By Vicki B. Masliah • Photographed by Ned Matura
As consumers, all of us have become familiar with package pricing.
For example, when you visit car showrooms, you find models that already include the most desirable options as standard equipment. When you stop by the fast-food restaurant, the menu board offers an array of "combo" meals. And, isn't it simpler to purchase a computer with all of the latest features already built in?
The purchasing process is made much easier for the consumer by products being offered with a group of choices included for a unit price. This method has become quite successful with ophthalmic lenses and the myriad of confusing options available to the patients. By creating deluxe lens packages, everything the patient needs is incorporated into their eyewear at a single price. Bundling guarantees each patient the opportunity to be fit with the best eyewear possible. Of course, the practice also reaps the benefits of more premium sales. By offering the premium packages primarily, optical retailers set themselves apart from the discounters and their low-end eyeglass choices.
The ideal sale for David Cohen, of London Optical in Cedarhurst, N.Y., is a high-index, Transitions progressive, with a premium antireflective coating, edge polished in a three-piece mounting, with a polarized clip-on. "These highticket sales are what help keep us alive," says Cohen. "We need more than the old bread and butter sales. The goal of our office is to have our patients feel better, look better, see better and function better. There is no point in selling less than what meets their total needs. We do no bottom- up sales. We present the total package as a concept then demonstrate the properties and benefits. From clearer vision with anti-reflection, to healthy vision with Transitions, to cosmetics with thickness control, we create the ideal pair of glasses. When the ultimate benefit is better functioning, beautiful eyewear, we find that price does not have to be an issue."
When discussing lens features with customers, using a bundling or package concept can avoid the discomfort created by listing charges one by one for each feature and then trying to justify the price. Patients would likely reject many of the options because they are offered as just that, options, rather than an important component of the lens function.
Marty Bregman of Mr. Specs Opticians in Lynn, Mass., believes when it comes to high-index materials and anti-reflective coatings, "You can't sell one without the other," he notes. "There is just no such animal. We find there is an element of surprise with the patients when we present this as a single unit. Rather than them thinking we’re trying to sell them something additional, they actually are appreciative that it was offered to them. They often haven’t experienced anything like that before. They learn to trust our knowledge.
“We know there is always a little bit more we can do for a pair of glasses in order to improve the function," Bregman continues. "Incorporating those features as one with the whole lens sale to create a better product, works to everyone's benefit. Why bother if we can’t give the best possible product?"
Bregman uses his own eyewear—a three-piece mounting with a premium material, edge polish and a superior AR coating—to demonstrate his point. "The patients expect the same thing in their eyewear," he says. According to Bregman, the package approach is particularly effective with AR lenses. "We incorporate AR coating as an integral part of the lens. As a result, easily 75 percent of the eyewear we sell is AR treated." By bundling lens features into "good, better, best" packages, the patient is helped to make sense of how lenses can be more than just lenses. Top-down selling has proven to be most successful in more and more retail settings. So, the "best" package always should be offered first. Do not judge the patient as to what you might think they can afford. Always assume they want what is best for them and then help them to cost justify that desire. The bundled price should always reflect a savings over the total cost of the individual lens treatments.
The "best" package should include all of the features that would most benefit the patient, both visually and for their lifestyle needs. The "better" package eliminates some of the premium features. Of course, the "good" package should offer the least options, but still not "naked" lenses. Even the patient getting the least expensive bundle gets some improved lens features. That could include ultra-violet protection or scratch-resistance or a lower than ideal index, though not the lowest. When discussing the packages, teaching the benefits of the features eliminates the patients’ questions about pricing and helps to illustrate the sacrifices made if they choose one of the lower tiers. They must appreciate the differences from one level to the next. Check with your laboratory and manufacturer representatives. They frequently have marketing aids demonstrate features. Using one of the lens centers available is a great asset. In one unit, you can show thickness differences, AR effectiveness, photochromic activity, progressive function, polarization and so many other choices.
When creating the packages you offer, decide what type of Rx you will always include highindex as well as anti-reflective coatings. Also note when other features will uniformly be bundled with lenses, for instance, Transitions polycarbonate or Trivex for children’s glasses; the best drillable materials, AR and edge polish for rimless frames, and so on. It is important that everyone in the office understands the elements of each package. Work with your lab to keep informed of all of the combined possibilities and new products to include. Often the labs offer you valuable packages that can help in your margin when passed along to patients.
If you are in an office offering refractions, the conversations with the patient can begin during the exam. When there is a standard office policy, the dispenser will know what was discussed when they see a type of Rx or if the patient’s history shows activities that lend themselves to certain lens functions. Then they can continue the conversation and education.
Diana Hall, president of Bard Optical, Peoria, Ill., relies on an educated staff to present the packages to customers. "We bundle anti-reflective properties with lenses," says Hall. "Because we select the highest quality coatings, those bundles will also include an extended warranty. People want the finest looking pair of glasses. They worry about style. I let my staff worry about function. They determine the Rx and create high-index and AR packages, edge treatments, too. I let the staff do the math to determine what will be the most attractive, functional and cost effective choice. We actually develop packages for each patient by bundling what they need. They want to know what is recommended. The customer can't possibly be aware of all that is available to them without our help. When we quote a price, we make sure they understand everything that is included."
When considering packages, one tends to think about anti-reflective coatings first, but there are other important options. Herbert Price, OD, of Longsport, Ind., feels there is great importance in the appreciation of top-quality scratch resistance.
"We discuss most options with patients individually, but scratchresistance is generally bundled as a necessary value," says Dr. Price. “Particularly in children's and teens' glasses, when we are automatically using polycarbonate, we highly recommend the TD2 treatment. We offer a price break when both are purchased. The warranty is a main benefit. Parents are thrilled that the lenses are replaced when scratched and the kids are relieved when they realize they're not in trouble with their parents. The parents forget about the initial cost of the lenses and remember the quality and service they received.
"We also add a slightly different kind of bundle on the children's eyewear. Any athlete that gets a complete pair of glasses from us can also get a pair of sport goggles and lenses at 50 percent off our regular price. It’s difficult to convince parents to get that second pair for sports, so we try to make this absolute necessity as appealing as possible."
When a person is interested in a good-looking pair of glasses, often they just consider the frame. By offering fashion-forward packages like custom tints with AR or mirrors on sunglasses, creative possibilities are opened that the patient never considered.
Gene Battifarano, owner of Anderson Eyecare in Cliffside Park, N.J., maintains a large selection of highstyle frames. "We want to make sure the eyeglasses that our patients wear are as attractive as possible. We try not to dispense high-index without anti-reflective coatings. We show how striking an included tint can be when the lens blends with the frame and package it into the lens purchase.
"Sunglasses have so many options," he notes. "The patients are surprised to find out how many choices they have. When someone chooses a wrap frame we show them that the sunwear doesn't end with the frame choice. We bundle polarized lenses designed for wrap frames with a back AR coat. Patients who are looking for good functioning sport glasses are glad to have their requirements presented as a performance package."
When you price premium options included with lenses as a bundle, and carefully demonstrate the benefits to the wearer, so much is accomplished. Patients are more prone to purchase what best suits their needs. They understand the package provides them a savings over the individual prices of the features, so there is real value. So much time is saved presenting a package of benefits over trying to build a sale from the bottom up and it eliminates the perception of the patient that you are attempting to "pad" a sale. Patients realize you are fully aware of the requirements of their eyewear and have created for them an optimized pair of lenses. They'll show them off because they understand the glasses were customized for them and they'll tell others where they received such good service. Knowledgeable patients know that a premium pair of lenses is more than the sum of its parts.
Vicki B. Masliah is director of professional education for Hirsch Optical, an independent wholesale laboratory in Farmingdale, N.Y.