By Jonathan Winnegrad, ABO-AC, NCLE-AC

It is no secret that one of the challenges that opticians at brick-and-mortar optical offices face is online competition. This has led many eye care strategists and executives to think of innovative ways to compete against the online giants as well as challenge them to think of ways to incorporate an online presence into their business. That is all wonderful, but what if you are a boots on the ground optician trying to earn a living and compete against the online competition? What can you do? Here we will explore some of the most common reasons patients are migrating online and ways that you, the optician, can combat this.

It is cheap: One of the biggest reasons people choose to purchase glasses online is that it can be way less expensive than buying them from a traditional brick-and-mortar office. Online retailers often operate at a fraction of the cost that brick and mortar do and can offer a wider range of affordable options. You, the optician, need to explain that cheaper is not always better. Use the power of story to explain to patients asking for their Rx to go online about people who have ordered cheap eyeglasses online only to do the walk of shame back to your optical to get some proper eyeglasses. Be prepared to look at budget packages and options that, though not the latest and greatest, are often of substantially better quality than online. Explain when the precision of the measurements you took saved the day. It is easy: Purchasing glasses online is super convenient. Customers can browse and purchase glasses from on their couch or even in their bed, without having to travel to a store. Online retailers typically have a wider selection of frames and lenses, making it easier for customers to find the perfect pair of glasses while watching their favorite show on Netflix. Unless you are going to be making house calls you cannot compete with that directly. That said, you, the optician, can do whatever is in your power to make things convenient for the patient. Taking measurements at the car of an elderly patient, hand picking frames for a patient based on their face while they are having their exam, and calling patients when frames you think they may like arrive are just a few of many ways that you can make the process convenient and personalized.

It is streamlined: Shopping for glasses online can save a lot of time. Customers don't have to spend time traveling to a store, waiting for an eye exam, and then waiting for their glasses to come in. Online retailers often have lightening quick options and can practically drone deliver glasses to customers' doors in just a few days.

Have it your way: Many online glasses retailers offer a high degree of customization for lenses and frames, allowing customers to create glasses that are tailored to their specific wants and likes. Many times, they do not have a physical inventory and can have a wider variety of available colors, prints, and options This is where you as the optician need to be able to pick just the right pair for a patient and with alpha confidence help the patient realize that it is the perfect frame for the patient. Tell your patient why you picked that frame for the patient aesthetically as well as how it works with their PD and Rx.

Summing things up, you as the professional need to use expertise, confidence, and story to be the optician and make the patient think they would be crazy to miss out on the opportunity to work with you as the professional by going online.