It struck me as I was on several of the forums on Facebook, there are alot of ECP’s who ask for recommendations on eyewear suppliers. While recommendations are great, one needs to perhaps look closer at the companies recommended for various reasons:
- The recommendations come in from the few that are active on that particular forum. Should you rely on those recommendations exclusively?
- Are you willing to do your own ‘ background’ research or just rely on recommendations?
- Will those companies be the best fit for the new and rebranded you?
I believe that eyecare professionals should actively be on the look-out for new suppliers every year. Whether you look at trade shows, a rep comes in with a new line, you heard about a new product from a consumer, friend or a colleague, or saw something online, a company that shares the same beliefs you do, one should always be looking for The Next Big Thing and be open to all possibilities.
Five years ago, I would have referred to you a vendor profile, which would have encompassed: reps, returns, backorders, co-op advertising, discounts etc. Today, while those might be important, there are many other things to consider like:
Is That Company Your Competition?
We suggest that eyecare professionals should be investigating the company carefully first online before they make the decision to purchase any collection. Consider your own motivation for something new and review why you are looking:
- Looking for small indie brands?
- Are consumers asking for certain brands or looks?
- Looking for more exclusive type of products? Unique?
- Looking for Brand recognition?
- Current product not selling through.
- Missing several demographic products and price points.
- Now have staff that can sell the product that you might be looking for.
Getting back to Are they your competition? When I said competition, will you gain or lose business from adding that vendor? On one hand, a presence online will help in building name recognition and on the other it can be easier for the consumer to shop online.
Consider the following:
- Do they have their own retail stores? (They may call them Showrooms or Flagship stores)
- If they do have their own store: Where is the store? Will that store refer to you? How has that store affected you?
- Can the consumer buy online from them directly off their website?
- Can the consumer buy online from them via: Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook?
- What presence do they have on ebay, Amazon or Etsy? Is it just closeout product or do they actively solicit and sell online?
- What presence do they have on online e-tail? How is the pricing compared to your markup?
- What presence do they have in Department and Sporting Good Stores? Stores, both online and brick and mortar.
- Do they have a dealer/store/stocklist locator on their website in which they refer consumers to?
- If evaluating Licensed Brands, how will that enhance your brand? Will you gain or lose sales if carrying ‘Known’ designer brand? How many D2C brick and mortar stores do they have in your area?
What- How is their Social Media Presence? If they are big on Social Media and you are not, will it help to build your brand? If you are big on Social Media and they are not, how can you build the brand without their support?
- Are they using the same Social Media platforms as you? As an example, if they are big on Instagram and you are not, how can you take advantage of that marketing?
- How can you piggyback on on their social media presence?
- Do they showcase their customers on their social media? This is especially good if they do sell online and help to funnel buyers to your office.
- Do you want your supplier to have a Social Media presence? There are quite a few small indie eyewear companies that do not have a Facebook page. Most have a website, but many are very out of date. How important is that to you?
- What if they don’t have any social media presence? There are a lot of pros to no online presence, yet it might be more work.
- How can you take advantage of their ‘community’?
As an example: Luxury Eyewear company, Sama Eyewear who was founded in 1990. They have an international presence, four store locations, and over 412,000 Likes on Facebook, 23K Followers on Twitter, 30,500 followers on Instagram. Worn by many celebrities and a portion of Sama Eyewear’s annual proceeds are donated to the Sam Vance Foundation. Great online presence, lots of content to share, they are consistent with great Facebook Fodder. They have a dealer locator on the site (wonderful for an exclusive brand) But a consumer can purchase Sama on their website or Facebook.
After evaluating the above marketing: Take a look at the other features of the eyewear and or accessory including looking at their website. Is that website a good resource or is it so bad, it is a bad reflection on the company?
What is their price point?
- If they do sell online, how is their retail price point going to match yours?
- Do you need that retail price point, how does it fit in your overall plan?
- Do they discount?
What – How is their Marketing?
- Do they have a rep? Do you really need a rep?
- Does the rep do Trunk Shows?
- What POP do they have?
- What is their story? Can that story be used to market?
- What do they Stand For? Do they have a a philthantropic program? Is this important to you?
Then of course:
- Return policy
Please note it is virtually impossible to keep any products off the internet. I wouldn’t be too concerned about product showing up here and there, because it will happen no matter how much companies try to control placement.
The world has changed and retailers need to look at all aspects of their business and the brands they carry. Only you know what will work and what is important to you and your business plan. Research carefully and ask your friends and lab partner about customer service and quality. Make your decision based upon your needs and what your current staff can sell.