Combat the Online Rx-odus

Your prescription just walked out and over to a web retailer, you say?
Enough. Try these 3 smart ideas + tactics to reclaim your turf from e-commerce competitors.

You asked for it.

Readers told us the need for innovative, proven strategies has never been more urgent as Internet sales heat up. EB pledges to deliver on that mandate with this inaugural “Wild, Wild Web,” a regular column showcasing new insights that come from beyond the optical industry.

Total online retail sales—all goods—surged 17% in the third quarter of 2019 (vs. Q3 2018) to $145.7 billion, reports the U.S. Department of Commerce. Zoom in on optical: Only 36% of Americans ages 18-29 bought eyewear at a doctor’s office with the balance going online or to mass merchants like Walmart (18.6%) in 2018, according to Statista. This is no time for business as usual.

For ideas to gain an edge, EB went to Chris Walton, who led Target’s Store of the Future project before co-founding Red Archer Retail consultancy and Third Haus retail innovation lab, where he is co-CEO. —DENISE POWER



Leverage accounting tools to track sources of revenue and costs—on a daily basis, Walton says. Many businesses overlook this opportunity to understand their unique business drivers. “Know why you exist,” Walton says.

Amazon’s “why”—low cost, selection, and customer experience—appear in a “flywheel” Jeff Bezos sketched on a napkin. Each tenet feeds momentum of the others, propelling the flywheel to rotate faster and drive revenue. ECPs can follow Bezos’ lead: Identify values that spin growth for your business such as high-touch service versus DIY. Align to those values and weed out what works at cross-purposes of your “why.”


Google your business. Does the search return correct business hours, phone, and address? Does your website have old images, dead-end links, latest review dated 2017?

These red flags tell consumers: Go elsewhere. Update information now because voice commerce is coming and you don’t want Alexa saying, “I’m sorry. I can’t find ‘ABC Optical on Broad Street.’”

“If you are not right on Google now, chances of you being right on voice-activated systems are even smaller,” Walton says.


Warby Parker links online clicks and page views to sales closed in stores to understand conversion. “Start to adopt that mindset and give yourself more information about what people are actually doing in your store,” Walton says.

Technology can track foot traffic around a display, how frequently a frame is picked up, exam wait times, and other metrics, but costly systems are not the only option.

“You can use highfalutin technology or just write down when people came in, when they left, how long were they there,” Walton says. “Don’t be afraid to try things.”