Does everyone get the same anti-reflective lenses (AR) in your office?
We can ask the same question about the patients that pass through
the doors of your office. Are the patients all the same? Do they all
want the same products, brands, lenses, etc.? By now most ECPs
know there are different brands of AR. In fact, there are also a number of AR versions within each of the major brands and they’re not
the same. They provide the customer with a choice of good,
better and best. It’s the same option consumers have when they purchase a new digital camera, soft drink or salad. What are the
features and benefits that are required—which makes it the best?
Having choices is a terrific opportunity and when products are
available with different benefits at different price points, we say
the product category has been segmented. The result is an opportunity for eyewear personalization.
All AR lenses are not the same. Their improvements have
reached a point where it’s not just a “nice to have” but many
consider AR a necessity. Sure wearers can live without it but why
should they? The vision benefit is un-arguable. Night vision is
clearer. In fact, reaction time has been
shown to be quicker
because of clearer
vision. Wearer’s eyes
are more visible so
that facilitates communication and it
improves the look of
the wearer and their
eyewear. So what’s
the current market,
how many are really
buying it and how
can we use the different varieties of AR to
A MARKET OVERVIEW
Overall, AR is now about 30 percent
of the spectacle market and growing.
When asked what lens style they wear,
45 percent of AR lens buyers (VisionWatch, a Jobson and Vision Council project) wear single vision, 21 percent
bifocal/trifocals and 34 percent progressives. This suggests a variety of
opportunities. First, AR is almost half of Single Vision sales, a typically younger consumer. That means that one can effectively appeal to
the “good looks” that AR gives a pair of glasses and the consumer’s
interest in style. Next, a third of progressive wearers have AR. AR
refines the precision of the newest designs and helps deliver the best
vision. Last are bifocal wearers, perhaps not as interested in the looks
of their glasses or there’s a budget constraint—the opportunity here is
always to recommend the crispest vision regardless of lens style and
maybe a standard vs. premium AR may also fit the budget.
What’s happening at the independent? From VisionWatch, a Vision
Council and Jobson research project, about 42 percent of AR lens
buyers say that they purchased their AR lenses at an independent;
more were women than men. By age, about 19 percent of AR lens
buyers were in the 18-34 year old age group and usage increases
somewhat with age. Certainly, the amount of disposable income and
the value of AR may be more appreciated by the 55 year old and
older. It makes a difference for the over 55 year old. We’ll explore the
reasons and the ways that patients see the benefits of AR lenses later.
Some retail chains provide AR to over 70 percent of their customers as virtually all customers get anti-glare lenses as a function of
a corporate decision or the average selling price is low that virtually all
customers say yes.
Some independent’s offices surveyed are also at 80 percent of all
lenses dispense. If the average is 30 percent and there are examples of
80 percent and more, then many offices are only dispensing about
10 percent of their lenses with AR. Why the difference?
The 80 percent office has made a decision that AR is best for their patients. When discussing the choice,
they most often list
the following as
reason: high usage
is based on the
AR technology and resulting patient satisfaction. They also prefer AR
lenses personally. The practice benefits when they add AR to high-index and/or progressive lenses and last but not least the fact that
patients like the way they see and look.
IMPROVING MARKET PENETRATION
Improvements to products that consumers already appreciate and
improvements to those products that are well conceived, always
improve market penetration and use. In this case, AR is a good idea;
the benefits are easily “seen” by both the wearer and the viewer. By
improving the cleanability and durability, AR manufacturers have
provided the dispenser with a product that is appreciated, even at
higher costs to the consumer. Why does this work?
The improvements have given the optician selling it a very high
level of confidence. The wearer benefits because they look and see
better and when so many people have AR, it becomes highly
noticeable when your glasses lack AR. Opticians and doctors agree,
few returns and higher patient satisfaction fuels growth. A majority
wear it themselves.
How can we make it grow faster? Technology improvements and a
variety of AR that provides different levels of AR help to better meet
each patient’s need. Don’t get me wrong—the best AR today is the
best that a patient can wear however, being realistic, not every patient
can add that to their glasses when they also might want
photochromics and a progressive in a thinner and lighter material. So
having a variety of AR levels allows the dispenser to better manage
the final choices for a pair of glasses. Therefore, to recommend the
best choices, understand the technology, know how to describe them
and teach the patient what to expect.
TECHNOLOGY THAT WORKS
Technology advancements fuel AR improvement and change the
complexion of the AR market. From the top-most layers down to the
lens, let’s look at how different changes have created a
variety of new ARs.
Hydrophobic (water) and oleophobic (oils) topcoats added to the
surface of the coating create a sealing, lubricious (slippery), uniform
surface that makes the surface less susceptible to fingerprints and
smears. As a result, lenses are easier to clean and keep clean. This
kind of surface change is usually measured by the contact angle
(higher is better) that a drop of water creates i.e., how easily the liquid
beads and can be wiped from the surface. The newest super
hydrophobic and super oleophobics have made this even better.
Patients have noticed a significant change in the simplicity of cleaning
their lenses. Another improvement is that these newest topcoats are
anti-static. This ensures that the cleaning/rubbing process, which can
create static electricity and attract dust and debris, doesn’t. Lenses
stay cleaner after cleaning.
Invention breeds invention. A more slippery surface can also
create an issue when edging as lenses may rotate on the edger and
result in off-axis edged lenses. As a result, stickier edging pads have
been created that better hold lenses while processing as well as the
edger manufacturers have changed edger clamping pressure, lens and
wheel rotation speed and water cycling based on new lenses.
The best of the AR now improves the hardness of the AR using
dual hard coats. AR scratch and abrasion resistance is a function of
the lens and hard coat it is applied to. Dual hard coats allows a more
scratch and abrasion resistance on all substrates. The lens is coated
twice with the first layer typically being an impact improving primer.
This layer sticks to all lens materials and allows a second, super hard
thermal hard coat applied to the primer. In this way, the resulting
layers are super hard and the best surface for AR.
UV cured hard coats are used regularly in the laboratory, typically
for polycarbonate and manufacturer-applied front surface coatings
on semi-finished lens blanks. Improvements to UV and thermally
cured chemistries are possible with new bombardment techniques
within the AR chamber. Called ion assisted deposition, an electron
pulse provides for a more compact application of the stack, the
variety of metal and silicon oxides that are applied on top of the hard
coats. The results are that if the lab started with a somewhat softer hard coat it gets harder. Harder hard coats also get harder.
Two method’s to hard coat lenses are used; dip and spin. Some
manufacturers spin on a front surface hard coat to their semi-finished
lens blanks. The lab then applies a back surface coating. In dip
coating, the coating is applied at the same time to both lens surfaces.
This is done after surfacing but before AR application and
edging. Dip has provided the best opportunity to improve
scratch and abrasion resistance as well as durability. As a result,
manufacturers produce uncoated lens blanks that facilitate dip
coating. Some labs will overcoat or remove the manufacturer’s hard
coat first before dip coating.
The original issue of crazing or cracking of the coating during
normal wear has virtually disappeared. Patients rarely return with
crazed lenses. AR is vulnerable to heat, not to chemicals so those bad
patients—you know who they are—they leave their glasses on the
dashboard, create a problem when the lens expands significantly and
the coating cannot. The result is a cracked coating that must be
replaced. Cracking can also occur when a very thin high-index lens is
edged with excess clamping pressure and the crazing pattern looks
just like the shape of the blocking pads. Regardless, there is virtually
no cracking or crazing today in premium AR today.
PREMIUM OR STANDARD AR?
Two or three AR options are often the case for any variety of
manufacturers or labs. Having a choice makes you better able to
meet a patients needs and wants. Therefore, having AR segmented
into a number of offerings helps everyone get into AR. It doesn’t
change that premium AR is best.
Why does offering a variety of AR products better meet different
consumer needs? And, why should you consider it? Every patient
has individual needs, preferences and behaviors. It’s impossible to
have one product that meets everyone’s wants and needs.
When matching the right AR with other patient choices, consider
some of the guidelines that marketers use to develop meaningful
product segments. This is adapted from themanager.org/Marketing.
When offering another AR segment, for example, the super hydro
and super oleophobics in addition to the standard hydrophobic—
they must meet the following tests—the differences must be: 1. Measurable, different from the previous version, typically improving on
the characteristics that were less than 100 percent, 2. Relevant, meaningful to the needs of the wearer, and 3. Easily Accessible, easily
sourced and combinable with the variety of lens designs and materials.
For example: If you offer two versions: a high-end and a low-end
version some patients tend to exhibit ‘extremeness aversion’ or not
buy the better version. It may be preferable to offer three versions:
good, better and best. The reason is when the ECP considers the performance benefits of AR and patients consider the other
premium adds to their eyewear, all may be possible when some of
the “better” choices are chosen instead of all the “best.” Therefore,
having choice is good.
In another example, when a patient likes a new frame that is more
expensive than the one they purchased last time and is unsure about
spending that much, adding a higher priced version to the selection
actually boosts the sales of the mid-priced version. Think coffee at
Starbucks, few will order the venti (biggest) but its availability induces
some buyers to trade up from the tall (regular) to a grande (bigger).
Similarly, it makes sense to add expensive wines to a wine-list that
realistically few are going to order.
In your office, have luxury frames for both the patient’s that
are seeking them and for the comparative effect. It allows patients to
see that their middle choice where there are more benefits is a
reasonable choice. So, describe the best lens with the best AR added
that is possible. There’s always an opportunity to compromise.
Anything less still provides terrific patient benefits and the average
selling price is also higher so better for the business and is confidence
building for dispensers
MAKING THE BEST CHOICE
The AR Decision – Best, Better, Good and all others
||Anti-static, Super Oleophobic + AR + HC + Primer + Substrate Most durable, the easiest to clean and keep clean, best clarity
||Oleophobic + AR + HC + Primer + Substrate Dual hard coat both sides with a hydro and oleophobic top coating
||Hydrophobic + AR + HC + Substrate Hard coated lens, both surfaces, AR and hydrophobic
||AR + HC Substrate No hard coat on the lens back, manufacturer-applied front coating
||Uncoated (Substrate) alone, Especially bad when poly or high index
when surface reflections are increased
Don’t forget a back to basics approach. Too many choices can be
confusing so be picky—choose what you offer correctly. How do you
know what to choose? The best in the AR category has to be
premium in all of its components. Consider:
Bayer Abrasion Rating — a method of measuring the abrasion
resistance of coatings vs. uncoated plastic lenses. Look for ratings >8,
which mean that the lenses are eight or more times abrasion resistant than ordinary uncoated CR-39 lenses. This kind of value suggests
that the lens will perform with clarity throughout the life of the lens.
Contact Angle — the tightness of a
liquid or oil droplet is an indication
of the ease of its ability to be wiped
away. More than 110 degrees
improves the ability to easily wipe
Clarity — The highest transmission
improves lens clarity and vision
Anti-static — Lenses stay cleaner longer when anti-static, will not
attract dust or debris.
Reflex color — Choose the reflection color that best meets your
needs; it does not affect performance. Ensure that both lenses though
are the same color.
Little or no returns — Success for wearers and the ECP is a function of returns; that equals confidence level. For example, iCoat Vivix
and Stainless boast a <0.5 percent return rate. Be sure to ask the
question of your supplier.
Warranties — There’s a reason that premium AR lenses have longer
warranties. The companies behind them have the confidence to offer
a satisfaction warranty that is consistent with the way that consumers
purchase the best of products. It also encourages trial and protects
the patient and ECP.
Starts as a naked lens — The best results use dual coatings on an
uncoated lens. Therefore, choose the flexibility of the lens and
AR lab that lets you start with whatever combination you think
is best. In this way, the office is not locked into a compatibility or
Consistency — Lastly, the promise you make to patients must be
consistent, lens-to-lens and eyewear-to-eyewear. This includes their
confidence in your recommendation of new technologies since
previous recommendations were good.
PREMIUM AR IS EVEN MORE CRITICAL TODAY
A critical addition to make good lenses better requires premium AR.
It ensures the acuity and visual clarity designed into new
free-form or digitally surfaced progressives.
Add premium AR to photochromics like new Transitions VI,
it improves performance, utility and convenience. The addition
of AR improves lens clarity, speeds fading and improves a
Polarized and sun lenses are made better since reflections off
surfaces are more visible and get in the way. Add AR to reduce the
visibility of rear surface reflections and on the front of the lens to
reduce harmful reflection of UV to the nose. Vision is clearer.
AR is critical to all high-index and polycarbonate lenses since
surface reflections are index dependent. Considering almost half
of the lenses dispensed today are polycarbonate or high index, AR
is a critical add.
Lastly, there is a re-emerging single vision market considering the
growth of young families; its not all Baby Boomers. Therefore, getting them prepared for a life with AR is important to start as soon
as they order their first glasses. They want to look good in their
glasses and AR is the best way to ensure, for tweens, their glasses
virtually disappear so they wear them, for teenagers, they look terrific in their new eyewear, and for the young adult, the best in
looks and vision is ensured.
COMMUNICATING THE MESSAGE
Tell the patient about AR and the variety of coatings
available that will better meet their needs. For example, the variety
of Coca Cola soft drinks, diet, no caffeine, vanilla, cherry or any
combination of these says that they meet personal preference. You
can offer the same in AR to meet the performance and cost
requirements for any patient.
Discuss the patient’s and your own previous experiences. This
opens the opportunity to tell what’s new and how they’ve changed
to better meet their needs.
Managed vision care takes care of the basics, so items such as AR
are more affordable. In fact, many MVC programs include AR
in the benefit.
Your professional recommendation is key. Be sure to wear it
yourself and describe your own experiences. If your glasses are
without the best in AR, how can you describe the way it wears?
Therefore, be sure to wear all the versions that you have available
so you can learn the advantages and limitations, if any.
Use point-of-purchase materials, demonstrate AR using half
coated lenses or a pair of spectacles where one lens is coated, the
other uncoated. You might also show the difference between old
AR and today’s AR so the patient that says, “Oh, I had them a
long time ago and they weren’t good…” can be shown their experience has been corrected.
Also, describe that the entire lens package is now warranted
when they use the best in AR. Like the best of consumer retail,
high confidence by manufacturer means they stand behind their
products and that’s why you recommend them.
Today, the ECP can expertly meet the personal AR needs
of each patient. While the best of AR is best for all patients, a
variety of products from reliable and consistent manufacturers
mean that more people can enjoy the benefits of AR.
Provide the customer with a choice of good, better and
best. Having choices is a terrific opportunity. AR product
segmentation results in an opportunity for the best in