Overheard at the car dealership: “This car has the LX package, which includes leather, aluminum wheels, heated seats and mirrors, and the larger engine for more power.”

Overheard at the fast food restaurant: “I’ll take the number four, please super size it.”

Overheard at the optical shop: “Your lenses are $70, add $65 for the high-index material, $20 for the polished edges, $80 for the antireflective coating and $50 for photochromics that get dark in the sun.”

What do other consumer product industries know that we don’t?

The answer is simple: Consumers like easy-tounderstand packages that combine the products they need with the features and benefits they desire. How do we take this concept and apply it to our world?

The first and foremost reason is that consumers like the convenience of packaging. It streamlines their selection process, making the purchasing decision less painful and less time-consuming. It also gives the consumer an easier opportunity to get all of the “good stuff” that we would like them to have for optimal visual performance and cosmetics.

Consumers don’t like add-ons or the wearying process of selecting options with which they have very little familiarity. They want their eyecare professional to guide them to the products that give them the best vision without the pain of listening to each extra charge.

Packaging also makes our jobs easier. It is a much easier task to explain that the “sport package” has all of the ingredients for active people, with thinner, safer lenses that block UV radiation than it is to go through each of the individual facets of the products with each add-on price.

Let’s examine what it isn’t and then look at some concepts that might apply in the optical marketplace.

1. Don’t think of packaging as a discount program. Although they can be discounted, packages are actually a collection of features that benefit the patient’s needs and desires. The easiest way to package, especially in these days of managed vision care (MVC), is to charge the usual and customary price for each of the elements in the package. This is especially true when a practice first implements packaging. (If you want to experiment with a discount in your packages, start with usual and customary until you get some experience with the packages, then look at any additional incentives you think you may need to gain increased patient acceptance.) For an example of packaging in the restaurant world, look at White Castle. They sell the little hamburgers for around 50 cents and have the second highest sales per location of any fast food restaurant, behind only McDonald’s. One White Castle hamburger is 47 cents or you can order a “crave case” of 100 for $47. How much do you save by getting the package?

2. Packaging should work for about 80 percent of your patients. Don’t worry about the 20 percent that don’t seem to apply, such as the plumber that needs double D bifocals or the organist that has had Executive bifocals for 30 years. For these patients, you can always go back to the à la carte pricing that was previously in place.

3. Make it simple. The most common mistake made by practices is including too many options and products. Have a few simple packages including the features and benefits you would like your patients to enjoy. If it takes more than one page, it is too complicated. If you have more than four packages, you probably have too many.

4. Yes, it does work with managed vision care. If your practice sees a lot of patients from a specific plan, then set up a template for that plan and include all of the benefits, the usual and customary cost, and the cost for the patient with the MVC plan. You still want your patients to have the same wonderful benefits of the newest technology our industry has introduced regardless of payer. If your practice has two or three MVC plans with a large number of patients, build a template for each. The time you spend building that template will be repaid many times by the convenience and simplicity of explanation to the patient.

5. Come up with your simple packages and implement. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect on the first attempt. The idea is to implement and then tweak it until you have a program that is easy to use, makes sense to your patients and has the end result of more patients choosing products that give them better visual performance.

A benefit to the practice that is often overlooked is patient loyalty. When patients have the best products on their faces, their satisfaction with your practice is higher. These patients are more likely to return and recommend the practice to friends.

The last reason to package is certainly not the least: profitability. When patients choose better quality eyewear, not only do they receive the benefits of improved vision and appearance, the practice also does better financially. Premium products improve profitability for the practice and these days we all need to manage our margins.

Here are three examples of lens packages you might offer patients. Each consists of several features that, when bundled together, offer an appealing variety of benefits.

The Premier Package offers the latest technology, with the thinnest, lightest lenses and the most light reaching the eyes. It includes:
• Ultra high-index material for thinness and light weight
• Premium super hydrophobic anti-reflective lenses for comfort, clear vision, easy cleanability and more light
• Polished edges for cosmetic appeal
• UV and scratch protection

Sample pricing:
Single-Vision: $334
Bifocals: $368
Progressives: $520

The Value Package includes standard nonglare, UV and scratch protection, and polished edges in a lens that is thinner and lighter than standard plastic.

Sample pricing:
Single-Vision: $159
Bifocals: $219
Progressives: $279

The doctor will also find it easier to prescribe from the chair with packaging. It is much easier for the doctor to state “our premier package will give you the best vision, including less glare and more light reaching your retinas. I will have the staff explain it to you.” If the doctor prescribes the package, it takes all of the “selling” out of the practice.

Let’s take to heart what other industries already know: Packaging is a consumer-friendly way to increase sales and at the same time raise satisfaction with the product and the process. LT

Eric Rollins is a 20-year veteran of the optical retail, manufacturing and laboratory segments. He is president of Rollins Consulting LLC, a Michigan-based firm serving independent eyecare professionals and optical retailers.