Ours is an industry that others can only dream about. Consider: the U.S. population is getting older and these older Americans (Baby Boomers) come in large numbers and have disposable income – and they’re virtually all presbyopic at this point. A generation comparable in size (Millennials) likes to spend money too, and also appreciates fashion, altruistic causes and good value. Hence, the vision care patient pool is growing.

The profit margins on optical goods and services are pretty reasonable, and while managed vision care does impact profits, it also keeps the exam chairs full (and eye exams are up). Also, there’s a plethora of innovative, new products that offer greater fashion, greater technology and greater wearability.

Despite all these good indicators, the optical marketplace has grown over the last year by a rate of less than 2% (Vision Council numbers).

So what’s going wrong? There are a number of factors at play. First, there’s a lot of commodity marketing. Buy one, get one. Two pair for $99. Buy online for $39 a pair. While you’d think this would stimulate sales, it probably makes the consumer feel that eyeglasses from a more conventional provider are a rip-off. Then there’s the repurchase cycle, now dictated by managed care more than ever and pretty much stuck at two years-plus. And there’s the lack of skill (or desire) to be a salesperson-as many ECPs are apt to admit.

But the biggest hurdle to sales growth is consumer ambivalence. Consumers get excited about buying new apparel, new electronics and new cars. But eyewear? It’s rare that you’ll hear someone speak with frothy anticipation about buying a new pair of eyeglasses, much less two or three. For many consumers, eyewear is a “need” purchase as opposed to a “want” purchase.

How do we create that compelling “want” among consumers? It isn’t easy.

Can you imagine a television show or film in which every single character wore glasses? That would certainly get attention and would probably convey a subliminal message to viewers.

Or what if we all had “eyeglass parties,” where all the guests had to come wearing a pair of glasses (whether Rx or plano)?

These ideas may seem a little outlandish, and they’re meant to. But this is what our industry needs-some big, outlandish idea that makes eyewear top of mind for consumers and creates the desired “want” purchase instinct.

email me at FG@VisionCareProducts.com


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