How Online-Only Optical Retailers Are Leveraging The Power Of Digital


Trends in the US suggest that online sales of contact lenses have been on the rise since 2017. Here's how the power of the digital age is changing the way we shop for our contact lenses... 

More People Want Contact Lenses, Fast 

In 2017, sales of contact lenses in the USA reached $5 billion – almost a 40% increase since 2010 (according to Statista). While eyeglass sales still remain strong and exceed that of contact lenses, more and more people are either switching to contacts or combining them with eyeglass wear. Due to the convenience they offer, daily lenses are the most preferred type of lens, with many patients able to purchase large volumes of dailies online from a reputable brand, and in some cases with no prescription if they have an account with one of the many online-only trusted retailers, such as Vision Direct. 

Online optical retailers are becoming increasingly aware of the trend for daily disposable lenses, and many offer various types of daily lens through their website as they notice an increase in customer popularity due to good hygiene associated with daily lenses and the convenience of having them posted through the door. This creates a demand that other optical retailers in physical shops have to match. 

A Changing Customer Base 

Online-only optical retailers are using the power of the internet to increase their customer base. The eyecare market used to be dominated by Baby Boomers, but this is changing. While Baby Boomers' generate 28% revenue of the eyecare industry, Generation X also makes up 27%, followed by Millennials, who now have 20% of the market share. This general balance across generations has made retailers change the way they sell their products. 

Patients from Generation X and Millennials prefer digital communications and notifications via text and email rather than going into a shop to re-order lenses. They also want to make appointments, order contacts and eyeglasses and speak to their optician online rather than over the phone or in store. They want notifications to remind them to make an appointment or re-order lenses. Online-only retailers notice that some optical retailers are not harnessing these types of technologies, and are therefore attracting these stores' customers by appealing to a wider-ranging customer base with a wealth of digital services. 

Other Purchase Potential 

Online retailers give customers the option to not only re-order contact lenses, but to purchase sunglasses, eyeglasses and more. Multiple-pair sales of eyeglasses are up by 56% since 2017, and sunglasses account for 18% of all optical-related sales. A customer can purchase all of these online at the click of a button. 

Customers Appreciate The Benefits Of Buying Optical Products Online 

Online-only retailers note that customers enjoy the main benefits of ordering all their eyecare needs online through a website rather than having to physically go into a shop. Some of these benefits include: 

● Affordability, as lenses and eyeglasses purchased online are often much cheaper 
● Convenience – products can be ordered anywhere at any time that suits the customer 
● No prescription required (although many online optical retailers can confirm prescription requirements with a customer if needed) 
● Simple re-ordering processes 
● Order reminders 
● Availability – many optical retailers have chat and help services that are open for much longer hours than a shop 

Online Retailers Now Offer Eye Exams 

More online optical retailers are offering online exams and services for patients to get their prescription through digital means. Vision tests can now be carried out from the comfort of the patient's own home via the internet. This is ideal for those who need to have a sight test, but who cannot get to an optician due to work commitments, etc. This service is centred around convenience and customer needs that are in line with our ever-busy lifestyles. 

Affordability And Convenience 

Convenience is king in the world of optical online retail. More retailers are making it as easy as possible to re-order products online by creating an account and re-ordering in just a couple of clicks or taps on a smartphone. Customers can also compare prices to find the products that are most suitable for them. The online optical retail market is highly competitive, and customers are not afraid to shop around to get a good deal on their eyeglasses or contact lenses. This means that retailers have to remain one step ahead and closely observe consumer behaviour and needs.

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