By Linda Conlin, ABOC, NCLEC

Photos: Ned Matura

With the option to purchase eyewear online, it’s interesting to note that the significant majority of prescription glasses are purchased at brick-and-mortar locations. Why? The modern consumer retail journey is highly experienced and brand driven. “Drive-thru efficiency does not appeal to luxury optometry consumers who want to be at the heart of the experience,” notes Ariel Resnik, founder of Glassworks in Tel Aviv, in a recent article in Forbes. The article continues, “The experience of trying on a new pair of glasses and perfecting its fit remains intimately human.” As a crucial part of that experience, brands have power, and brand recognition plays an important role in providing patients with confidence in their purchase decision.

Consider that consumers use brand recognition as a way to differentiate products. For example, they don’t buy cola, they buy Coke®. They don’t buy tissue, they buy Kleenex®, and there are myriad other examples. Branding is more important than ever now that eyewear is marketed as a lifestyle product and part of the luxury/premium collections of various fashion houses. This makes brand selection for the dispensary a very important decision. The right selection lends credibility to the retail brand story and shows your consumer how well you get them. It’s going to express your retail image or identity, and it needs to create a very specific connection with the demographic in your area.

Tip: Create a good balance of brands with an assortment of each collection that represents the brand. To create an ideal assortment, choose best-sellers of each brand and circulate in new styles from each brand, as they will represent the latest fashion trends.

A brand-rich experience is integral to the overall retail experience. The “brand boutique within the store” approach associated with fine retailers worldwide can be integrated into the optical shop with vignette merchandising. Vignette is merchandising that highlights a specific collection in your practice, so the collection stands out and becomes a destination point that draws the attention of and connects with consumers. Leveraging the power of brands brings the frame’s story to life. Instead of a front with two temples, the patient sees a fashion accessory from a brand they know and trust. Specific styles tell a story. When you link the product to a specific brand, you have the opportunity to bring that specific product to life by leveraging the power of the brand. This concept will help create a very interesting, eye-catching optical environment, where from a distance, consumers can spot a relevant brand.

Tip: For vignette merchandising, create a dedicated space to showcase a brand. Place the logo at the top, use lighting to spotlight the collection, and use images to create a connection with the brand.

A great way to bring the brand story to life is by creating a retail environment where digital tools evolve the consumer’s expectation allowing both the feel and touch experience of actual product combined with enhanced demonstration, creating a fully integrated digital experience. Imagine the opportunity to upload a full learning center regarding the brand story with videos or PowerPoint presentations using images as a slideshow. With traditional POP, posters and banners are today obsolete, fully replaced by digital technology that can be refreshed and uploaded in just a few seconds. Enhance your patient experience through education and information supported by a digital demonstration tool. Providing a fully integrated experience enriches the customer journey. It’s a must to elevate the consumer experience. What’s more, build a fully integrated digital catalog, offering the patient a different option of colors that may not be available in your full inventory.

Tip: With iPad-based software, you can offer your own online store experience complete with inventory and brand images. This can be utilized to expand the patient’s in-store choices to include your online selection.

In this fast-moving world of retail, one eternal constant is brand power, and engineering an exceptional customer brand experience is key to success. Consumers know brands and fashion trends. Consumers want a brand they know, but they don’t want off-the rack sameness. Create a display environment that showcases distinctive and exciting frames from a brand they know and value. World class fashion brands anchor the shopper in a known experience. And optical retailers who populate their shops with distinctive leading brands are, in a very real sense, partnering with those brands to build their own store brand. A rich combination of brands, merchandised well, says clearly: This is the place for a great shopping experience, look no further.