|A patient entered Indiana Eye Clinic in Greenwood, Ind. last year intent on spending not a penny over what his vision plan allowed for eyeglasses. Vicky Nevins showed him basic frames holding thick lenses, which he seemed happy with.|
“I took him over to the Smart Mirror,” she says, referring to the virtual try-on system in her Indianapolis store.“ I told him, ‘Let me show you something.’” Nevins used the system’s mounted camera to take an image of the man wearing the frame. Displaying it on the screen, she superimposed A-R coating and thinner lenses. “I then told him, ‘Here’s what you could get.’ He bought it. Price was no longer an object,” she notes.
The outcome was typical when using the system, Nevins says. In general, dispensers who use virtual try-on systems attest to increased sales. The systems result in higher profits because time is saved when patients come to a firmer decision about their purchase and when they buy such add-ons as anti-reflective coating or photochromic lenses—all of which can be displayed on these systems. Second-pair sales can also be increased, dispensers say.
|At least six vendors currently offer virtual try-on systems: EyeWeb (EyeWeb); A.B.S. Smart Mirror (Smart Mirror); Optical Innovations (iPoint); Interactif Visual Software (Activisu Interactif Visuel Systeme); Visionix (3DiView) and Camirror (Camirror). Although features and price points vary for each system, all enable patients to view themselves virtually wearing various frame and lens combinations. Dispensers say patients are often impressed with the new technology, which helps separate them from competitors, in both service and perception.|
For example, optician Johnna Dukes of Jensen Optometrists in Grinnell, Iowa finds her iPoint helps sell A-R lenses, which can generate a lot of profit. The iPoint helps patients better understand their lens options, which “makes price not such an issue because they can see what the value is,” she says.
“With the economy being what it is now, everyone wants to save money where they can,” she continues. “Showing them what they would get really helps—not so you can make money, but for patients to get what they need.”
Tracy Miller, director of patient relations at Visual Systems, The Eyewear Boutique in Dyersburg, Tenn. is convinced that EyeWeb is a leading reason for the success of her promotion—20-percent-off when a second pair is purchased within 90 days of the first pair. “Often, the decision is made [on the first pair] when the patient is in the store, but for second-pair sales, or if they want a spouse or friend to see it, [EyeWeb] helps make the sale,” says Miller. “It’s a great tool.”
The systems differ somewhat. Once a patient has been photographed in the dispensary, EyeWeb, iPoint and Activisu allow them to log on to the dispenser’s or the system manufacturer’s web sites to virtually model other frames. Smart Mirror does not; it is solely store-based. EyeWeb’s software allows patients to access only frames the dispenser carries or wants to show, while iPoint can store others, which the customer may select and the dispenser can special order.
Another system, Camirror, is a bit more minimalist—no try-ons of lens thicknesses or add-ons, and no virtual trying-on contact lenses. That suits Mark Gilbert. The owner of two Gilbert Eyecare dispensaries in and around Norfolk, Va., says patients wanted to use his Smart Mirror only to view the frames they were considering so the extra features went to waste. Gilbert also likes Camirror’s compactness. It sits on the dispensing table and could easily be mistaken for a standard viewing mirror.
Most dispensers who use virtual try-on technology say the “wow factor” is a considerable asset. “Smart Mirror is the most wonderful conversation starter. We have it prominently displayed at our doors,” says Nancy DiCosmo, president of Au Courant Opticians, which has locations in Michigan, New Jersey and Florida.
Eric Myers, A.B.O.C., an optician at Specs Appeal in Littleton, Colo., says having Activisu has increased the prestige of the already-thriving practice and has “great potential for giving [his patients] choices” in eyewear. “It’s beneficial for people who are near-sighted and can’t make a judgment without glasses on,” says Myers. “While I was still successful prior to having the system with helping people select their frames, this gives us an edge.”
“It gives [patients] an experience they probably haven’t had anywhere else,” says Johnna Dukes about iPoint. “We’re a small community and in this area not a lot of stores have this technology.” Optician Jan Rice of Burrows Vision Clinic in McCook, Neb., says iPoint also aids her in getting to know her patients better. “Patients like to see what they look like. It’s fun to see different shapes, sizes, colors. And it’s personable.”
|“I consider it one of the best-selling tools I have in the store,” says optician John Bonizio of Metro Optics Eyewear in Bronx, N.Y. about Smart Mirror. He features the system on his cable TV commercials. “It saves time when patients are indecisive. In a small practice you can get stuck with one person for hours and not get anything else done.”
Rice says her iPoint system also saves time. “Several days before the appointment, some customers come in to pick out their frames… so I can have the frame in three-to-four days earlier,” she says.
One of EyeWeb’s time-saving features is its ability to take rapid and accurate digital fitting measurements, replacing the manual process of using a pupillometer and PD ruler.
Although these advantages are significant, Eric Myers notes virtual try-on technology needs to be managed carefully, otherwise it can be counter productive. Myers only gives passwords to customers who commit to a purchase with a down payment. Some, he says, consumed his time and took advantage of his expertise, only to utilize the Activisu system to “try on” frames and then make their purchases elsewhere.