear (36%), with plano sunwear a distant third at 5%.
Technology is key when it comes to both lens processing and lens designs. Nearly half (49%) of ECPs finish lenses in-office. And, 38% of them currently perform 75% or more of their edging jobs in-house. Beyond finishing, tinting ranks second in on-site lens services.
As for lens technology, the sale of eyewear for use with digital devices has surged ahead of other specialty product. That’s partly because, according to ECPs surveyed, 40% of their patients are now aware of bluelight issues.
Nearly 7 out of 10 (68%) of ECPs add that AR remains their leading add-on, followed by photochromics. More than 8 out of 10 (83%) ECPs now recommend AR to all patients, 63% of whom currently purchase it.
THE LENS LINK
ECPs report that 62% of their total dispensary revenue comes from spectacle lenses (up from 56% in 2018), and half of those lens products are premium-priced. As in previous years, single-vision and progressive lenses maintain the top two spots in those sales.
One difference? Six out of 10 (63%) patients now ask for specific lens brands. As for the ECP-patient dialogue, while 77% of ECPs always discuss PALs with appropriate patients, 37% now offer house brands to them as well. That’s up from 28% just a year ago.
KEEPING IN CONTACT(S)
Nearly 7 out of 10 respondents have seen an uptick in overall sales of contact lenses over the past year. That is down, however, from 78% a year ago. And, looking ahead, 65% of ECPs believe there will be a small increase (1-4%) or no change in sales over the next six-12 months, while 27% anticipate an increase of 5% or more.
As for modalities, spherical lenses now represent nearly half of the soft contact lens business at ECP locations. Torics (27%) and multifocals (18%) come in second and third, respectively.
What’s ahead for some key categories?
LENSES. ECPs predict progressives, along with computer/digital and blue-light-filtering lenses, will increase in sales the most over the next two years, while bifocals and trifocals will continue to lose ground.
CONTACTS. As for contact lenses, 42% of ECPs believe more patients will be wearing daily disposables in the next year or two.
EQUIPMENT. And, when it comes to finishing, 9% of ECPs surveyed say they are likely to start finishing lenses in-office within the next year.
Will distribution channels change? Yes, say 37% of ECPs surveyed, who tell EB they plan to start selling online within the next two years.
The outlook for 2020 is bright. The key to success? Staying on top of the trends—and ahead of the ever-increasing competition.