VisionPlus in conversation with Boris Dejonckheere, Vice President (VP), Sales Development- Emerging Markets, Carl ZEISS Vision-Care where he sheds some light on technological advancements, e-commerce, digitalisation and more…
Born and brought up in Belgium, Boris Dejonckheere has been with ZEISS for almost 23 years. In his capacity as a VP, Sales Development, he travels around the globe interacting with several companies in various emerging and developing markets like India, South Africa, parts of Eastern Europe and more.
VisionPlus (VP): Optical trade has come a long way in the last decade. What according to you can be considered as the three major changes in this trade that have paved the way for a brighter future of the industry as a whole?
Boris Dejonckheere (BD): There are many key factors that contribute to the industry’s development. However, if you ask me, the three that I believe have had the maximum impact are increased awareness, usage of free form lenses and the arrival of technology driven initiatives in a big way. Let me elaborate further. These days, I notice that the independent opticians are increasingly aware about the various demands of the customers. This is due to the increasing awareness among customers that has led to a more informed demand.
In the past, there was a lot of focus on frames as the dominant item of the trade. However, now lens are also equally important. As the markets are becoming more and more global, the reach of e-commerce is increasing and the frame story is no longer a dominating one. Now, brands are actively foraying into making lenses.
As for the third factor i.e. technologies, I do believe that it is driving loyalties. Technology is the big dynamic in the market. You may own a physical store but if you do not have a digital presence, there is a risk that the customer may ignore you.
VP: Any idea how foraying online will be good for lenses?
BD: So optics is not different from any other consumer product that you see online. It’s just that your customers, here, are a group of people who are looking for convenience, may be they just want to stay at home, not hit the traffic, after a day’s work, sit in their sofa and choose their lenses. Yes! Online is eating a major chunk of the pie but I also believe that it has introduced healthy competition, motivating us to do better.
VP: Can you shed some light on the research and development initiatives that ZEISS undertakes to live up to its standards of providing an innovative line of products?
BD: ZEISS undertakes a lot of efforts in terms of research and development, primarily for its lenses. We believe lenses are an important part of the eyewear. Therefore we strive to deliver the best quality lenses to suit the varying demands of the modern day customer. Four years ago, in our research, we found out that the consumers keep their iPads and iPhones 20% closer to their nose. So we interpreted this research and altered the lens size for a better consumer experience.
Our strategy is simple, we listen to the end-consumer and their problems and accordingly come up with lens solutions for them.
VP: What are the three most important criteria that are prioritised by the team while developing any new product, irrespective of the market that it is expected to target?
BD: The first thing is always the need of the end-consumer. That is the basis of everything, we do not work on anything without thorough research. The demands of our end-consumers play a crucial role when it comes to developing a new product. Secondly, our products and solutions need to be relevant to the global market. So when we are making lenses, we don’t just cater to the needs of the population in a single area but all across the globe.
VP: Tell us about the latest offerings by ZEISS and the response they have received across different markets?
BD: The optical trade is the same, all across the world. That means that an innovation takes place all over but before the people see its benefits, the trade experiences it. Globally, e-commerce is taking over, thanks to its ability to communicate with the end-consumers. For instance, the e-commerce sites are selling dry-save lenses and the consumers are buying it.
An optician needs to be faster in implementing the communication and pushing out the innovations. Digital lenses, for example, are a perfect match for those aged between 30 to 32 years. They use their phones and other devices at a closer distance so the quotation of stress increases. This is often referred to as digital eye strain and if a customer comes looking for a solution for this, the optician should immediately be able to provide it!
VP: What are the tips you have taken to make your opticians aware of these details and get the information?
BD: We need to improve our communication, as of now our opticians know the technical story or features of our product. We have many schemes and informative slides through which we are also trying to translate the style quotient to the end-consumers.
Whenever there is a new product or technology, we do our bit by educating our optician partners through our E-Academy as well as our on-field interactions with them.
Our opticians feel that the information we provide is able to help them and I believe this is what we are always looking to achieve. After having invested time, this is the best compliment to receive.
In India, for instance, there are really passionate salespeople who visit door to door, gather people in local seminars and conduct regular informative lectures through conferences and events.
VP: In the last one year, which is the market/region, where you have witnessed the significant development of optical trade and how?
BD: Clearly, e-commerce is knocking on our door. India is very responsive and is also adapting to this trend as compared to many other regions who have restrictions.
In these regions, we have invested a lot of effort to help the markets adapt as there is a number of ZEISS Vision Centers opening across the world. The good refraction machines, measuring machines and re-screen machines are contributing by bringing us good business and also helping in upgrading the trade. For us as well as for our competitors, this is a huge change.
Opticians have already started investing and making plans for their next 10 to 20 years in business in terms of eyeglasses. The developing partners in Europe are 3 to 4 per cent in comparison to India, as it is the fastest growing markets. In fact, this is indeed a positive news as India has grown up to 20 per cent.