Late last month, Essilor announced its acquisition of AllAboutVision.com. Launched in 2000, this online media resource on eye-related issues was designed for the general public. The founding partners have been in eyecare journalism since 1977. The website has more than 500 pages in numerous sections covering everything from eye conditions and diseases to eyecare products and services. AllAboutVision.com prides itself on being an independent source of trustworthy information, and last year it had more than 45 million visitors.
AllAboutVision.com has been a success, and as the Baby Boomer population gets older there will be a greater need for this kind information by the general public. This acquisition is a major strategic business move for Essilor, but the story here is much bigger than one company acquiring a consumer informational website. It’s about how vendor communication channels are changing with consumers.
In many industries, vendors speak directly to consumers, but since prescription-related products are sold through eyecare providers, most optical companies decided to directly address eyecare professionals, who would then communicate to the public. While that’s still pretty much how it’s still being done, there are some key changes taking place.
Related industries have companies that have taken their messages directly to the public for decades. For example, you can’t get through the national nightly TV news without two or more commercials for prescription drugs.
Contact lens companies have also spoken directly to the consumer for decades. Even The Vision Council has ramped up its messages on topics such as the dangers of blue and UV light, the products that protect the eyes, digital eyestrain and how eyewear can help. This industry organization has put a good deal of resources into the Think About Your Eyes campaign, a program that educates the public on the benefits of vision health and promotes the importance of getting an annual comprehensive eye exam.
Reaching consumers directly can be a terrific strategy and it can grow business enormously. Look what TV ads did for the contact lens world and how successful this media approach has been for Transitions lenses. Having patients aware of and even asking about a product when they come in is invaluable to a retailer. It means they’ve been educated and primed to buy. What could be better for a seller? But this tremendous influence comes at a huge monetary cost, one that most optical companies cannot afford.
Of course, many ECPs like the way the communications model has worked…through them. But the vendor communications model of optical is changing, and you’re likely to see more companies finding increasingly clever ways of getting their messages to consumers directly.
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