Today’s free-form lens products are increasingly designed for specific activities and visual conditions.
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Every eyecare professional is aware of free-form lenses. The success of these products over the last seven-plus years has been revolutionary, which is amazing since the ophthalmic professions usually assimilate change very slowly. Still, making sense of this market can be difficult because it has grown so quickly and continues to do so at an impressive pace. Here are some pointers to help you navigate the maze.
FROM BIRTH TO SEGMENTATION
In any industry, when a commercial product is introduced, it is usually not highly developed but has properties the manufacturer feels will be beneficial to consumers. Once the product has been introduced and enjoys a reasonable degree of success, the manufacturer is faced with the challenge of making it better. This task leads to new versions of the product, which are usually improved-upon versions of the original, but that only occurs for a while. If it is a success, at some point the manufacturer will likely offer multiple versions of the product. This is known as segmentation.
Segmenting a product benefits consumers because they have more choices. Athletic shoes are a great example. When you go to buy a pair, the salesperson will probably ask you, “What do you want to do with your new footwear?” Although your initial response might be, “I want to put them on my feet and wear them,” what the salesperson is really asking is: “What activities will you engage in while wearing your new footwear-running, walking, cycling, boating, hiking, tennis, or something else?” That’s because there are myriad sneaker choices, all made for specific activities.
SEGMENTING FREE-FORM LENSES
Free-form lenses have similarly splintered into niche categories. Early lenses started off with a single design but now there are many brands that have segmented into multiple products. This means patients have several lenses to choose from, depending on how they use their eyes and the environmental conditions.
Why would a lens manufacturer make so many choices available when its competitors already have options that ECPs or patients might view as similar? The answer is simple: Every manufacturer sees the total marketplace and it aims to fill the needs of that whole marketplace with its own offerings. Sure, other manufacturers might have similar products, but how would they service their customers if they don’t have the choices available? That’s why they provide a full array of products, and that’s one reason why there are so many free-form lens designs on the market.
This isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it’s good. The more choices you have as an ECP, the better off your practice, as you can pick and choose the products you wish to carry. This also improves the patient experience as you can offer consumers an array of lens options.
LEARNING THE MARKET
The challenge for ECPs is to know what’s available. This is not as difficult as it may seem. Yes, there are hundreds of designs but if you look at each manufacturer, what it offers is usually logical and easy to understand. Look at Carl Zeiss Vision, Inc., for example. It has the ZEISS Office-
lens for working in close environments in three versions: Book, Desk, and Room. Book is intended for distances up to 3 ft., Desk for up to 7 ft., and Room for up
to 14 ft. All three lenses are intended for environments less than 20 ft.
ZEISS products are divided into single vision, digital, progressive, and office lens products. The company further segments them into affordable, better, customized, and individualized tiers. Cross-referencing these two categories will help you find the right lenses for each patient.
HOYA Vision Care, North America breaks down its lenses into single vision, progressive, and specialty products. As you might suspect, each of these categories also has subcategories. For example, specialty lenses are divided into computer lenses, kids’ lenses, and anti-fatigue lenses. Essilor of America, Inc., Seiko Optical Products of America, Inc., Signet Armorlite, Inc., and other manufacturers also segment their lens products similarly, as do labs that produce private label lenses.
To help you sort through the clutter, First Vision Media Group publishes the Free-Form Progressive Lens Resource Guide. You’ll find it online at totallyoptical. com, under “Supplements.”
Making sense of the free-form lens market is easy, once you understand how it has matured. Even so, you’ll need to put in a little research time.
Ed De Gennaro is Director, Professional Content of First Vision Media Group.
WHERE TO FIND IT:
Carl Zeiss Vision, Inc. 800-358-8258 • zeiss.com/vision-care
Essilor of America, Inc. 800-542-5668 • essilorusa.com
HOYA Vision Care, North America 877-528-1939 • hoyavision.com
Seiko Optical Products of America, Inc. 800-235-5367 • seikoeyewear.com
Signet Armorlite, Inc. 800-759-0075 • signetarmorlite.com