By Kevin Wilhelm

Our industry is changing fast.

Consumer loyalty is at an all-time low, while access to information is at an all-time high. Power has shifted to the consumer and without truly understanding the new purchase funnel, it’ll be impossible to fully capitalize on the opportunity that lies ahead for us.

Yes, people are more comfortable to shop online than ever before but how can you fight this erosion of in-store sales? In order to build a competitive offer, the first step is to understand the consumer process for an online purchase and determine where this process falls short.

The second step is to build an experience that exceeds in these areas; create a true alternative to online shopping.

To understand how you can compete against online purchases, you’ll first need to understand more about the buying process. Let’s first look at the top three reasons why someone would turn to buying their eyewear online:

>> Perceived lower price

>> Perceived convenience

>> Perceived higher selection

Price

Price is the most difficult objection to overcome, so let’s tackle it first.

Yes, many online retailers offer frames at a fraction of what you’re pricing yours at. In some cases, they list them for less than you even can even buy them for. This is the reality of bulk purchasing power and the main competitive advantage of big box stores and online retailers.

Until you are selling enough to negotiate the same wholesale rates, this will always be the case.

To overcome price, there are a couple things you can consider. One – create an experience that justifies the higher price point. There is still a large percentage of the population that wants to experience a highend service when purchasing anything. Your retail space, layout, furnishings and lighting all contribute to the patient experience but small extras like free coffee, a child play area and the right music can make a big difference.

Another option to help overcome price is to create a sense of reciprocity throughout your patients’ experience. When you notice your patient trying on frames prior to their exam, have your optician set them aside along with a few more pairs ready

to show once their exam is completed. Have your patient sit down and bring them all pairs to try on.

Be kind, respectful and helpful. It will be tough for someone who is seriously considering making a purchase to walk away and buy online when they’ve received this level of help and assistance – it’s human nature.

Lastly, carry unique lines of frames that are hard to find online. Create a sense of scarcity that only can exist when we remove the commodity side of our business. By definition, the more unique the line, the more rare it will be to find online. When describing the brand to your customer, tell the brand story. Point out every unique attribute of the brand that would make it desirable. Let your customer know that this brand is in high demand but that particular frame they are interested in is hard to find elsewhere and your company made the decision to bring it in.

Most people are afraid to miss out on an opportunity and leaving your business to find them online is a risk.

Convenience

It really does seem easier to order your glasses online, from the comfort of your living room.

When you actually go through the process, you’ll learn how much risk you are actually taking on as a consumer. Chances are high that you’ll have your prescription, but how many patients know their PD? Many online retailers are using 62mm as the default PD if it is unknown (how many of you are currently using a default PD in your business to save time? – No one!).

Once the frames arrive, chances aren’t great that the pair looks amazing.

Buyers remorse and a desire to return the pair set in and now there is hassle in having to return the pair and wait another few weeks for the next new pair to arrive – basically eliminating the “convenience” factor of online shopping.

IF the pair arrives and looks good, the chances are now slim to none that they’ll actually fit properly. Where do people go to have their frames fitted properly – most likely right back to you.

Having to come back to you is time consuming and can be awkward for the consumer, so the convenience factor has now all but been eliminated through this process.

Hint: make your patients feel comfortable when they come back to you with a pair of glasses they purchased online. Make them feel comfortable and appreciated and your chances of acquiring their next purchase is much higher.

Selection

The last main consumer perception that you’ll need to overcome is the belief that online retailers carry a vast selection compared to a brick and mortar business.

This may or may not be true, but in any matter, too much selection can actually be a bad thing.

Too much choice breeds indecision and requires more time to try on various pairs. The consumer doesn’t need to know how many pairs you have in stock – all they need to know is that you have the right pair in stock.

When describing your selection, don’t speak to the quantity, but rather the quality of brands that you carry. Make a strong recommendation for a pair that you believe will look incredible and bring them three other pairs to make sure.

Speak to the story of the brand and why your company chooses to carry it. After the brand story has been told, speak to the contours and characteristics of your customers’ face and indicate why you’re making certain recommendations the way you are. This level of service cannot be matched by online retailers.

When competing against the “dreaded” online retailers, do your best to speak to what your company does that cannot be offered by anyone else – not just online retailers.

Create an experiential difference and live by the desire to make every shopping transaction a memorable one.

Kevin Wilhelm is the president of Marketing 4ECPs – a digital agency focused on providing marketing solutions for eyecare professionals.

To learn more about their digital marketing program, visit their website at www.Marketing4ECPs.com

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