It’s a new year and 2021’s consumer isn’t necessarily a familiar one.

The impact of COVID-19 is still being felt and it has likely changed how people shop forever.

The 2021 consumer is expecting many things, from telehealth to second-hand fashion and they expect it from all businesses, including their eye care provider.

Telehealth & Tele-Optometry

The rumblings of telehealth have been heard for years.

While telehealth is not a new concept, it’s expected to take on new significance in 2021.

COVID-19 has caused many businesses to take advantage of remote work and conferencing technology and healthcare is no exception. The pandemic also created a situation where patients felt safer at home, even if they needed medical care.

COVID-19 really created the perfect storm for telehealth to take off even more than anticipated.

By 2025, some are predicting that telehealth will grow to seven times what it is now. For optometry practices, it represents a great opportunity.

Of course, not every patient can be seen online. But, a patient with an eye injury, for example, might be able to get first aid advice through tele-optometry while they’re waiting for treatment.

Or, a patient who needs regular care might be able to do some of their appointments virtually.

It’s worth reviewing your patient’s needs to see if they can benefit from tele-optometry. It’s also worth consulting your college for the most up-to-date tele-optometry policies.

Shoppable Social Media

It’s becoming easier and easier for people to purchase things directly from social media.

Social media is no longer just a catalogue of products — it’s becoming the store where people shop.

Paid ads aren’t the only way to get people to notice your products anymore. Organic, unpaid social media can also be a gateway to new patients (and for patients, it’s a gateway to new products).

Instead of patients seeing a pair of glasses and then having to try and find them on your website, social media platforms like Instagram allow patients to purchase the glasses directly, without leaving the app. Instagram does get a cut of the sale, but you get direct insight into the kinds of posts that lead people to buy from your practice. Your Facebook and Instagram can also be customized with action buttons that allow patients to book appointments, send a message, and more.

ReCommerce

Reduce, reuse, recycle has been reinvigorated with ReCommerce expected to take off in 2021.

Specifically, the second-hand market has the potential to double in the next five years.

Consumers are increasingly motivated by sustainability, with many valuing sustainability over price.

Even before COVID-19, more and more people were interested in second-hand goods. Now, with more people focusing on frugality, the ReCommerce market could grow even more than expected. While there is clearly not a lot of opportunity in used lenses, used frames could be a great opportunity for your practice. There are some eye care businesses built entirely around

vintage eyewear.

When patients buy a new pair of glasses, why not accept their old pair? Buy-back programs that give patients a discount when they return their old frames are a great way to incentivize patients to do this. They know their old frames aren’t going to waste and another patient gets a new (to

them) pair of frames at a discounted rate. If you’re not interested in reselling second-hand frames, use this as a cause campaign and donate their old eyewear to charities that deliver glasses to third-world countries.

Human Contact as a Premium Service

More and more businesses are moving operations online and that was well before COVID-19.

With coronavirus closing many in-person options, even more stores took their business online. It’s no surprise that many optometry practices are offering online contact lens ordering and virtual frame galleries.

What might come as a surprise, however, is that human-to-human contact is the new way to stand out. With so many businesses opting for online and virtual solutions, the old-fashion and in-person approach has become a differentiator for luxury.

In fact, higher income levels often have a preference for face-to-face customer service. In a digital world, a human touch creates a level of prestige. But in a world still dominated by COVID, this human touch doesn’t necessarily have to be in-person. A chat feature on your website or a personal style assistant to accompany an online frame gallery can give consumers the high-end experience they’re looking for in 2021 and beyond.

By Brynn Low
Marketing4ECPs

As a content and SEO specialist at Marketing4ECPs, Brynn spends her days creating content that ranks for eye care practices all over North America. You can reach Brynn at marketing4ecps.com.