Optical Darwinism Present With Excellence Or Perish

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Bill Gerber is a regular reader of the Optical Vision Site blog and has written an article about the state of the industry and what we can do about it. I think you might enjoy his unique approach and recommendations. Bill can be contacted directly at billg@globalimpactgig.com

Optical Darwinism; Present With Excellence Or Perish, By Bill Gerber

Bill Gerber
Bill Gerber

Co Founder/Designer, Global Impact Group

billg@globalimpactgig.com

“It’s The Economy Stupid” – Truer words were never spoken.  A few questions to consider.  Why is it that the optical industry did not grow in the best of times?  Will it shrink along with the general economy?  Will the luxury segment disappear?  Will everyone want replacement lenses only?  These are but a few of the questions circulating in the ‘optisphere‘.  Who holds the answers?  To all of them, no one does frankly.  But to some of them, I believe I can shed some light.  Having started my career as a frame rep in the midst of the 80’s downturn, I’ve been through a few cycles.  Up, down, up down, it’s the way it is.  Though we strive for normalcy and predictability, it’s nothing more than a myth.  The businesses I see that constantly succeed are those willing to change, adapt and focus on fundamentals. Business as usual for the optical industry is dead as we know it.

Why didn’t the optical industry grow in the best of times?  Complacency – Optical merchants (wholesalers and retailers) worried about chains, the other guy, pricing, brands while other retail segments entertained and served the consumers needs and grew.  Look no further than Apple, Starbucks, Sephora and Target for examples.  We failed to provide a compelling experience for most and they got bored with us.  It’s common in relationships; get comfortable and someone bolts.  Rather than stimulating the market to buy eyewear that radically improved the quality of their lives in greater numbers, many of us sold one designer named frame with lenses.  Essentially substituting the no name brand sold in decades past. That’s cannibalism.  We can do better.

Luxury Eyewear Display
Luxury Eyewear Display

Will the luxury segment disappear?  Absolutely not!  I worry about the middle as it has historically shrunk in tougher times.  Remember, there are still plenty of people that have money and will gladly spend it given the right conditions.  Great eyewear, and by that I mean amazing frames outfitted with the latest lenses are affordable for most.  Anyone that needs vision correction does not consider their sight a luxury.  Working in the industry makes it very easy to overlook (no pun intended)the value of our products to people.  In fact, just last week an industrial designer friend of mine mentioned how his life has changed since buying prescription computer lenses.  He did not learn about them from his optometrist or optician by the way.

Entertaining Display (changes colors)
Entertaining Display (changes colors)

The collective and individual key to all of our survival and prosperity lies in how well we present the amazing array of goods and services currently available. To assist in the process of improving our customers experience takes truthful analysis of current practices.   Based on my visits to over 10,000 optical stores, booths and wholesalers I have compiled a list which I hope you find helpful.

The right way to display
The right way to display

Six Common Optical Merchandising Mistakes:

1.)  Displaying eyewear without proper brand story/benefits signage.

2.)  Not featuring a lens displays in a prominent location that addresses a variety of lifestyle situations and their solutions.

3.)  Failing to display current graphics/ads as seen in leading fashion and news magazines.  The problem that arises from not doing this is that there is no connection to what the customer sees in your location to what they are seeing in the media.

4.)  Failure to have a merchandising strategy.  In this era of specialization, it is important to define ones look and market.  A strategy consists of answers to the following questions:

a.)  Who is our customer today?

b.)  Where do they shop other than our practice?

c.)   What is their expectation of a retail experience?

d.)  What do we want them to think about our location when they are driving home after buying a new pair of glasses?

e.)  What is our look?

5.)  Not having literature readily available.  With all the advances in product technology (especially on the lens side) it is very important that product literature be easily accessible in order to add credibility to specific product recommendations.

6.)  Clutter.  We all know what it is.  Is your presentation cluttered at all?  If so, it’s time to look at it with fresh eyes and make sure that anything that represents clutter is kept out of sight.  This includes cleaning rags, shipping boxes, tattered displays from vendors, tools etc.

By looking closely at how you present your products and making the necessary changes, you’ll experience not only greater customer satisfaction and increased profits but the personal satisfaction that comes with helping people get what they really want and need.

Optical Darwinism; Present With Excellence Or Perish

By Bill Gerber – Co Founder/Designer, Global Impact Group, billg@globalimpactgig.com

“It’s The Economy Stupid” – Truer words were never spoken.  A few questions to consider.  Why is it that the optical industry did not grow in the best of times?  Will it shrink along with the general economy?  Will the luxury segment disappear?  Will everyone want replacement lenses only?  These are but a few of the questions circulating in the ‘optisphere‘.  Who holds the answers?  To all of them, no one does frankly.  But to some of them, I believe I can shed some light.  Having started my career as a frame rep in the midst of the 80’s downturn, I’ve been through a few cycles.  Up, down, up down, it’s the way it is.  Though we strive for normalcy and predictability, it’s nothing more than a myth.  The businesses I see that constantly succeed are those willing to change, adapt and focus on fundamentals.  Business as usual for the optical industry is dead as we know it.

Entertaining Sunglass Display
Entertaining Sunglass Display

Why didn’t the optical industry grow in the best of times?  Complacency – Optical merchants (wholesalers and retailers) worried about chains, the other guy, pricing, brands while other retail segments entertained and served the consumers needs and grew.  Look no further than Apple, Starbucks, Sephora and Target for examples.  We failed to provide a compelling experience for most and they got bored with us.  It’s common in relationships; get comfortable and someone bolts.  Rather than stimulating the market to buy eyewear that radically improved the quality of their lives in greater numbers, many of us sold one designer named frame with lenses.  Essentially substituting the no name brand sold in decades past. That’s cannibalism.  We can do better.

Luxury Eyewear Display
Luxury Eyewear Display

Will the luxury segment disappear?  Absolutely not!  I worry about the middle as it has historically shrunk in tougher times.  Remember, there are still plenty of people that have money and will gladly spend it given the right conditions.  Great eyewear, and by that I mean amazing frames outfitted with the latest lenses are affordable for most.  Anyone that needs vision correction does not consider their sight a luxury.  Working in the industry makes it very easy to overlook (no pun intended)the value of our products to people.  In fact, just last week an industrial designer friend of mine mentioned how his life has changed since buying prescription computer lenses.  He did not learn about them from his optometrist or optician by the way.

The collective and individual key to all of our survival and prosperity lies in how well we present the amazing array of goods and services currently available. To assist in the process of improving our customers experience takes truthful analysis of current practices.   Based on my visits to over 10,000 optical stores, booths and wholesalers I have compiled a list which I hope you find helpful.

Six Common Optical Merchandising Mistakes:

1.)  Displaying eyewear without proper brand story/benefits signage.

2.)  Not featuring a lens displays in a prominent location that addresses a variety of lifestyle situations and their solutions.

3.)  Failing to display current graphics/ads as seen in leading fashion and news magazines.  The problem that arises from not doing this is that there is no connection to what the customer sees in your location to what they are seeing in the media.

4.)  Failure to have a merchandising strategy.  In this era of specialization, it is important to define ones look and market.  A strategy consists of answers to the following questions:

a.)  Who is our customer today?

b.)  Where do they shop other than our practice?

c.)   What is their expectation of a retail experience?

d.)  What do we want them to think about our location when they are driving home after buying a new pair of glasses?

e.)  What is our look?

5.)  Not having literature readily available.  With all the advances in product technology (especially on the lens side) it is very important that product literature be easily accessible in order to add credibility to specific product recommendations.

6.)  Clutter.  We all know what it is.  Is your presentation cluttered at all?  If so, it’s time to look at it with fresh eyes and make sure that anything that represents clutter is kept out of sight.  This includes cleaning rags, shipping boxes, tattered displays from vendors, tools etc.

By looking closely at how you present your products and making the necessary changes, you’ll experience not only greater customer satisfaction and increased profits but the personal satisfaction that comes with helping people get what they really want and need.

Resource: Bill Gerber VMExpert@yahoo.com< ><–>

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