A Common Sense Approach
to Selling AR
Whatever Wal-Mart does lately seems to attract a lot of attention, both positive and negative. The controversial mass merchandise giant has a knack for polarizing public opinion. Within the optical industry, opinions are also divided about Wal-Mart’s emergence as a rising force in optical retailing. Its detractors say it’s just Wal-Mart’s low prices that attract consumers, not the quality of its merchandise or eyecare. They say selling AR lenses for $30 is a destructive tactic that takes the value out of one of the optical industry’s most profitable products.
But even Wal-Mart detractors can’t help but admire its success with AR lenses. Industry sources say Wal-Mart’s AR sales are in the 70 percent range. That’s well above most other optical chains and far in excess of industry wide AR sales, which are in the low 20s.
I’m no fan of Wal-Mart, but I believe it must be doing something right to sell so many AR lenses. For one thing, Wal-Mart’s AR coating technology is provided by a leading supplier in the AR field. Secondly, if the lenses weren’t good, Wal-Mart Optical’s reputation would suffer and people wouldn’t be coming back to buy them again.
Yet it’s more than just pricing that makes consumers want to buy Wal-Mart’s AR lenses. It’s the way Wal-Mart Optical’s sales staff presents the product. A Wal-Mart executive told me the chain’s optical sales staff asks every customer if they want their lenses with or without “glare-free” coating. It’s simple but effective. Few customers refuse. Of course, the price is right, which helps a lot. But when given the choice between having glare or not, most people naturally opt for glare-free.
Optical retailers and independent doctors and dispensers can’t match Wal-Mart prices, although they might consider offering two different price points for AR, one for premium brands and another for
a “standard” brand. But they can employ Wal-Mart’s sales approach without compromising their image of quality and professionalism. It’s a common-sense approach that obviously works.
—Andrew Karp, firstname.lastname@example.org