It’s clear that patients have many alternatives today for vision care and eyewear. Today, many ECPs feel threatened by the internet; and some members of the industry feel that it’s critical to rush to join the movement by providing an internet solution to the purchase of eyewear. I think otherwise.
The internet will serve to expand the market; just as the likes of Walmart, Lenscrafters and 1-800-Contacts have in years past. With perceived easy access to eyewear at low cost, consumers will become more accustomed to owning more than one pair. Indeed, during a recent presentation, Roy Hessel, founder and CEO of EyeBuyDirect.com, offered that their site rarely handles a primary prescription; that the vast, vast majority of their sales are for second and third pair. I think it beneficial for all ECPs that the average consumer own a dozen pair of eyewear, even if most of those pair are inexpensive and purchased online. Such access has not been harmful to other luxury segments. Au contraire, easy access to inexpensive shoes has certainly expanded the market for luxury shoes and Zappos.com has not destroyed shoe retailing.
But with this threat of loss of market to the internet looming; and the increasing penetration of vision plans causing erosion of your profit margins, it behooves us to begin to think about our business from a different perspective.
Back in the 1980s, I created and published the first eyecare consumer magazine, Sight. This 48 page, full color magazine was delivered to the homes of the patients of our clients in their month of scheduled recall. The magazine “celebrated what we see and how we’re seen.” It contained such articles as “The 10 Most Beautiful Sights in America,” “Eyewitness” and “Makeup for Contact Lens Wearers.” Sight’s mission was to expand the awareness of patients about all the wonderful reasons why their sight was so important. The intention was to expand how patients thought about their eyes. It worked.
In my opinion, it’s now time for ECPs to expand their perspective about your own profession.
The need for creative new thinking about the practice of optometry is apparent to me. In my opinion, we have to think more globally about the profession of optometry. We have to look under every rock for ideas on how to expand the profession; beyond the current eyecare, eyewear, contact lens and vision improvement categories. It’s time to change the game.
One very natural extension of the profession, from my perspective, is to provide ergonomic and lighting consulting. Who knows more about light and its impact on the visual system than optometrists? Today, a significant percentage of our workforce spends hours daily in front of a computer. Yet, I am not aware of any optometrist that offers consulting services to help me, as an employer, improve the comfort and productivity of my workforce. This concept is not new, but I believe that the market is ripe for these kinds of services. And this type of service is far outside the reach of vision plans (read “full-price, cash business”). I believe that this is just one area of opportunity…there are many, many others.
To help expand your thinking about your profession, I share with you an interesting video from TED, a fascinating organization dedicated to delivering “ideas worth spreading” from the intersection of the worlds of technology, entertainment and design. In this interesting video, Lighting architect Rogier van der Heide offers a beautiful new way to look at the world — by paying attention to light (and to darkness). Perhaps the speaker’s approach will help you turn on the right side of your brain and expand your thinking about your own profession? Enjoy!
Jim Sheedy, O.D., Phd. Is doing some research in this area at the Pacific
University School of Optometry.