Optical retail has received both positive and negative statements from the media for its existence. The key is to get stubborn, keep adapting, and move forward to better practices
Optical retail today is in the process of rising to the occasion by accepting the changing dynamics of retail and taking every effort to be in sync with the digital.
I read an article by Mark Graham, the other day and I realised that all is possible if only you know where you are going. To be honest, without a little competition and a bunch of hurdles, it wouldn’t be the least bit interesting. I believe, competition only makes you better as it leads you to invest your time in making your business practices better.
How it all started?
We have overcome the 1980’s, contact lenses appearance which the world felt it would spell the death of frames. The frame manufacturers took this as an opportunity and started to design frames which were unique, stylish and fashionable! And it was not long before the world realised that everyone loves a little spunk in their everyday eyewear to kill the monotony?
And it did turn as the transition of a medical device for eye correction to a fashion necessity.
So was 1990’s, came in as the new kid on the block called laser surgery and everyone wanted to play with it. And the same prediction aired and the death of opticians was almost certain. They, in turn, used this as an advancement like it was a blessing. Technology has been their friend ever since.
Now in the year 2018, the complaint is about competition in terms of pricing. Online retailers like the Lenskarts of the world are offering everything at some discount making it look like the poor optician has nothing to offer.
BUT THIS IS WRONG.
The optician is actually the king with the wealth of retail experience, product, and engagement. Three things the world wide web cannot offer. It cannot offer an experience and it cannot be engaging. Interacting with a computer, cannot be as interesting as with people
I, like every other consumer, am scared to buy expensive things online because it may not meet my expectations. Also, I honestly believe that the entire hassle of going through the so-called one-day return is petrifying.
What should an optician do?
First of all, don’t base your selling point on discounts. There is a reason sales promotion works only occasionally and not always. Low prices and unnecessary discounts arise a doubt and that leads to disparity between you and the customer. You want them to trust you, not keep an eye on you.
Any business plan that relies solely on discounts or low prices to set themselves apart ultimately leads to low margins and eventual insolvency. Short term, you might see a sales bump but long term you’ll see disaster.
– Mark Graham
A product is secondary to the shopping experience
Let’s face it, there is competition online. People are selling prescription lenses on Facebook. What can you do?
You move on. And you build your empire, wherein a customer is treated with utmost luxury. The idea is to make your customer the priority, make their experience in the store like one of their the best times and then rely on their choice of product. I can say confidently, they will buy.
Engagement is a very funny yet tempting term. Let me tell you, engagement is mostly about talking, gesturing and smiling. An optician is a customer’s friend, guide, and confidant when they walk into their store. They expect them to be the most loyal, and that’s all. They expect them to not fool them and let them enjoy their shopping time. Why? Because when they walk out of the store with the product they want the best first memory attached to it. Not a nightmare where they are involved in the hassle of a bargain or experience bad behaviour of the salesman.
Then the most important, your employees and their etiquettes. And finally- the product! That’s right, the product comes later.
What comes before the product?
A shop’s display is what matters the most. How one has managed to arrange the products in order to present them to the customers is the key.
Buying an eyewear is exactly like buying any other product. It is shopping. And when a person is out for shopping they are looking at something that attracts them the most. So you need to make it a point that you arrange and present the products in a manner that intrigues your customer to look at them, try them, and ultimately buy them!
No jokes here. The odour of a store is something that plays a very important role in a buying process for a customer. Think of a scenario, you’d not like a sewer next to your home, will you? Same goes for your shop. It cannot smell like anything that causes a dislike.
A shop’s odour has to be refreshing to uplift the customer’s mood and make him feel good.
Let’s face it, there is a reason why a person feels like a breath of fresh air has passed through his entire internal system when he/she walks out of a Louis Vuitton boutique.
Your salesperson is like a soldier guarding a country’s honour at stake. He must defend the honour of your shop and the products you offer to the customer. Your salesperson’s appearance has nothing to do with it. But his behaviour is everything that will define the customer’s course of action.
Good language skills and friendliness are the first that come to my mind when I think of an ideal salesperson. Also, a salesperson must know what is he selling and how he must sell it. That happens when they know a certain product or service very thoroughly.
This can be achieved by regularly training them through mocks and training sessions as well as seminars. VP Academy is one such initiative for the Indian Optical industry that allows opticians and salespersons to learn about various products and how can they sell them to a set of customer-segment.
Thumb rule of optical retailing
The first impression is the last impression. As an optical retailer, you must know what is going on in a customer’s mind just by the look of them. How? You are not a psychologist. You cannot read people. But trust me reading customer behaviour is easier.
Consider my suggestion and work in teams with your employees. Go through case studies on consumer behaviour that offer a different approach to various situations. Implement them. Use the technology as it is pretty much free-flowing nowadays. Stay abreast with the updates of the trade through the internet, attend seminars that are specially conducted for the optical retailers and store owners, grow from your mistakes and shortcomings.
Optical retail is alive, dear friends. It is time you stop believing in rumours telling you otherwise.