PRODUCT ROUNDTABLE WITH OPTICAL PROFESSIONALS ON: AR LENSES
With anti-reflective (AR) sales hovering around 32% or so, according to The Vision Council, it’s fascinating to know there are offices with AR averages in the high 80% and 90% range. Three independent opticianry business owners who have particularly high AR lens averages and are all members of the Optical Retail Business Alliance (ORBA) were interviewed this month. Hopefully their outlook and experience in selling AR lenses will help you become successful in marketing this important feature to your patients.
Owner, Eyeglass House,
Owner, Eyes Over Copley,
Co-owner, Art For Your Face, McLean, VA
What’s your most effective AR selling strategy?
Joe Lerner: Most people know about AR treatments today so getting them to buy them is easier. For the ones who are not aware of it, we simply explain what it does and how it will benefit them. For AR treatments with super-hydrophobic layers, we play up the scratch resistance and the two-year warranty we offer on it. That usually does it.
David Picheny: We simply assume that everyone will want an AR treatment because it is a necessary ingredient in high-quality eyewear. Once they realize we expect it on all the lenses we sell, they buy it.
|AROUND THE GLOBE
According to VisionCouncil.org, in Japan and many parts of Asia, anti-reflective treatments are placed on well over 99% of all lenses sold. Western Europe holds a 75% figure and Canada shows a 50% rate of application. Based on other nations, it seems the U.S. has a long way to go with this product.
Roxanne Armstrong: We attribute our high percentage of AR sales primarily to the fact that we package our lenses so it’s an easy decision for the patient to accept AR as part of the lens. In our package pricing, we offer a greatly reduced price for AR. We also spend the time needed to explain to every patient why we think AR is such an important component of lenses and we reinforce the value that a patient gets with our package. Bundling features this way is expected by modern consumers when shopping for other products so they easily accept it for their AR lenses.
With AR sales nationally hovering around 32%, what do you think is keeping AR treatments from selling at a higher percentage?
Lerner: I think if large discount stores were factored out of the equation, the national average for AR lenses would be much higher. If a person walks into an optical store, picks a frame off the wall, and says “Put my lenses in these,” there is no AR sale. “Nobody ever explained this to me,” is something we hear way too much from customers. Also, there are still a good number of practitioners who discourage their patients from getting AR lenses as well as Transitions®, and, yes, progressives.
Picheny: It’s because the opticians in the office or the doctor prescribing the lenses are not convinced that everyone should have AR lenses as part of good eyecare.
Armstrong: I would definitely attribute poor AR sales to two factors. First, eyecare professionals (ECPs) can be reluctant to use quality AR products and second, the failure of some ECPs to understand that accepting a lower profit margin for AR initially allows more of the public to try AR and become convinced of its merits. Think for a moment of scratch-resistant lenses. Would anyone purchasing eyewear ask for non-scratch resistant lenses? No, because we’ve done a terrific job of educating the public of the necessity of that feature. If you don’t offer AR, you won’t sell it, and if you offer an inferior AR, it is doomed to failure and the patient will inevitably be dissatisfied with it.
What improvement would you like to see in AR treatments?
Lerner: Longer-lasting AR treatments. I find even name-brand AR treatments from major manufacturers peel off too quickly. And I’d like to see all AR treatments have a top layer to avoid slippage during edging.
Picheny: Better quality control throughout the industry. The inconsistency of this product has developed a lack of confidence in AR treatments as a whole.
Armstrong: More stock lenses offered with quality AR. We also sell a lot of premium lens materials and Transitions® lenses. We always include AR with these products so it would be great if industry manufacturers would get on the bandwagon as well.
Do you sell more than one price of AR treatment? Why/why not?
Lerner: We offer two AR treatments from two major lens manufacturers. We only offer premium AR treatments to avoid premature peeling. This works well for us as we explain to our customer how less expensive coatings aren’t very durable. With a 90% sales rate, I’d say this two-tier strategy works very well. Educating the customer always pays off. Customers definitely see the value of higher quality treatments, especially when they last longer than the AR treatment they purchased elsewhere that only lasted nine months.
|WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
According to Essilor of America, Inc., there are three key facts you may find illuminating when it comes to selling anti-reflective (AR) lenses:
• 86% of eyeglass wearers prefer AR-treated lenses for nighttime driving, improving their vision, and keeping the roads safer.
• 77% of eyeglass wearers stated they’d purchase AR if the benefits were clearly explained to them by their optician
• AR sales can generate additional revenue quickly—by converting one additional AR sale per day, an office’s revenue can increase up to $25,000 annually
Picheny: We do not believe every-one has the same needs when suggesting AR lenses so we offer several choices. When speaking with patients, we determine what their needs are and match it to the AR treatment that fits those requirements. We have a high rate (86%) of acceptance and have never had someone complain that we have misled them.
Armstrong: We only sell premium AR products that are value priced so I find little need to offer a variety of AR choices to each patient. I am willing to forgo some of my profits to select the best AR choice for the lens material and features purchased so customer satisfaction is a given.
What’s the future of AR lenses?
Lerner: They will continue to grow and improve. I would like to see AR treatments as a standard feature, much like a scratch-resistant coating on polycarbonate and high-index lenses is now. It’s better for the wearer in every instance so why bother having it as an “option” and not a standard feature?
Picheny: AR lenses will continue to grow market share.
Armstrong: I am convinced AR will continue to grow as a feature in quality eyewear. The public is seeking value and that is not always defined by barebones features and bottom-of-the-barrel pricing. Instead, by choosing to offer the best at a very attractive price, you will see your bottom line grow as your AR sales do as well.