By Christine Yeh
Retail stores run the gamut when it comes to the type of products and services offered. But regardless of what is being sold, all retailers can agree their store’s design and décor are major components in making good impressions on customers who step foot inside. This is especially evident in optical retail stores and practices, where patients go to receive proper vision care and quite simply, to see better. It’s a no-brainer that quality patient care, superb product mix and excellent customer service should be reflected in the store’s presentation. This is especially vital in today’s digital age, where consumers can post their experiences at a store as soon as they get home on review websites such as Yelp.com.
For a good sense of what optical retailers are doing to create an appealing and customer-friendly atmosphere that successfully showcases their products and services, 20/20 presents the results of our 2012 Retail Design Survey.
Customers visit your store to shop for new eyewear. The best way for them to see their eyewear options is to display your products prominently. The frameboard continues to be the main method of display, with 73 percent of frames sitting on the board, a decrease of 4 percent from last year. In fact, this number has dropped significantly since 2010, where 90 percent of frames were displayed on frameboards. This could be related to the decrease in the number of frame units retailers have in inventory—39 percent keep 500 to 1,000 frames on-hand (compared to 44 percent in 2011) and 20 percent have more than 1,000 frames (a 4 percent drop from 2011).
The percentage of frames in display cases saw a 3 percent decrease compared to last year at 20 percent, followed by 6 percent of frames displayed in storefront windows. Interestingly, 17 percent of frames were displayed using “other” methods including cabinets, drawers and alternative types of displays, compared to last year at 9 percent. This considerable increase could be an indication that retailers are “frame-bored” with traditional methods of display and perhaps are experimenting with new and unconventional ways of product presentation.
Gender tops out as the most preferred category to display eyewear at 71 percent. Categorizing by fashion/name brands follow at 66 percent, a 5 percent decrease from last year. The sunwear and sport categories both saw a decrease this year, at 60 percent (compared to 69 percent in 2011) and 31 percent (compared to 39 percent in 2011), respectively. The color category remains steady at 8 percent, while 10 percent cited “other” categories including children and price, a 4 percent increase from last year. The percent change in category preferences this year could be another sign that retailers are exploring additional ways to display product.
Retailers recognize the importance of strategically positioning certain product categories. According to the survey, 73 percent devote a specific area of their practice to sunwear and sun lens products. This is down 7 percent from 2011, but keeping a separate area for sunwear is still a valuable way to emphasize the importance of proper sun protection. Seventy-seven percent cited a separate area for contact lens fittings.
A frame isn’t complete without lenses, but retailers surveyed reported only 13 percent of display space dedicated to spectacle lenses, lens treatments or lens-related educational information. Only 15 percent of practices’ space was devoted to the finishing area, while 54 percent was dedicated to the dispensing area.
KID YOU HOT
Kids’ business continues to be big business (according to the Kids’ Eyewear MarketPulse Survey in our July issue). They might be small but kids (and their parents) have major purchasing power. Retailers agree, with 67 percent devoting a specific area to kids’ eyewear. To keep the kids happy and create a kid-friendly environment, practices with a kids-dedicated area utilized the following items: books (43 percent), toys (34 percent), child-size furniture (21 percent), a play area (20 percent), video (11 percent) and other items (12 percent).
POINT THE WAY
Whether they’re vendor-supplied or self-provided, point-of-purchase (POP) materials continue to be vital selling tools in dispensaries, showcasing specific brands and providing helpful information on featured products and services. Retailers concur, with 54 percent perceiving POP materials as “somewhat useful” and 35 percent as “very useful.” An increasing percentage is finding them “not useful” (12 percent compared to 8 percent last year).
Retailers continue to rely on eyewear vendors with 75 percent of all POP materials used supplied by these vendors. Less than half of surveyed respondents (45 percent) choose to personalize their merchandising materials by creating them in-house. Of those materials supplied by eyewear vendors, brochures are the most widely used (cited by 77 percent). Countercards, while used by 7 percent less this year, still came in second with 67 percent using them. Demonstration kits saw a 7 percent increase, with 60 percent of retailers using them. This is a positive increase as demo kits are useful for illustrating product features and lens technologies. Spin racks are used by 34 percent and 18 percent use videos. Premium items account for 8 percent while other items are cited by 12 percent. Meanwhile, the number of practices using virtual eyeglass fitting software with patients saw an 8 percent increase from last year to 14 percent, suggesting a renewed interest in alternative frame-fitting tools.
Patients may have to wait until you’re ready to see them but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn anything while doing so. Of those surveyed, 82 percent have a waiting room at their location, and 53 percent of this group incorporates their waiting area into their dispensary area. This sets up an ideal environment to educate patients and provides additional exposure for your products and services.
The most popular items displayed in waiting rooms are brochures/educational materials (82 percent). Photos of models wearing eyewear are displayed by 48 percent, followed by product displays at 41 percent. Thirty-three percent use optical industry publications (such as 20/20), while 13 percent cite “other” items including consumer magazines, videos/DVDs and pictures.
Of those practices with a waiting room, 25 percent employed the use of video to promote their products and services. When practices were asked what types of displays, promotional and educational materials they currently don’t have but would like to have, videos/DVDs continue to be the top items indicated by 19 percent. Retailers recognize the value in selling to a captive audience, and video is an effective way to engage them.
20/20’s Retail Design Survey 2012 was conducted in June 2012 by Jobson Optical Research’s in-house research staff. The sample of 183 independent optical retailers was derived from the proprietary Jobson Optical Research Database. Jobson considers independents any retailer with one, two or three locations. The study was conducted online, and a chance to win a $500 American Express gift card was offered as an incentive.
To ensure consistency in results, all surveys were conducted during the same May/June time period. The 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 studies were also conducted online. A chance to win a $200 gift certificate was offered each year. Where available, four-year comparisons of survey results are provided. The analysis represents historical data and might reflect seasonal market fluctuations.
Senior Research Analyst
Jobson Optical Research
The percentage of retailers surveyed who have a website for their practice decreased slightly this year to 68 percent (compared to 73 percent in 2011). However, this number was offset by an increase in the use of social media vehicles. Practices with Facebook and Twitter pages nearly doubled compared to two years ago. Forty-three percent now have Facebook pages, up 7 percent from 2011, and those with Twitter accounts increased to 11 percent, up 3 percent from last year. Retailers are showing off their social skills, using Facebook to post and share product information, fashion and eyewear trends, and special promotions, and using Twitter to tweet and “retweet” quick tips and links to promos and product information. Both provide fun and engaging ways to stay in touch with patients for return visits.
Websites and social media vehicles help practices maintain a good virtual presence and combine with the practices’ physical appearance and aesthetics to complete the dispensary’s profile. But when it comes down to the consumer experience, traditional brick-and-mortar elements reign supreme, especially with the onslaught of increasing competition from online eyewear retailers. First impressions and perceptions are everything—and it’s crucial for retailers to reflect high quality patient care by shining a positive light on their practices and provide that vital aspect which online retailers can’t do… face-to-face contact. ■